BERKELEY -- At times this fall camp, it seemed that California's offense was able to dink and dunk its way down the field at will against the defense.
Today was not one of those times.
With a little help from the inefficient offense, the Bears defense turned in one of its best performances of fall camp, shutting down both the pass and the run for the majority of the day.
That's even more encouraging for the coaching staff, considering the defense is missing some of its biggest contributors to injury.
Redshirt junior middle linebacker Nick Forbes was absent again from practice on Friday, defensive linemen Sione Sina and Chris McCain continue to be slowed by a knee injury and a shoulder injury respectively – though McCain saw more action than he did on Thursday, both in live periods and during one-on-ones with the offensive line, where he abused right tackle Christian Okafor -- and today, starting safety Avery Sebastian was walking in a boot thanks to a bone spur in his heel that he's been dealing with since the spring, according to head coach Sonny Dykes.
The rest of the defense made sure those players' absences didn't impact the overall performance. And the head coach noticed.
"I was impressed with the defense today," Dykes said. "I thought they competed, played a little bit more with an edge."
Dykes singled out defensive tackles Deandre Coleman and Gabe King as two defensive linemen who have done a good job with their pass rush, but they were far from the only two being disruptive on the line. Junior Mustafa Jalil absolutely manhandled left tackle Freddie Tagaloa in 11-on-11s, and split a sack against Goff with King. Junior college transfer Kyle Kragen had both a sack and a forced fumble on quarterback Austin Hinder, who might have officially played his way out of the quarterback race today.
"Kyle had a good day," Dykes said. "Both he and Dan [Camporeale] were active, they ran around, and it's good to see those guys do that. We've got to develop depth on our D-line, and I thought both those guys played at a high level today. It was good to see."
Freshman Jacobi Hunter also had a near-sack of Kline in 11-on-11s, and showed up repeatedly in O-line vs. D-line drills, particularly against Mark Brazinski. When it was Hinder's turn in 11-on-11s, Hunter came flying inside unblocked and could easily have taken Hinder's head off were full contact allowed, but nevertheless, it counted as a sack.
Not to be outdone, the linebackers were also making a living in the defensive backfield. Redshirt freshman Hardy Nickerson -- who's NFL-great father was in attendance -- moved into Forbes' place, and got a tackle for a loss in O-line vs. D-line drills. Nickerson's move to the first-team offense also gave true freshman Johnny Ragin III time with the second team defense, and he showed little -- if any – drop-off from Nickerson.
The award for today's strongest defensive unit, though, goes to the secondary. Redshirt sophomore cornerback Stefan McClure started the strong play from the get-go in 11-on-11s, beating Chris Harper to the ball to knock it away (although to be fair, McClure should have had the pick). While the Biletnikoff Award Watch List member Harper won his share of reps against McClure, the receiver wasn't able to come down with many highlight-reel catches like he did on Thursday. On the right side of the defense, Kameron Jackson showed a level of physicality that hadn't previously been seen so far this fall camp. Often lining up against Bryce Treggs, the junior had several pass deflections that resulted from strong breaks on the ball.
Finally, redshirt junior cornerback Adrian Lee once again looked impressive, and is poised to move up the depth chart. He had a nice interception off a Zach Kline pass, and was once again largely able to stay with speedy Kenny Lawler. He did get burned by Hawaii transfer Trevor Davis, but honestly, Davis might be a starter if he were eligible to play this year.
DAY FIVE: Breaking Down the Defense
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