Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Defense Bears, Defense

I think everyone can agree that Cal will have one of the most explosive offenses in the country this year. I would attribute that mostly to the fact that Tedford is back to calling the plays.

But let's talk about the defense. Defense is being labeled as the team weakness. I, for one, think that this year's defense will be much better than last year's.

Defensive Line
Gone: 3 starters were lost including all world DT Brandon Mebane.

New: Redshirt freshman and true freshman who are making big plays in camp. 2 players coming back from injury. Kane, returning as the leader on the line.

Comment: Mebane is a big loss but was the D line dominating last year? I thought they did a good job against the run but Cal lacked any consistent pass rush from the line.
Cal is at the point where the program reloads not rebuilds. Tedford and staff have done a great job recruiting. True the D Line lacks experience but there are some talented RS freshman and a couple true freshman who are ready to show what they can do.

Linebackers
Gone: Desmond Bishop, leading tackler.

New: Zack Follett, William Williams, Anthony Felder. All have logged significant playing minutes over their careers so there is experience here. Follett and Felder are now taking on a starting role and Williams is moving into Bishop's shoes.

Comment: True, Bishop was the heart of the defense, but Williams is ready to step into that role. This unit is the most athletic LB unit Cal has ever had. They are fast, strong and can knock the crap out of people. Follett is a big time playmaker that has a nose for the ball. Williams is a tackling machine and can roam sideline to sideline. Lastly, Felder is probably the most athletic but has been hampered by injuries. Watch him shine this year.

Defensive Backfield
Gone: Daymeion Hughes, Pac 10 defensive player of the year

New: Brandon Hampton, Darian Hagan, Robert Peele, etc

Comment: The safety positions are in good hand with DeCoud and Hicks. Syd Thompson has locked down one corner spot. He improved significantly over last year and should be a blanket this year.
So how does Cal deal with the loss of Hughes? You don't replace a Daymeion Hughes (though I predict Thompson will be better by his senior year). What we need to look at is the unit as a whole.
The safeties have another year under their belt. Hampton has locked down the other DB spot and has a lot of in game experience. While the unit might not be better, there is little doubt that they can perform up to par with last year's unit.

Conclusion
This year's defensive squad is flying under the rader but expect big things from them. If the defense plays up to my expectations expect even bigger things for Cal this year. With a favorable schedule and an unstoppable offense, this defense could lead Cal to the promised land.

5 comments:

Trumanhugh said...

Thanks, Danny, for that post. I am getting a little tired of hearing how Cal's defense--and in particular the loss of Mebane, Bishop and Hughes--is gonna land Cal in fourth place in the Pac-10.

Overall, our defense was fairly good at best last year; but in terms of points allowed, we were second in the conference.

Sure, we lost some great players, but the unit as a whole remains strong. Under Tedford, its been more of a "bend but don't break" defense, and that's served us pretty well.

Would I like to win games handily, with a huge point margin and ridiculous stats? Sure. But a win is a win. Even the close nailbiters. Even the ugly ones.

I think Bob Gregory will continue to work his magic with what appears to be a pretty strong and ever-more seasoned unit. Thanks for pointing that out!

fairviewbears said...

I agree wholeheartedly that the D will show up this year. Simply having to practice against our offense should provide a much bigger challenge than any of the teams Cal will be facing this year outside of USC.

Add to this the fact that the atmosphere around the program has changed so significantly that Tedford has managed to continually bring in top notch talent on both sides of the ball. Fierce competition for starting spots is one of the biggest factors separating the great college programs from the rest. As Cal continues to stockpile talent, the results on the field will inevitably bear fruit despite the fact that some starters will lack experience.

On an unrelated note, there may be trouble brewing in trojanland. I can't say that I've done my due diligence as far as researching this...so be warned this is just speculation...

It seems like Pete Carroll is starting to get worried that outsiders are convincing some of his talented youngsters to bolt in search of PT. The Moody transfer by itself isn't surprising. But then you add Jamere Holland getting dismissed & transferring, and now Pete Carroll is having discussions with his DB's warning them about bad outside influences...well, here's hoping that where there's smoke there's fire.

Another tidbit on the sc front...Chauncey Washington left tonight's scrimmage w/ a shoulder sprain. The extent of the injury is unknown, & seeing as how they've got 8 other blue chippers backing him up...the ground game might not suffer, but their blitz pickup definitely will...not that we wish for opponents to get injured or anything...just an update.

Danny said...

Last year I felt the defense was built to be solid and stable because we had so much experience. Have Mebane control the line, Bishop fills the running lanes and Hughes shuts down half the field.
This year I think will be a more aggressive and ball hawking defense. I think Gregory will be more creative in using his players athleticism to make plays. Also, reports from camp say DL's Tad Smith and Rulon Davis are tearing it up.

Anonymous said...

This post makes me feel a lot better about our chances this year. Thanks (-:

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