Camp Countdown: Defensive Line

Who could be the game-breakers, the game-changers and the stars in the making along Cal's revamped defensive line? We take a look in the fourth edition of Camp Countdown.



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DEFENSIVE END

Junior defensive end Brennan Scarlett.
AP Images

THE CONTENDERS:
Brennan Scarlett
Junior
6-foot-4, 265 pounds
As a recruit: Four-star prospect, No. 22 defensive end; 2011 U.S. Army All-American.

Todd Barr
RS Sophomore
6-foot-3, 260 pounds
As a recruit: Four-star prospect, No. 12 defensive tackle; 2011 Under Armour All-American.

Sione Sina
Junior
6-foot-4, 265 pounds
As a recruit: Three-star prospect out of College of San Mateo; early enrollee in spring 2013.

THE SITUATION: In the new scheme, Scarlett is allowed to do what he does best – blow a hole in the opposing line with his unique combination of size and speed. Scarlett is one of several former outside linebackers to move down to the defensive line, including Sione Sina, Chris McCain, Dan Camporeale, Lucas King, Ted Agu and Antione Davis. While the majority of the new ends have spent most of their football lives as linebackers, there are several who may benefit from the change.

TALE OF THE TAPE: Scarlett has a unique blend of speed and size, and after sitting out sprig ball because of an infection in his surgically-repaired hand, he's going to come into fall camp very fresh, and looking to build on a strong 2012 campaign in which he recorded 40 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, three quarterback hurries and two pass break-ups. Scarlett brings the added dimension of speed to the strong-side defensive end position, and should be able to shed blocks from fullbacks and tight ends with ease.

Barr is very quick, but lacks the size of a true strong-side defensive end. He makes up for that with very good technique and heady play. He didn't really fill the stat sheet last year as a redshirt freshman, notching 12 tackles in 11 games, but of those 12 tackles, 4.5 were for negative yardage, and 2.0 came on sacks. He missed parts of spring ball with his own maladies, but should be fresh for the start of fall camp.

Sina spent much of spring camp recovering from knee surgery, but when he's healthy, he's a fast, aggressive athlete who – while not particularly dynamic – has a great motor and can hold the point against the run.

Behind Scarlett, it will be interesting to see how the depth plays out. Barr got a lot of run last season, Sina has two years to play and both he and Barr are on the smaller side. Given that the two of them are starting from the same level of understanding with Andy Buh's defense, the race for who spells Scarlett may be more neck-and-neck than any other along the defensive line.

NOSE TACKLE


Senior nose tackle Deandre Coleman.
USA Today Sports

THE CONTENDERS
DeAndre Coleman
RS Senior
6-foot-5, 320 pounds
As a recruit: Three-star prospect, No. 34 defensive tackle; 2009 U.S. Army All-American.

Viliami Moala
Junior
6-foot-2, 340 pounds
As a recruit: Five-star prospect, No. 2 defensive tackle; 2011 U.S. Army All-American.

Austin Clark
Senior
5-foot-10, 280 pounds

THE SITUATION: The loss of Keni Kaufusi and the uncertain status of 2013 signee Garrett Hughes makes the nose tackle spot a bit shallower than it would have been, previously, but there's still clearly talent there, with Outland Trophy Watch List member Coleman and run pluggers Moala and Clark. Beyond those last two, though, there are not many other prototypical two- or three-technique guys on the roster, with Tony Mekari and Jacobi Hunter both true freshmen and in need of some body work.

TALE OF THE TAPE: Coleman finally started to put things together last year, and so far, in the preseason, he's gotten quite a bit of recognition. ‘Biggie' has been named a preseason second-team All-Pac-12 player by Athlon, College Sports Madness and Phil Steele, and a third-team All-Pac-12 choice by Lindy's. He's on the watch list for the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award watch lists. At 6-foot-5, 320 pounds, Coleman is projected to be a low first-round/high second-round pick in next spring's NFL Draft. Last season, Coleman tallied a team-high 8.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks (third) and 48 total tackles to lead all defensive linemen. On the inside, he doesn't have to rely on speed to get around the edge – as he did last season -- so much as he can rely on quickness and his sheer size and strength, which have always been his stronger suits. The move to the interior suits Coleman very well, and it makes room for some of the smaller, faster guys on the ends, which makes the defense stronger.

Moala has been perhaps just as frustrating for Cal fans as Coleman. A five-star prospect coming in, Moala played immediately, but infrequently, and while he's played in 23 games in two years, he's only recorded 11 tackles and one tackle for loss. True, nose tackles aren't going to light up the stat sheets like defensive ends, but those numbers are still disappointing. With less pressure on him, playing on a two-man interior, maybe the light turns on for ‘Tiny,' especially if he gets paired with Mustafa Jalil.

