Ex-players praise new Bucs offensive coordinator Tedford

Tampa Bay Times
Published Jan. 5, 2014

The Jeff Tedford file

Age: 52 (born Nov. 2, 1961)

Hometown: Lynwood, Calif.

College: Cerritos junior college (Norwalk, Calif.) from 1979-80 and Fresno State from 1981-82 (played quarterback at both)

Pro career: Canadian Football League from 1983-88

Coaching career

1989-91: Calgary (offensive assistant)

1992: Fresno State (quarterbacks)

1993-97: Fresno State (quarterbacks/offensive coordinator)

1998-2001: Oregon (offensive coordinator)

2002-12: California coach

TAMPA — It has been 15 years since Akili Smith played for Jeff Tedford, but the former Oregon quarterback still remembers the intricate details his offensive coordinator insisted he follow on the way to a 32-touchdown season as a senior.

In all meetings, in any class, Smith had to sit in the first two rows, ensuring he would be attentive and actively participating. Smith can still rattle off the mechanical checklist for a throw — "ball on a shelf, rear elbow coming up, front knee bent" — Tedford would reiterate at 6:30 a.m. preseason workouts.

"The biggest thing for me was mechanics. He's a mechanical genius," said Smith, whose Ducks scored 39 points a game in 1998, helping him become the No. 3 overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft.

"He makes the game so easy for you. Once I got a grasp of what he was trying to get done, then it all came together."

Tedford, the newly hired offensive coordinator for new Bucs coach Lovie Smith, has been neither a head coach nor an assistant in the NFL. But the 52-year-old has seen six of his quarterbacks drafted in the first round.

He developed NFL standouts such as Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch and Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson. His former players believe his offensive creativity can translate well on Sundays.

"The guy knows football," said ex-Bucs running back Michael Pittman, who played at Fresno State from 1993-97, when Tedford was quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. "Great offensive mind.

"He put us in situations where we had matchups we wanted. He's a guy a lot of players would love to play for. He was one of the biggest reasons I stayed and came back for my (senior) year."

Tedford's only head coaching experience came at the University of California-Berkeley. The Bears were Pac-10 co-champions in 2006. But his best season offensively at Cal came in 2004. J.J. Arrington rushed for 2,018 yards and 15 touchdowns while Rodgers threw 2,566 yards and 24 touchdowns.

His players said his offenses were balanced but leaned toward their strengths, becoming more quarterback-driven in later years.

"Tampa should be very, very excited to have him. I think he'll do really well in the pros," said former Cal quarterback Kyle Boller, the 19th overall pick in 2003. "He's very detailed. He has a certain way he wants things done, and he'll make sure he does everything he can to get you to do it the right way. He's an offensive guru."

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Boller remembers Tedford not liking how his nonthrowing arm came flailing out at the end of a throw. To reteach him, the coach had the team's trainers tape his nonthrowing wrist to his shoulder, forcing him to keep his arm in tight.

His favorite game under Tedford came Sept. 14, 2002, the coach's first month on the job. Cal won 42-22 at No. 15 Michigan State, the highest-ranked opponent the school had beaten in 28 years.

"He let me throw a touchdown pass, catch a touchdown pass and run in a touchdown," Boller said. "He knew it was going to be national exposure, a big game for us, and he let me shine. If he trusts you and knows you'll do the right things for him, he'll make things happen to allow you to be the best player you can be."

Smith's first comments as Bucs coach came Saturday in praise of his new coordinator, though the two have never coached together.

"We are very fortunate to have Jeff as our offensive coordinator," Smith said in a statement released by the team. "I have a great deal of respect for the job Jeff did at Cal for more than a decade, and I believe he will be a great fit for what we are attempting to do in Tampa. Jeff has a successful and proven track record as a teacher and developer of young talent, and I know our players and the organization as a whole will benefit from his experience."

Tedford played quarterback at Fresno State, throwing for 24 touchdowns and 2,993 yards as a senior in 1982. That experience, his players say, gives him a better perspective on the entire offense. He takes a quarterback's approach to reading defenses and finding vulnerabilities.

"He knows exactly what we're seeing when we're in the saddle," said Smith, who worked for Tedford as an administrative assistant in 2010.

The Tedford pupil best known to Bucs fans is ex-quarterback Trent Dilfer. Now an analyst at ESPN, he tweeted on Thursday that, "Coach T will Kill it in NFL."

Dilfer, like Smith and Boller, was a first-round pick who didn't live up to high expectations. But Boller looks back on his time with Tedford as when he performed at his highest level.

"The best year, obviously, of me playing football was with him," said Boller, who retired last year with a 20-27 record as a starter over eight seasons. "He sets a bar and does everything he can to allow for you to reach that bar. He believes in his players, and you feel comfortable playing for him."

MORE HIRES: Smith added three more assistants to his staff, according to media reports Saturday. Two come from Smith's staff with the Bears (2004-12), running backs coach Tim Spencer and former special teams assistant Kevin O'Dea. He's expected to bring in Marcus Arroyo, the quarterbacks coach in Tedford's final two seasons at Cal, into the same position.

Greg Auman can be reached at