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After Suffering the First Sub-.500 Season of Coach Jeff Tedford's Nine-Year Tenure, Cal Football's Coaching Staff Has Started Working on Its Makeover

Photo: Ashley Ambrose
Ashley Ambrose

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Photo: Kevin Daft   Photo: Eric Kiesau   Photo: Steve Marshall

Photo: Al Simmons   

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Wr COACH: Kevin Daft

Promoting Kevin Daft, a record-setting quarterback during his playing days at UC Davis, to wide receivers coach was an interesting experiment. As it turns out, it was also something of a failure.

After seven years at Cal - three as a graduate assistant, one as quarterbacks coach and three as the wide receivers coach - the Bears announced shortly before Christmas that Daft would not be returning in 2011.

In his last three years, the results have been underwhelming. Marvin Jones led the corps in receiving yards each of the past two seasons, but he didn't top 770 yards either time. In that span, no wideout caught more than six single-season touchdowns. With corps full of upperclassmen, some of whom are now playing in the NFL, the Bears never delivered the eye-catching numbers they probably were capable of.

While quarterback woes are also equally culpable for the Bears' passing game problems, the receivers haven't helped their own cause. The squad's inability to consistently catch easy passes never seemed to get fixed.

DB COACH: Al Simmons

As Cal's defensive backs coach, Al Simmons departure was perhaps the most surprising of the recent coaching changes.

The Bears' passing defense, after all, was ranked 21st in the country after their disappointing 2010 campaign - not exactly making it the cause of the team's first losing season under Jeff Tedford. That top-25 ranking, however, was marked by blowouts both at home and on the road.

At USC's Los Angeles Coliseum in October, Matt Barkley shredded Cal for five touchdowns - in the first half. A month later, Stanford's Andrew Luck only managed two scores, but led the Cardinal to the end zone on every one of his possessions.

Simmons, who the team says is leaving "to pursue other professional opportunities," worked two three-year stints in Berkeley. From 1998-2000, he served as the Bears' cornerbacks coach. Over most of the next decade, he bounced to the San Francisco 49ers, San Jose State and Arizona State, again taking charge of their respective secondaries before returning to Cal in 2008.

OL COACH: Steve Marshall

For a man with a great deal of coaching experience, Steve Marshall's stay at Cal was brief and unspectacular.

After just two years coaching the offensive line, Marshall left the Bears to take the same position at Colorado this offseason. He arrived at Cal with almost 30 years of coaching experience, some of that in the NFL, but the Bears never did see the dividends his resume promised.

In Marshall's first at the helm, Cal gave up 31 sacks in 13 games, ninth-worst in the Pac-10. Last year, they gave up slightly fewer sacks (23), but ranked sixth in the conference in rushing yards per contest (158.92).

Inconsistency was Marshall's Achilles' heel at Cal. The offensive line was sometimes stellar, sometimes pitiful. Against then-No. 1 Oregon, they gave up just one sack. At USC, the Bears struggled to rush for 52 yards. And considering Cal may be starting an inexperienced new quarterback next season, a reliable offensive line will be a necessity, not an item on a wish list.

Although Marshall left in December, a replacement has yet to be found.


Wr COACH: Eric Kiesau

When the Cal chose its replacement for Kevin Daft, it adopted the strategy of out with the old and in with the older.

Former wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau, who left Cal in 2006 to coach at Colorado, makes his return to Berkeley this spring. Kiesau rose through the ranks, ending his career there as the offensive coordinator.

While his resume at Colorado isn't stellar, Kiesau wasn't hired to replicate what he did at Colorado. He's here to reinvent the Bears' underachieving wide receiver corps like he did during his first stint in Berkeley.

In 2003, the Bears averaged 264.6 passing yards per game, fourth-best in Cal history, a feat Kiesau accomplished with no-names like Burl Toler, Vinnie Strang and Geoff McArthur. With talent like Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen on this squad, Cal fans certainly hope Kiesau can do them one better.

He's also been named as the newly minted "passing game coordinator," a title that - if vague - sounds appealing for a team that has struggled to coordinate anything through the air lately.

DB COACH: Ashley Ambrose

On Jan. 4, Ashley Ambrose was hired as Cal's defensive backs coach, replacing Al Simmons.

Ambrose leaves Colorado after three years as an assistant there. He served as defensive backs coach in 2010 and receivers coach in 2009.

Under Ambrose's guidance, senior cornerback Jimmy Smith merited All-Big 12 honors, an improvement from his honorable mention selection in 2009.

Before coaching the Buffaloes, Ambrose spent 13 years in the NFL, playing for the Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. He retired in 2004 after starting 141 games and compiling 42 interceptions, 514 tackles and 178 pass deflections. His 1996 season with Cincinnati earned him All-Pro honors. Ambrose was also named AFC Defensive Back of the Year.

He was taken by Indianapolis in the second round (29th pick overall) of the 1992 NFL Draft after an illustrious career at Mississippi Valley State, where he played cornerback for four years. He intercepted 17 passes and deflected 40 throws with the Delta Devils.


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