The defense only had three healthy linebackers in the University of California‘s spring scrimmage on March 23, regardless they still prevailed over the offense 28-24.
Although head coach Sonny Dykes is bringing in a highly explosive offensive system, the defense will likely be this year’s strength for the Golden Bears and have the depth to shock people in the Pac 12. While there could very well be just two starting offensive seniors, the defense looks to herald as much as 14 possible upper class-men that could earn a high amount of playing time.
A move to the 4-3 defense could prove extremely beneficial for interior lineman Denadre Coleman and Mustafa Jalil. Coleman has been steadily improving, tallying 8.5 tackles-for-loss and 48 total tackles in 2012 after accumulating just 37 in his first two seasons. Fellow defensive tackle Viliami Moala was a five-star recruit in Cal’s 2011 recruiting class, but hasn’t done much in his first two years. He seems poised to make an impact in his junior season and is currently slotted behind Coleman at nose guard, so playing time is on the horizon. If Moala doesn’t take the next step in his process, watch out for incoming junior-college recruit Sione Sina to make an appearance.
The Bears have an interesting situation at defensive end. Chris McCain, a linebacker in 2012, has been moved over as an end. Listed as 6’6″, 215 pounds, McCain is slender, to say the least. A talented pass rusher, the move might be perfect for him. He could also effectively rotate out with Todd Barr, Dan Camporeale, Kyle Kragen, Nathan Broussard and Sina. Camporeale looked amazing in the Bears spring scrimmage; he was quick off the line and was able to get around the tackles.
The top two cornerback spots are a given in Stefan McClure and Kameron Jackson. McClure sat out all of 2012 due to an injury. Jackson, on the other hand, had an impressive game against UCLA where he picked off three passes. If both guys stay healthy and play to their potential, they could make one of the best defensive secondaries in the Pac 12. Throw in heavy hitter Avery Sebastian and Cal has one exciting defensive backfield. In my eight seasons of attending Cal football games, I have never seen a hitter quite like this guy. The boy can lay hat.
The talent at the linebacker spot for California has lots of potential. Numerous four-star recruits are entering prospective key seasons for the Bears in juniors Brennan Scarlett, Nick Forbes and David Wilkerson. Penn State transfer Khairi Fortt is also slated to start; Fortt recorded 33 tackles in his freshman season with the Nittany Lions.
A trend I have noticed in college football, is that success comes with experience–the more upperclassmen, the better. Right now, Cal should begin capitalizing on strong recruiting classes. Its 2010 class ranked 11th nationally, the next year ranked 17th–it’s just about time to start seeing some maturity out of these classes, where defense was a main focus.