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In Part 2 of our preview of UCLA's upcoming opponent, the California Golden Bears, we take a closer look at Cal's struggling defense.
Clancy Pendergast's defense is struggling, despite have 7 starting upperclassmen. The Bears are currently 86th in the country in points allowed, giving up just over 30 points per game. They're also 83rd in rushing defense, 86th in passing defense, and 82nd in total defense. Part of the problem is that, despite having a veteran defense, Cal has lost some very important pieces, including 3 of their best performers from last season. Another part of the problem is that Cal has had a fairly brutal early schedule. However, no matter how it is sliced, the defense has underperformed and is a large part of Cal's early season woes.
Cal plays with a three man front, and each of the lineman brings very good size. Last year's nose guard, Aaron Tipoti (6'2, 295, Sr.) has moved to end. Tipoti is very talented, but he has fought injuries his entire career at Cal. Kendrick Payne (6'2, 285, Sr) backed up Tipoti last year, but has taken over the nose spot. The other end spot is manned by Deandre Coleman (6'5, 309, Jr.). Cal's scheme does not call on these three to make a lot of plays, but Coleman has performed very well this year. He already has 26 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 3 tackles for loss.
Cal is also well stocked for the future along the defensive line, thanks in large part to traitor Tosh Lupoi. Behind the starters, Cal has Mustafa Jalil (6'2, 280, So.) and Todd Barr (6'3, 275, Fr.) at end, and Villami Moala (6'2, 335, So.) at nose. All three are very talented and put Cal in a good position moving forward.
Cal lost its most important player, ILB Mychal Kendricks, as well as its other starting ILB, D.J. Holt, to graduation, which has led to part of the defensive drop off. In Kendricks' place, talented but young Jalen Jefferson (6'2, 225, Fr.) simply hasn't been able to fill the void left by Kendricks. On the season, Jefferson only has 26 tackles. Jefferson will be backed up by J.P. Hurrell (5-11, 220, Sr.), who actually leads the team with 2.5 sacks.
At the other ILB spot, Robert Mullins (6'0, 225, Sr.) has fared better, totalling 35 tackles and 2 tackles for loss. Nick Forbes (6'1, 236, So.) backs up Mullins, and has already made 29 tackles from his reserve role this year.
On the outside, Cal starts a pair of sophomores, Chris McCain (6'6, 233, So.) and Brennan Scarlett (6'4, 255, So.). Scarlett has 30 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 4 tackles for loss, while McCain has 21 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 0.5 sacks. Dan Camporeale (6'3, 240, Jr.) and Nathan Broussard (6'3, 246, Fr.) will back them up.
Safety Josh Hill (5'10, 202, Sr.) is the leader of the secondary. He played primarily as nickel back last year, but leads the team with 36 tackles this year. The other safety spot is manned by Avery Sebastian (5'10, 190, So.), the youngest starter in the secondary. They'll both be backed up by Michael Lowe (5'11, 210, So.).
At corner, Cal returns starters Marc Anthony (6'2, 200, Sr.) and Steve Williams (5-10, 185, Jr.) with Kameron Jackson (5'9, 185, So.) at nickel. Cal is not very deep at the corner spot due in part to Stefan McClure's knee injury. Anthony and Williams have good size and are very capable cover men, but the lack of depth really hurts their secondary.
Placekicker Vincent D'Amato (6'1, 200, Jr.) is 8/13 on the season on field goal attempts, but some of you may remember his misses against Ohio St. that may have cost the Bears the game. Cal lost talented punter Bryan Anger, and now start Cole Leininger (6'1, 200, Fr.) who is averaging just north of 40 yards per punt.
Keenan Allen handles the punt return duties, and kickoff return duties are split between Brendan Bigelow and Mike Manuel (5'9, 198, Sr.). Allen is averaging over 13 yards per return, but a big chunk of that was against Southern Utah where Allen returned 3 punts for 94 yards with a touchdown. Bigelow is averaging a little over 25 yards per return and is a very talented return man.
That concludes the California Bears preview. Fire away with any additional comments.