Cal coach Tedford makes changes to coaching staff

Updated: January 6, 2008, 7:43 PM ET
Associated Press

BERKELEY, Calif. -- Jeff Tedford wants to concentrate on being a head coach next season, so he's changing the structure of California's coaching staff to give him more time to be in charge.

Tedford shuffled his assistants Sunday, most notably hiring Frank Cignetti as his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He also hired Al Simmons as defensive backs coach, reassigned three assistants and announced the departure of three others, including respected defensive line coach Ken Delgado.

Tedford clearly has rethought every aspect of his program after his most disappointing season in six otherwise successful years with the Golden Bears. Cal finished 7-6 with a victory in last week's Armed Forces Bowl, a dismal end to a season that began with a 5-0 start and a No. 2 national ranking.

"It wasn't that I neglected anything," Tedford said. "I try to keep my finger on the pulse of everything going on, but it's hard to do it all. ... It's a good time to look at everything we do and make sure it's fresh for the players, and upbeat."

Tedford will even cede play-calling duties next season to Cignetti, an up-and-coming offensive coach who will stay in the Bay Area after spending last season as the San Francisco 49ers' quarterbacks coach.

"The main reason for all this is so I can be more efficient with my head coaching duties," Tedford said. "[After being] the play-caller and the guy buried in deep with the offense, I want to be able to have a chance to do things with the defensive players and the special teams."

Cignetti was unlikely to return to the 49ers after the club on Wednesday dismissed offensive coordinator Jim Hostler, Cignetti's longtime friend and college teammate. Cignetti was the offensive coordinator at North Carolina and Fresno State before moving to the 49ers this season, and he interviewed for the same job at the University of Tennessee last week.

"We missed college football," Cignetti said, referring to his wife and three daughters. "We missed the passion and the spirit of the college game, and also the opportunity to help student-athletes develop their life skills. I found a great fit with Coach [Tedford]. He has a love for the game, and I think I share the same love as he does."

Cignetti likely is in for a quarterback battle next season between veteran starter Nate Longshore and freshman Kevin Riley, who led the Bears to the victory over Air Force in last week's bowl game. Longshore's mediocre play down the stretch was among the biggest reasons Cal lost six of its final seven regular-season games.

"I have watched them both on film," Cignetti said. "I'm impressed with both of them, and I'm looking forward to working with all the quarterbacks."

Cignetti nominally replaces Jim Michalczik as Cal's offensive coordinator, but Michalczik's role as offensive line coach and assistant head coach won't change much, Tedford said.

The head coach usually takes charge of the Golden Bears' offensive game plan, but Tedford claims he'll give up some of those responsibilities this season, just as he did in 2005 when he hired Mike Dunbar for one season to call plays and implement aspects of a spread offense.

Unlike Dunbar, Cignetti favors Tedford's philosophy of multiple offensive sets, including extensive use of a tight end.

Simmons, a former assistant with Cal and the 49ers who coached at Arizona State last season, will replace R. Todd Littlejohn. Kevin Daft, who coached Cal's quarterbacks last season, was reassigned to wide receivers, replacing Dan Ferrigno.

Tedford also promoted Tosh Lupoi to defensive line coach to replace Delgado, who resigned to take a job at Louisville. Lupoi, who played on Cal's line from 2001-05, was a graduate assistant under Delgado for the past two seasons.

Jahvid Best, the touted freshman tailback who bruised a bone in his hip during a game against USC in November, probably won't need surgery. He's expected to be healthy for next season.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press