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2011 California Preview – Defense
California LB Mychal Kendricks
California LB Mychal Kendricks
Posted Jun 15, 2011 2011 Preview - California Golden Bear Defense

California Golden Bears

Preview 2011 - Defense

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- 2011 California Defense | 2011 California Depth Chart
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What You Need To Know: So far, so good. Second-year coordinator Clancy Pendergast got off to a smashing debut in Berkeley, installing his version of a 3-4 defense to rave reviews. Facing modest expectations, the Bears finished 18th nationally in total defense and third in the Pac-10 in points allowed. The program is hoping to maintain that level of stinginess despite losing four of last year’s seven all-stars to the NFL. Cal will continue to search for all ways possible to dial up the heat, employing blitzes and stunts liberally. The leaders of the D will be inside linebackers Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt, a pair of seniors with their own next-level aspirations and resumes. They’ll obviously need help from a contingency of upperclassmen and kids in order to build on 2010. Two seniors, in particular, DE Trevor Guyton and S Sean Cattouse, appear poised for breakout final seasons.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: D.J. Holt, 85
Sacks: Mychal Kendricks, 8.5
Interceptions: Marc Anthony, 2

Star of the defense: Senior LB Mychal Kendricks
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior LB Ryan Davis
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Steve Williams
Best pro prospect: Senior S Sean Cattouse
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Kendricks, 2) Cattouse, 3) Senior DE Trevor Guyton
Strength of the defense: Inside linebackers, pass defense, generating pressure, limiting big plays, run defense
Weakness of the defense: Outside linebackers, proven ends, takeaways

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The Bears lost a couple of key linemen to graduation, none bigger than current New Orleans Saint Cameron Jordan. For the program, it marked the second straight year that one of its defensive ends was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Working out of the 3-4 alignment, the Cal staff wants its linemen to be big enough to stop run the run, yet quick enough to get after the passer.

The Bear most likely to fill the enormous shoes of Jordan is 6-3, 289-pound senior Trevor Guyton, a part-time starter about to get a full-time gig. Despite starting just four games in 2010, he had 29 tackles, 8.5 stops for loss, and 4.5 sacks. He plays with the necessary toughness to defend the run, and has just enough quickness and want-to to continue making stops behind the line.

The other veteran on the outside is 6-4, 267-pound senior Ernest Owusu, a regular in the rotation over the past few seasons. He even started nine games last fall, yet only managed 14 stops, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. He has to produce more plays in 2011, or else Guyton is liable to get doubled by the opposition. One of the risers of this unit is 6-6, 319-pound sophomore Deandre Coleman , who had 18 tackles and three stops for loss in 2010. Despite having the obvious size and power of a tackle, he’s still agile enough to get around the edge and wreak havoc for minus yards.

At the nose is 6-2, 311-pound junior Aaron Tipoti , who’s being promoted after appearing in 10 games and making 14 tackles. His biggest issues so far have been nagging injuries, which have prevented him from reaching his full potential. Providing competition is 6-2, 290-pound fellow junior Kendrick Payne, who won the job last September before being hamstrung by his own health problems. Never quite right in 2010, a shoulder problem limited him to just seven tackles, far below his talent level.

Watch Out For … Guyton to begin making himself attractive to NFL scouts. He’s not Jordan or Tyson Alualu, but he has shown a propensity for getting off the snap quickly and making things happen behind the line. Now that he has a starring role, he’s eyeing a shot at becoming one of the Pac-12’s more productive sackers.
Strength: Leadership and experience. The Golden Bears have a capable two-deep that’s going to be dominated by vocal upperclassmen. The starting ends are seniors and both nose guards are juniors, meaning there’ll be no learning curve for the key components of this unit.
Weakness: A proven pass rush. Don’t be fooled by all of last year’s sacks. The leader of the crew was a linebacker and the top lineman, Jordan, is now getting paid. The new defensive ends still need to prove that they can get after the quarterback on a consistent basis, making blitzes more of an option than a necessity.
Outlook: While this latest edition of the Cal D-line is going to play to the whistle and acquit itself well, you don’t get better by losing first round draft choices in successive years. The run defense isn’t expected to skip a beat, getting ample help from the linebackers in the 3-4, but the pass rush has question marks that Guyton alone won’t be able to answer.
Unit Rating: 7


State of the Unit: With two starters gone and two returning, both all-stars, is the glass half-empty or half-full at the second level of defense? It’s a question that won’t be answered until after the season kicks off. One thing is for sure—the Bears have a solid enough base to build around and continue to recruit this position well. Since moving to a 3-4 alignment, the staff has sought out big linebackers, with the range to cover the field and the girth to emulate some defensive ends.