Clark has been a super-sub over the past two years, doing the dirty work down low, on the interior of the line, and while he's not going to get much glory, that's not really what he's after. He's a do-whatever-it-takes kind of player who really fits in well with the attitude of the staff, and while he won't get the snaps of a Coleman or a Moala, the snaps he does get will be just as important, because he'll be giving those two time to catch their breath.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE


Junior defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil.
Scout.com

THE CONTENDERS
Mustafa Jalil
Junior
6-foot-2, 275 pounds
As a recruit: Four-star prospect, No. 9 defensive tackle.

Harrison Wilfley
Senior
6-foot-5, 270 pounds
As a recruit: Recruited as a tight end out of American River College, after two years on his Mormon mission.

Gabe King
Junior
6-foot-5, 295 pounds
As a recruit: Four-star prospect, No. 35 defensive end; 2010 U.S. Army All-American.

THE SITUATION: Another position affected by the loss of Kaufusi and the potential loss of Hughes, the defensive tackle spot is a bit deeper than the nose, and the talent there is versatile and varied enough that it allows the Bears some mix-and-match options depending on down and distance.

TALE OF THE TAPE: If Cal wants to go big in the middle and get penetration, there's no better pair than Jalil and Coleman. As far as stopping the run, Cal can go a little shorter and stubbier with Moala prying open holes for Jalil, or you can add some speed on the inside with Wilfley, who came in as a tight end, but was then moved to defensive end before finally settling at defensive tackle. Wilfley has put on a lot of size and strength over the offseason, and impressed the coaches enough during the spring with his heady play that he was a regular in the top two units.

Jalil has the most experience at the position in that he spent all of high school as a 4-3 defensive tackle, and his size, speed and ferocity – not to mention his long arms – will serve him well on the inside with the new staff. We saw what he can do from the inside this spring, when he was able to get penetration and chase Zach Kline out of the pocket and forcing a throw. He only had five total tackles in seven games last season due to knee injuries, but as a true freshman in 2011, a healthy Jalil played in 13 games with 13 tackles, including one tackle for loss and a fumble recovery.

King has yet to find a home after coming in as a highly-touted rush end. He's been buried on the depth chart, he's been outside and inside in the 3-4, and now he's settled to defensive tackle in the 4-3. In two seasons, King has only played in 10 games and recorded just four tackles. He's got a long ways to go to fulfill even some of the promise he showed coming out of high school, but with depth on the defensive line a bit on the thin side, he won't have anywhere to hide.

Marcus Manley finished his summer session of junior college and is now in school at Cal, but he's more of a physical project.

RUSH END


Junior rush end Kyle Kragen.
Scout.com

THE CONTENDERS
Chris McCain
Junior
6-foot-6, 215 pounds
As a recruit: Three-star prospect, No. 58 defensive end; Recruited as an outside linebacker.

Kyle Kragen
Junior
6-foot-3, 250 pounds
As a recruit: Unrecruited as an undersized middle linebacker out of Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Valley in 2009, Kragen attended Diablo Valley College and grew into an outside linebacker/rush end.

Dan Camporeale
RS Senior
6-foot-3, 250 pounds

THE SITUATION: This is where Garret Chachere's experience as a linebackers coach will produce the biggest dividends. Every player set to play rush end is a former outside linebacker, and they all have one thing in common: Speed.

We won't know until Friday whether McCain will continue to play for the Bears, but we're giving him the benefit of the doubt here as the starting rush end, but, by no means does that indicate that he'll be the starter, or even get the majority of the reps.

TALE OF THE TAPE: The biggest knock on McCain is the fact that, still, three years on, he is only 215 pounds. That's light for a linebacker, much less a defensive end who will – more often than not – have his hand in the dirt. We've seen that McCain is a one-trick pony. He will get to the quarterback and use his long arms to disrupt passing lanes, but he's easily drawn in by the zone read-type fake handoffs and for every time he gets into the backfield, he gets caught flat-footed and has to chase down a ball carrier from behind. While he certainly has the speed to do that, you don't want to see your rush end getting beaten like that with any kind of regularity, and unfortunately for McCain, as impressive as he can be and as talented as he is, he does get beat like a drum with alarming consistency.

No matter what happens with McCain's eligibility concerns, I think Kragen winds up as the real surprise along the defensive line, and the real breakout performer. Kragen plays with an unparalleled motor and was one of the stars of spring ball. Sonny Dykes called him a real "get-after-it guy," and we saw just how competitive he is when he and left tackle Freddie Tagaloa regularly battled during one-on-ones. For a guy who was way too small coming out of high school, he's gotten the better of the 6-foot-8 Tagaloa more times than Tagaloa would like to admit, and that's just flat-out impressive.


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