Oppo Notes: UC Berkeley's depleted defense

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With 8 of 11 projected starters out, we take a look at Cal's depleted defense.

As pointed out in Part I of the Cal Preview, Andy Buh's defense is really struggling. How bad has it been in Berkeley? The team is giving up 45 points a game. They are giving up over 500 yards a game, split between over 200 rushing yards and 300 passing yards per game. They have played a difficult schedule to date, but they gave up 558 yards to Portland St. in a narrow 37-30 victory.

Part of the problem on defense has been an abnormal number of injuries through the first five weeks of the season. The injuries have particularly depleted the secondary, where the Bears were down to 3 cornerbacks against Washington St. They're also getting thin at linebacker, and have been working running backs at linebacker spots and wideouts at cornerback spots in practice this week.

Despite the early season results and injuries, Cal does have good talent on the defensive side of the ball. Here is the Cal depth chart for this week's game.

On the line, NT Deandre Coleman (6'5, 315, Sr.) and tackle Villami Moala (6'2, 335, Jr.) were both highly sought after recruits, especially Moala who earned a 5* ranking from Scout. The ends weren't nearly as heralded; Kyle Kragan (6'3, 255, Jr.) was a JC transfer and Dan Camporeale (6'3, 250, Sr.), is a former walk-on linebacker who has worked hard and started at linebacker last year before moving to end. The line has not been productive this year, however, as only Kragan and Camporeale have registered a sack to date (one each), and they combine for only 7.5 tackles for loss. The line is obviously talented and injured Todd Barr and Mustafa Jalil, who will not be available on Saturday.

The linebacking corps is also a talented group consisting of Jalen Jefferson (6'2, 230, So.), Hardy Nickerson (6'1, 230, Fr.), and Khairi Fortt (6'2, 240, Jr.). The trio are the top three tacklers on the team, combining for 99 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss.

It's hard to look at Cal's defensive numbers against the run and pass and come to any conclusion other than the defensive front is struggling. Cal is giving up over 5 yards per carry and has surrendered 14 rushing touchdowns already this season, and they have only managed 5 sacks to date. In comparison, UCLA's defense is giving up 3.5 ypc, allowed 3 rushing touchdowns, and has 9 sacks in one less game.

The secondary is reeling a bit after giving up over 500 passing yards last week, but Cal should get much needed help from Kameron Jackson (5'9, 185, Jr.), who is expected to return this week after missing time due to an injured ankle. He'll join Adrian Lee (5'11, 200, Jr.) as the starting duo at cornerback due to the season ending injury suffered by Stefan McClure last week. After having only 3 healthy cornerbacks at the end of the Washington St. game, Cal does have 5 cornerbacks listed on the depth chart and should be fine in terms of depth this week assuming Jackson is a full go.

At safety, Cal starts Michael Lowe (5-11, 215, Jr.) and Cameron Walker (5-11, 180, Fr.). Lowe played in all 12 games last year and has plenty of experience while Walker is cutting his teeth as a true freshman filling in for injured Avery Sebastian. Walker played cornerback in high school, and Lowe is better in coverage than in run support, but the two have combined for 38 tackles this year.

That concludes the California Bears preview. Fire away with any additional comments.

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