Cal's defense will look different when it comes to Tucson this weekend, as the Golden Bears now have a new coordinator and scheme to go along with it.
The Bears are fairly solid at the defensive end position. Junior Todd Barr has been the most productive pass rusher so far, registering 2.5 sacks, 2 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. He may not get big tackle numbers, but it is irrelevant when you look at what he has the ability to do with the pass rush.
Junior Brennan Scarlett is the other defensive end. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound end has flashed as a pass rusher, but needs to be more consistent. He had a sack against Sacramento State and, like Barr, only has four tackles in the first two games.
The defensive tackle position is improved from last season, as they held up pretty well against Northwestern. Junior Mustafa Jalil is back after missing last season due to injury and he will be joined by 5-foot-11, 270-pound senior Austin Clark. Cal was without Clark last week due to a knee injury, but he should be good to go against Arizona.
Cal's defensive tackles are a bit undersized and if there is an area of the line that Arizona can probably exploit, it could be inside.
The linebacker unit is led by 6-2 220 pound junior Jalen Jefferson. Jefferson has 17 tackles this season, 16 of which came in the season opener against Northwestern. He also picked up a sack and interception in that game and it was one of the more impressive defensive performances of the early season.
Sophomore Michael Barton will be counted on to repeat his eight tackle performance against Northwestern rather than his clean stat sheet against Sacramento State. Cal's coaches have been impressed with Barton since camp, but it will be interesting to see if consistency is truly an issue.
Jake Kearney is listed as the starter at SAM, but the 6-foot-3, 220-pound sophomore has yet to start a game this season. He has eight tackles in the first two games and as made a push due in large part because Raymond Davison only has two tackles in two starts.
Corner was a major issue for Cal last season and a big part of it was that the Golden Bears were undersized. Cameron Walker went out and gained 20 pounds to get up to 180 and the sophomore at least looks more the part physically.
The other corner position goes to sophomore Cedric Dozier, who has five tackles and two pass break ups on the season.
Junior Stefan McClure will get the start at free safety. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound McClure has battled injuries throughout his career, but is off to a nice start this season with seven tackles against Northwestern.
You could make a case that besides Jefferson, 5-foot-11, 205-pound strong safety Michael Lowe is the best defensive player on the team.
Lowe is currently Cal's active career leader in tackles, interceptions, fumble recoveries, and pass break ups. He is the most experienced player on this side of the ball and thus could be the most vital at times as well.
Players to Watch
#41, DE Todd Barr: Barr has been a steady performer for the Golden Bears this season. Despite being slightly undersized, he has been able to apply fairly steady pressure on the opposing quarterbacks. The Arizona tackles will be far and away the best unit he has faced so far.
#7, LB Jalen Jefferson: The junior is arguably Cal’s best defender. The Golden Bears' leading tackler, Jefferson has been a sideline to sideline force and has made a few nice plays behind the line of scrimmage.
#26, S Griffin Piatt: Although he’s not a starter, Piatt has been a disruptive player, registering two interceptions and three pass deflections. He has been a very pleasant surprise and it would not be a shock to see him register a big play on Saturday.
Keys to the Game
Get after Goff: This game will be very close if Arizona doesn't pressure Goff. The owner of a big league arm, Goff has some very talented wide receivers on his side.
Keep up the solid run defense: California is a team that will look to make plays through the air, and it will be much easier to defend the Golden Bear offense if the run game is snuffed out early.
Contain Bryce Treggs: Treggs hasn't started off the season the way many thought he would, but that doesn't change the fact he is a big time wide receiver talent who is capable of going off at anytime.