Even with the departure of Mike Mohamed, Cal is going to be rock solid on the inside. Leading the charge will again be 6-0, 241-pound senior Mychal Kendricks , who took flight in 2010 and earned a spot on the All-Pac-10 second team. The kind of defensive playmaker this staff craves, he had 66 tackles and team-highs with 15 stops for loss, 8.5 sacks, and three fumble recoveries. He operates with frenetic closing speed and the timing necessary to catch quarterbacks off guard.

Next to Kendricks is fellow senior D.J. Holt, a physical 6-1, 252-pounder. He’s played in each of the last 37 games, with 20 starts, finishing with 85 tackles, 5.5 stops for loss, two sacks, and three forced fumbles in 2010. Stout against the run, he sifts through traffic and uses his upper body strength to shed blockers. He’s more of the enforcer to Kendricks’ explosiveness.

Set to join the veterans in the lineup are a pair of unproven outside linebackers, 6-4, 256-pound senior Ryan Davis and 6-3, 234-pound redshirt freshman David Wilkerson . Davis is in his third year out of Cerritos (Calif.) College, having redshirted in 2009 and come off the bench for six cameos a year ago. Wilkerson is a classic defender at the second level, using his instincts and fundamentals to support the run. He was slated to become an integral part of the rotation as a rookie before an injury cut his season short in September. On the second unit, 6-1, 227-pound sophomore Nick Forbes is preparing as if he’ll be the successor to Kendricks on the inside. While he still needs to add some muscle, the staff is in love with his range and pass coverage skills. At outside linebacker, 6-3, 229-pound true freshman Cecil Whiteside enrolled in January and already took part in spring drills. One of the program’s top recruits during this latest cycle, he has already turned heads with his maturity and playmaking skills.

Watch Out For … Whiteside to take over a starting spot at some point during the season. Davis is still the safe choice to open the year in the lineup, but Whiteside has more potential and a learning curve that’s constantly getting flatter. Based on how well he performed in April, he could have a starting gig by October.
Strength: The inside guys. In Kendricks and Holt, the Bears have a pair of inside linebackers, with All-Pac-12 talent. Senior leaders and outstanding all-around playmakers, the two should have no trouble combining for more than 150 tackles and a slew of momentum-building hits.
Weakness: The outside guys. Although there’s plenty of potential, particularly with Wilkerson and Whiteside, a decline from a year ago is almost unavoidable. No one on the two-deep has much experience, a concern for a defense that relies so much on its production from the second level.
Outlook: The veterans will have to do more than just make plays this fall. They’ve got to be mentors for the next generation of Bear linebackers as well. Based on Kendricks and Holt alone, Cal will have one of the better units in the conference, but rising beyond expectations will require the kids, Wilkerson, Whiteside, and Forbes, to play as if they’ve been here before.
Unit Rating: 7.5


State of the Unit: Pegged as the weakest link of the defense before last year’s opener, the secondary went on to shock everyone, including the coaching staff. The Bears yielded just 15 touchdown passes, one-third of that to USC’s Matt Barkley, and ranked 21st nationally in pass defense. From that crew of overachievers, two starters return and two must be replaced in order to keep the positive trend going on defense.

The cornerstone at safety is 6-2, 213-pound senior Sean Cattouse, a hidden gem in the defensive backfield. After starting six games and making 59 tackles and seven pass breakups last fall, he’s the type of defender who’s capable of blowing up for NFL scouts in 2011. While still somewhat unpolished and overexuberant, he showcases the ball skills and knockout punch to deliver a breakout final year.

