After four games, the California Golden Bears are 3-1. A good win against Fresno State, a heart-throbbing victory over Colorado, an easy but not perfect win over Presbyterian, and a hard-fought but disappointing loss to Washington. With a third of the season over, what does Cal need to do in order to climb up the Pac-12 rankings and get into a respectable bowl game?
I will take a stab at this question by look at each position from what we have seen to what we need.
What we have seen –
The California defense is 79th in pass defense and 78th in pass efficiency in the nation. The Cal defense used to have the better pass defenses in the Pac-10 but they have been struggling to get it going this year. On the bright side, Steve Williams have been solid for Cal as he is tied for third in the conference for passes defended and passes defended per game. Marc Anthony has done a solid job in helping with run support whenever it was on his side. However, Cal has a total of 14 passes broken up, which is much lower than other teams like Arizona State who has 24 passes broken up. There have been missed assignments here and there where DJ Campbell or Sean Cattouse were not in position, and there have been too many losses on one-on-one matchups,with the most memorable being Paul Richardson of Colorado lighting up CB Marc Anthony. Defensive Coordinator Clancy Pendergast has said that the defensive backs just need to work on their technique and that they do have the athletic ability to go against the best of the Pac-12. Against the two Pac-12 foes, Colorado and Washington, Cal has given up 474 and 292 yards, with PERs of 158 and 213, respectively. What is scary is that Cal has yet to play the more elite QBs of the conference like Darron Thomas, Matt Barkely, and Andrew Luck.
What we need –
Pendergast may need to change around the schemes or personnel at corner and safety. Already, Pendergast has said that true freshman Stefan McClure will get much more playing time. DJ Campbell and Sean Cattouse must be solid with their positioning or the secondary or they will get burnt all season. Marc Anthony has to improve his technique immediately or opposing quarterbacks will exploit matchups against him all game. Supporting defensive backs like Josh Hill, Stefan McClure, and Michael Coley will be a big factor in the success of the Cal’s secondary because of how much Pendergast tend to use them for certain schemes or to rest his starters. If the defense is to improve, it will have to start with the secondary.
Assessment of Defensive Backs so far: C+, so far they are below the average of Pac-12 teams and good quarterbacks are just abusing them.