Takeaway 4: Defensive Line and Pass Rush
Scrimmage Live Thread (members)
BERKELEY -- Of the four sacks that California registered on Saturday, three came from the defensive line. That's good. Those three came from Zeandae Johnson (2) off the right edge, and Russell Ude (1) off the left. The bad news for Cal is that those sacks were touch sacks (not real take-downs) and that they came against the second and third offensive line. When Davis Webb was in the pocket, he didn't get touched. The only time he did -- a could-have-been-probably-was-but-maybe-not sack by Devante Downs -- was when the line was playing with Jeremiah Stuckey at left guard in place of Chris Borrayo, a modified first-team line, with Dwayne Wallace at right guard.
One of Johnson's sacks came against the fourth-team unit with Max Gilliam and Victor Viramontes at the helm, as did Ude's. Ude's shown a lot of fire at times, but also a thin skin. His battles with Steven Moore usually end in frustration for the redshirt freshman, and he doesn't channel that frustration very well. He's got fire, but it isn't directed the right way. Johnson is all arms and legs, and while he's shown some ability, the fact that he's next up behind DeVante Wilson doesn't inspire a ton of confidence at this point.
Noah Westerfield, still working back from an ankle injury, was replaced in the starting group by Cameron Saffle, who provides effective pressure off the left edge (against right tackle), and going against Moore every down is going to do him good.
We did see a lot of pressure and tackles from Luc Bequette, who both Moore and Wilson agreed is the heir apparent to James Looney in the middle. Bequette has taken a massive leap this offseason, and I don't think it's out of the question that he rotates with the one's next to Looney at times this year. Bequette was second on the line with three tackles, while true freshman Chris Yaghi got into the mix with four. All of these stats are unofficial, but it's encouraging to see Yaghi get involved. I don't think he'll play this season -- he still needs to loosen up his core and become a bit more flexible -- but he's got some promising tools.
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“I think the biggest thing is, we’ve got some youth that we’re going to be playing in there, with Zeandae, Cameron Saffle, [and] Luc Bequette will be a young guy that’ll be coming," said defensive coordinator Art Kaufman. "We’ve got a couple young ends that are first-year guys. I think all those guys, combined, together, I like their athleticism, and the big thing they need to do is have some snaps, and then our older guys need to play to the level that we’re expecting.”
Why was there so much youth up front? Well, for one, much like the spring game, Cal didn't want to grind their regulars.
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"A lot of the guys didn't play much," said head coach Sonny Dykes. "We played with some young D-linemen quite a bit. Looney and some of those older guys -- DeVante Wilson -- they didn't play a lot of snaps. So, we're trying to keep them healthy. We've been banging on them pretty good. We've just got to make sure, again, when we blitz, we get things shored up, get the guys in the right gap. Somebody gets out of a gap, and all of the sudden, you look up and there's a big play."
A lot of the run game went through the middle, and that's a bit embarrassing, given that I cited the middle as the strength of the line. There's a simple explanation for that: A lot of blitzing. Cal ran several different blitz concepts in Saturday, and the linebackers at times didn't fit their gaps. As Dykes said on Saturday, that's the price you pay for blitzing. That said, blitzing is meant to get extra pressure on the quarterback. That hasn't worked. It very much didn't work on Thursday, when a corner blitz opened a receiver down field and failed to get pressure on the quarterback, and it didn't do much to add pressure on Saturday.
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“We gave up a couple touchdowns early in the scrimmage, and we have to look and see if it was a defensive breakdown, was it scheme, was it personnel, those types of things," said Kaufman. "The biggest thing this does is gives us an evaluation point -- we’re halfway through camp now – to fix what we’ve got to be able to fix.”
Takeaway 2: Robertson and Hansen (members)
Takeaway 3: Defensive Backfield (members)
Takeaway 5: Linebackers? (members)
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