• Defensive Backs
• Wide Receivers
Brennan Scarlett (6-4, 260, SR)
Sione Sina (6-4, 275, RJr)
Todd Barr (6-3, 255, RJr)
Antione Davis (6-4, 260, RJr)
The Dark Horse:
Ray Davison (6-3, 215, RFr)
|Key Losses: Dan Camporeale
Key Additions: Scarlett (returning from injury), Sina (returning from injury)
The Skinny: Head coach Sonny Dykes said it best: "It all starts with Scarlett."
Adding the 6-foot-4, 260-pound fourth-year defender instantly makes this defense a much stronger unit. As the offseason has progressed, California head coach Sonny Dykes has become more and more optimistic about the health of arguably his best defender, saying recently that Scarlett is "completely healthy," which is a big boon to the defense.
The defensive end spot was a revolving door for much of the season, filled by Camporeale (who started all 12 games), Davis and Barr, with Scarlett still recovering from a pair of surgeries on his broken hand -- a healing process complicated by a bone graft. Barr was limited by groin issues throughout the season, and instead of having a breakout year following a solid 2012 (11 games, 12 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 1 forced fumble), he played just nine games, with eight tackles, 3.0 TFLs and half a sack. It will be a common refrain as we go through the positions, but if he's healthy, Barr will be a more-than-capable contributor, pushing for time, if indeed Scarlett has any setbacks.
The last time Scarlett saw the field in 2012, he made 40 tackles in nine games, added 6.0 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, two pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles.
After sitting out a season recovering from an ACL surgery, Sina can line up both at defensive end and at rush end, and his former defensive coordinator at the College of San Mateo -- Tim Tulloch -- roundly praised Sina's toughness and heart, when talking about Cal's two recent Bulldogs signees -- Sam Atoe and Trevor Kelly: "Between Sina and those two guys, they're going to have some great guys that are going to be great in the locker room, great on the field. They're going to be flying around the Pac-12 next year."
As for Davis, he played in eight games, making five tackles and 0.5 TFL. At 6-foot-4 and a dubius 260 pounds, he's not quite the typical defensive end like Scarlett or Sina (6-foot-4, 275), but he's got speed and length.
Davison stood out frequently on the scout team, but is still a little bit light in the pants at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, though that listed weight was taken before the season, and Davison has visibly bulked up. One more offseason in the weight room can only make Davison better-suited for primetime action, but at this point, he's an unknown.
Mustafa Jalil (6-2, 295, SR)
Jacobi Hunter (6-1, 300, SO)
Trevor Kelly (6-3, 3-5, RJr)
Marcus Manley (6-2, 280, RSo)
David Davis (6-2, 295, RJr)
Austin Clark (5-10, 275, RSr)
|Losses: Deandre Coleman, Gabe King, Harrison Wilfley, Matt Williams
Key Additions: Jalil (recovering from injury), Clark (recovering from injury) Kelly, Davis
The Skinny: Injuries hit the defensive line as hard as any unit across both offense and defense, and while Clark has more heart and moxy than natural skill, his voice was perhaps the absence most keenly felt. Clark -- a locker room favorite, veteran hand and overall spark plug -- making his way back may not show up on the stat sheet, but emotionally, it's as big a lift as getting Jalil back in pads. The departures of fifth-year senior Coleman, King (left the team to concentrate on academics) and depth guys Wilfley and Williams were the biggest reasons the Bears went so hard after JuCo interior linemen who could come in early and contribute.
Jalil is obviously the biggest addition, after missing the season with a knee injury that was corrected through surgery. He won't be able to go during spring, but it'll be tough to keep him off the field if he's healthy in the fall. The 6-foot-2, 295-pounder is leaner and stronger than he was as a sophomore, when he recorded five tackles and 0.5 TFL in seven games off the bench, with playing time limited due to injury. In 2011, Jalil was one of three freshmen to play in all 13 games, he made 13 tackles to go along with 1.0 sack (-6 yards), 0.5 tackles for loss (-4 yards) and one fumble recovery. A year older and more mature, Jalil has made a big change behind the scenes, and if he's healthy, he has a chance to be a real difference-maker.
Hunter was the biggest -- and most pleasant -- surprise on defense, mainly due to the fact that, when he came in, his body needed quite a bit of work. Hunter worked his tail off, though, and saw the field as a true freshman, playing in all 12 games (with two starts), making 18 tackles and 2.5 TFLs while proving to be a natural run-plugger.
Davis knows what it takes to compete in the Pac-12 after spending two years at Washington State, but the best bet for early playing time on the interior (the depth of which is still a bit jumbled behind Jalil, Hunter and Viliami Moala) will be Kelly. As Tulloch put it, Kelly is "a monster" on the inside, and at 6-foot-3, 305 pounds, he's a barrel-chested noggin-knocker who plays with exceptional pad level. After the loss to Stanford, Dykes said that "grown men win football games," and on the occasion of Kelly's signing, Dykes said, "He's a man."
"[Davis is] what you want inside, he's a blue-collar guy who plays really hard and has good strength and plays with good leverage and really likes to play football and again is a great academic fit," Dykes said. "Then, Trevor Kelly, Trevor Kelly's just a load inside. He's a man. I think that's where it all starts, up front."
