California Football: 3 Reasons Cal's Defense Will Continue to Dominate Pac-12
California graduated three defensive starters to the NFL last season—including Trevor Guyton and Mychal Kendricks—but, despite the loss of experience on the line, the Golden Bears are shaping up to be a very strong defensive team again in 2012.
Cal had one of their best defensive seasons in 2011 and was ranked No. 27 nationally. They held opponents to 339.42 yards per game, allowing only a stingy 130 rushing per game.
Let’s take a look at the top three reasons why Cal will have another strong defense that should pose big problems for rest of the Pac-12 this season.
Aggressive, Experienced Defensive Coaches
There are a limited number of highly experienced players leading the Cal defense in 2012. They are senior safety Josh Hill and cornerback Marc Anthony, with junior defensive end Deandre Coleman rounding out a hard charging pass rush.
The four key Cal defensive coaches, on the other hand, have over 60 years of coaching experience in the NFL and top college programs. They have recruited and developed some top defensive players now in the NFL.
Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast had the same important role for the Kansas City Chiefs and led the Arizona Cardinals defense to the 2009 Superbowl. He is a very aggressive minded defensive coordinator.
Defensive backs coach Ashley Ambrose has 13 years of top NFL playing experience and knows how to get his D-Backs to disrupt a quarterback's passing options.
Defensive line coach Todd Howard has 20 years of NFL and top college line coaching experience. He has shown he can develop young players quickly.
Linebacker coach Kenwick Thompson recruited and developed such standout linebackers as Mike Mohamed, now with the Denver Broncos, and Zack Follett, who is in his third year playing linebacker for the Detroit Lions
In summary, the Cal defense created many turnovers in 2011 and snapped up 11 of the 18 fumbles that hit the ground. Their hungry defensive backs, led by Josh Hill coupled with strong D-Line pressure, will again stuff the rush and create many interception opportunities in 2012.
The Golden Bears defensive coaching schemes are very aggressive and will surely disrupt pass routes, making things extremely difficult for Pac-12 quarterbacks.
Promise of New Recruiting Class
The loss of Cal’s top three defensive starters will no doubt be felt by the Bears. However, the holes should quickly be filled with experienced veterans and a strong recruiting class, where six of their top 19 recruits were defensive specialists.
The new class of defensive recruits for the Golden Bears includes speedy cornerback Raymond Ford from Junipero Serra High School in Los Angeles and the physical size and run stopping ability of safety Damariay Drew from Livermore.
Along with rugged linebackers Hardy Nickerson, Jr.—his father was a top NFL linebacker and Cal alum—and Mike Barton from De La Salle High School, in addition to some big D-linemen, the Bears should again make it tough on any running game.
While this year’s Cal defense might not have the same level of experience as the other top Pac-12 programs when they begin the season, they have the talent, exceptional coaching and aggressive defensive tradition to pose a major challenge for any offense to deal with.
Inexperienced Pac-12 North Offenses
Cal wasn’t the only football program that lost some of their top stars to the NFL last season.
In the Pac-12 North, Stanford lost their Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Andrew Luck to the Indianapolis Colts, while Oregon lost LaMichael James to the San Francisco 49ers.
With these and other big threats out of the Pac-12 picture, the Golden Bears will be facing more inexperienced offenses in the North that should not be as polished or threatening.
The Cal defensive now has a better chance to showcase its aggressive coaching schemes while it develops its player talent. If the Cal defense can get some quick “three and outs,” it will give the offense the opportunity to put points on the board and get some much-needed wins in the Pac-12 North.