What You Need To Know About The Cal Defense
– Between head coach Justin Wilcox and defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, there are some fantastic minds to lock down a defense. That side of the ball hasn’t always been a plus at the program, so it was going to take a little while to come together.
But with eight starters back for DeRuyter’s 3-4 alignment, this is when it should all start to kick in. After finishing 95th in the nation averaging 430 yards per game, get ready for a big shift.
– The linebackers will be the stars, even without two of the team’s top three tacklers, Raymond Davidson and Devante Downs. Jordan Kunaszyk is a thumper in the middle, and Cameron Goode will be a terror coming off a great freshman season. Throw in the return of Gerran Brown after a 61-stop season, and DeRuyter has his building blocks.
– The front three has some size, with 335-pound Chris Palmer a pure nose tackle and bulk on the ends. There won’t be a whole lot of pass rush coming from the front three – that’s mostly what the outside linebackers will be for – but there’s supposed to be some pressure from the front. No matter who’s getting to the quarterback, there has to be more of it.
The young corners are about to become bigger factors. Camryn Bynum and Elijah Hicks are back after strong freshman seasons, and Jaylinn Hawkins and Ashtyn Davis return after stepping into safety jobs as sophomores. For a secondary that allowed 266 yards per game, this should be one of the team’s biggest areas of improvement.
Biggest Key To The Cal Defense
The secondary has to make more big things happen. It obviously all ties in together – there wasn’t much of a consistent pass rush, the D had problems on third downs, and the young secondary didn’t do enough to help out either of the other two issues.
Of the 14 interceptions, five came in that strange win over Washington State, and five more came in wins over Ole Miss and North Carolina. The other four picks were spread out over nine games.
It’s not like anyone destroyed the Bear D, and there were a few outstanding quarterbacks on a strong passing teams to deal with. But with this coaching staff and the experience returning, the defense can’t and shouldn’t allow quarterbacks to complete 65% of their throws again.