Manley was the target of much of defensive tackles coach Barry Sacks's invectives during practices this season, and came in very, very raw, as evidinced by Hunter jumping over him and into playing time, despite the fact that Manley came in from a JuCo. Sacks told BearTerritory towards the end of the season that Manley had learned quite a bit during his first season in Berkeley, and had made huge strides in his understanding of the game. With three more youngsters to contend with, we'll see how well those lessons stuck.
Trevor Kelly (6-3, 3-5, RSJr)
David Davis (6-2, 295, RJr)
Marcus Manley (6-2, 280, RSo)
Tony Mekari (6-2, 265, RFr)
|Key Loss: Viliami Moala
Key Additions: Kelly, Davis
The Skinny: The loss of Moala -- who declared for the NFL Draft -- is a huge blow, and that can't be understated. He was 10th on the team in tackles last season with 37, to go along with 4.0 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, one QB hurry, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles. The light finally turned on for Moala, who played in every game and started in 11 of 12, despite missing time in camp due to varying injuries. He finally seemed to hit his stride, and, just like that, he's gone.
As with the other tackle spot, though, there is quite a bit of depth, but not a ton of experience. Like Moala, Kelly, Hughes and Mekari are traditional three-technique defensive linemen. Kelly is probably best-equipped to go head-up on a center, but that's not what this defensive alignment majors in. Kelly has a variety of moves on the inside, and is one of the early-enrollees that Dykes is most anxious to see.
"Trevor Kelly, I'm really excited about Trevor," Dykes says. "He's a very strong kid, incredibly hard-working guy, very excited about him."
Davis plays with good leverage and has NFL Hall of Fame bloodlines, with a motor to match.
We've already addressed Manley, which leaves Mekari. The Westlake (Calif.) product redshirted last season, and the 6-foot-2, 265-pounder still has some work to do in the weight room to make him a true run-stopper. As former defensive line coach Barry Sacks told BearTerritory, Mekari needs to have a little more junk in the trunk to take advantage of his naturally low pad level. That said, Mekari is bull-strong and plays with a hot motor, At about 6-3, 260 pounds, Mekari is very strong and plays with a motor. He has decent lateral mobility but is more of a straight line tackle that relies on his power to bull rush opposing guards and centers. He uses his hands well to get off blocks and has good pursuit speed. That said, he and Hughes will likely have an uphill battle to spell Moala, Kelly and Davis.
Puka Lopa(6-1, 240, RJr)
Jonathan Johnson (6-4, 240, RJr)
Todd Barr (6-3, 255, RJr)
Sione Sina (6-4, 275, RJr)
Kyle Kragen (6-3, 255, RSr)
Kennedy Emesibe (6-3.5, 235, Fr)
Noah Westerfield (6-3, 210, Fr)
|Key Losses: Camporeale, Chris McCain (dismissed)
Key Additions: Johnson, Emesibe, Westerfield
The Skinny: Simply put, the addition of Johnson is huge. Johnson effectively brings what McCain was supposed to -- speed, quickness and power -- without the locker room headaches or the inconsistent assignment discipline.
"Jonathan Johnson, I think, is exactly what we needed at the defensive end spot," Dykes said. "He's a great pass-rusher, a very productive player, he's a speed guy coming off the edge that we've lacked. I think he can make a huge difference, and make a big impact in our program really from Day One, so I think we addressed a lot of needs, and I'm excited about this group. I thought it was pretty smooth.
"Signing Johnson, that's a guy we set our sights on early, from day one, as a pass rushing defensive end. We felt like he was the best fit. We felt like he was the best fit academically. We felt like he was the best fit, athletically. We felt he was the speed rusher that we really needed. The more we recruited him, the more we liked him. I love the way the kid plays. He plays with a lot of passion, a lot of emotion. Really has a passion for playing the game, and I think that it's important to get those kinds of kids into our program. He's one of those guys that, the more information we got on him, the more and more we liked him, and we were really fortunate to be able to sign him."
Like Moala, fellow Sacramento (Calif.) Grant product Lopa had the light turn on for him this season, in a big way. He plays like the Tazmanian Devil, and looks the part at a stout 6-foot-1, 240 pounds. Last season, Lopa played in all 12 games, starting four at rush end, coming up with 15 tackles, 3.0 TFLs and 2.0 sacks, adding a breakup, a QB hurry and a forced fumble.
Kragen was a bit of a mixed bag, starting five games at rush end to Lopa's four, racking up 28 tackles in 12 total games, to go along with 5.0 TFLs, 3.0 sacks and one quarterback hurry. Kragen can be slowed by bigger tackles, and doesn't have Lopa's speed. His approach is uneven, but his motor is fairly consistent.
Both Westerfield and Emesibe could stand to add a bit of weight (Westerfield more than Emesibe), but Emesibe looks to be the most game-ready at the moment, with a variety of pass rush moves and relatively consistent pad level. Westerfield is a gamer, a heavy hitter and a savvy player, and if there's one thing that's for sure with him, it's that he's going to study up and use his intellect as much as his body. Both of those guys are probably a year away, though, at the earliest.