At the other safety spot, 6-0, 201-pound senior D.J. Campbell is bucking for a long-awaited promotion. A career reserve and special teams standout, with 21 tackles in 2010, he’s out to prove he can be an every-down player. Bringing a veteran presence to the safeties will be 6-2, 220-pound senior C.J. Moncrease , a former JUCO transfer. A steady and reliable reserve, he came off the bench to make a dozen tackles in his first season on campus.

The lone returning starting cornerback is 6-0, 195-pound junior Marc Anthony , who’s out to build on his debut in the lineup. He chipped in with 48 tackles and two interceptions, but had the anticipated issues of a first-time starting corner in the Pac-10. Far more seasoned and savvy than at this time last year, he expects to play with a higher degree of consistency in coverage.

The pressure to hold up at the other corner is on 5-10, 183-pound sophomore Steve Williams , who started three games and had 26 tackles as a rookie. One of the fastest Bears on the roster, he has the wheels to match anyone, but still needs to refine his overall technique. Providing mentorship from the bench will be 5-11, 183-pound junior Josh Hill , a versatile and heady defensive back. He started nine games a year ago and was in on 44 tackles, but lacks Williams’ athletic ability and needs to clear up some things in the classroom to ensure his availability in the fall.

Watch Out For … Hill’s status. Although the program is confident he’ll be back in the summer, academics are a serious issue at Cal. No, he’s not projected to be a starter, but his experience and ability to play multiple positions are underrated assets to the defensive backfield.
Strength: Red zone defense. Sure, USC shredded the Bears last October, but the secondary allowed just 10 touchdown passes in the other 11 games. It was stingy when it mattered most, tightening the screws when the opposition was driving and its cleats were planted in the end zone.
Weakness: Proven depth. Hill aside, Cal is going to be rather green on the B team, which could become a bigger issue as the season grinds on. Losing three senior letterwinners, Darian Hagan, Chris Conte, and Bryant Nnabuife to graduation will force a handful of cubs to perform like Bears in 2011.
Outlook: Can the Cal secondary prove that last season was no fluke and deliver an encore performance? The unit did an about-face from 2009, putting up a wall on the last line of defense. Conte and Hagan, though, leave sizable holes in the defensive backfield that must be filled by young Bears not accustomed to so much pressure and responsibility.
Unit Rating: 7.5

Special Teams

State of the Unit: Although auditions must be held for the return game, the return of both of last year’s specialists has the Bears feeling confident about their special teams unit entering 2011. The cover boy of the group will once again be Bryan Anger , one of the country’s premier punters. Looking to earn first team all-conference for a third straight year, he averaged a career-best 45.6 yards in 2010, hanging the ball in the air and consistently backing opponents into a corner.

Former walk-on Giorgio Tavecchio is back for his senior season, but remaining the placekicker is not a certainty. Inconsistent a year ago, he was just 11-of-16 on field goals attempts and 5-of-9 beyond 30 yards. He does have surprising leg strength, connecting on a career-best 53-yarder and averaging just under 65 yards on kickoffs. If he wavers, junior Vincenzo D’Amato will take his place.

While Keenan Allen is poised to resume his role as the team’s kick returner, someone needs to emerge on punts now that Jeremy Ross has graduated. Allen is a candidate to handle both roles this fall.

Watch Out For … Tavecchio’s accuracy. The job is his at this point, but that could change if he continues to lose the confidence of the coaching staff. Cal is going to need to do the little things better in order to improve as program, and that includes getting more consistency from the kicking game.
Strength: Anger. More than just a big leg, Anger is the kind of punter who actually impacts his own defense by hanging the ball high in the air and angling kicks out of bounds. A Ray Guy Award favorite, he’s an overlooked weapon within the Bear program.
Weakness: The coverage teams. Even the strong legs of Anger and Tavecchio couldn’t bail out the Cal coverage teams, which ranked 108th nationally in punt defense and 83rd in kickoff return defense. Two of last season’s 20 punts that were returned were taken back for six.
Outlook: While Anger gives assistant Jeff Genyk an extremely solid base to build around, the rest of the unit is rather shaky. The kicker is inconsistent, the coverage teams allow too many big plays, and someone needs to ignite the return game. It’s a long list that has to be addressed before the opener.
Unit Rating: 7

- 2011 California Preview | 2011 California Offense
- 2011 California Defense | 2011 California Depth Chart
- California Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006