BERKELEY -- This Saturday, California quarterback Davis Webb will face a defensive backfield very much different from the depleted secondary of Hawaii, as San Diego State returns reigning Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year in safety Damontae Kazee (75 tackles, 58 solo, 8 INT, 5.5 TFL, 7 PBU, 2 FF in 2015), as well as Mountain West Honorable Mention safety Malik Smith, safety Na'im McGee (81 tackles in 2015), Kameron Kelly (58 tackles, 2 INT, 3.0 TFLs in 2015) and Trey Lomax (11 starts in 2014).
"For the past couple weeks, we've been watching film on San Diego State, and that's the one thing that pops out -- how much of a veteran group they do have in the back end," Webb said. "Our receivers have a handful, and we're just looking forward to the challenge."
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1703272-key-to-the-game-su... That experience means that the Cal coaches have seen this bunch before, if not the receivers. The Bears did lose their most productive receivers from last season, and return four receivers -- Chad Hansen, Ray Hudson, Kanawai Noa and Patrick Worstell -- who played in that game, with only Hudson catching a pass (for 32 yards).
"When you turn on the film, they come to play every snap," said inside receivers coach Jacob Peeler. "That's the one thing we've been preaching to all our guys. This is going to be really tough dude of a game. They're sound, especially on the back end. They're not going to give up anything. You're going to have to earn everything you get."
The Aztecs come into this game with a +23 turnover margin in their last 10 games, in large part due to that secondary, as well as a linebacking corps led by Calvin Munson, a third-team All-American in 2014, who tallied 15 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in 2015.
Last season, San Diego State ranked among the top 10 nationally in nine defensive categories, including turnovers gained (second, with 34), passes intercepted (second, 23), total defense (fifth, 287.3 yards allowed per game), scoring defense (seventh, 16.4 ppg), passing yards allowed (10th, with 142.0) and passing efficiency defense (10th, 108.71).
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1703275-bug-rivera-back-to... With four overthrows in his first three drives against the Warriors two weeks ago, Webb and the receivers have been working to correct their timing, given that the ball-hawking San Diego State defense scored four defensive touchdowns last season, eighth in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
"They're very aggressive, and very athletic," Webb said. "The defensive player of the year from a year ago is a very good corner, one of the best ones that I've seen on tape in the past couple years. I have a lot of respect for their defensive coordinator, with the amount of blitzes and things they draw up on defense."
Whether or not the Aztecs will press at the line depends on the situation.
"Last year, they played us differently from other teams," Peeler said. "They played off a little bit more, based off of the speed we had."
That speed is going to be just as good this year, with Demetris Robertson, Hansen and Vic Wharton on the outside, and Bug Rivera and Melquise Stovall on the inside. The Bears will likely attack the perimeter, and do it early, which should give them an idea of how the Aztecs will play.
"I think Chad Hansen had the best week a week ago, but all of our other receivers stepped up [during the bye week]," Webb said. "I think Demetris Robertson had the best week of all of them ... He had another week to improve, and I think, if he keeps that up, he's going to be a big-time player for this program. Obviously, Vic Wharton had a big week last week. Jordan Veasy continues to get better, Melquise Stovall. Ray Hudson had a good week. He lost a little weight, so he looks a lot faster than he normally is in fall camp. That's a shout out to Ray, for being overweight.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1703016-film-room-cal-defe... "I think our receivers took that to heart, when I challenged them to really get open this week, because I feel like teams will try to go double coverage on Chad, try to bracket him, so we have to have other guys step up. I think those other guys took it to heart, and had a great week last week."
Switching over to the Z behind Hansen has helped Robertson's development, Webb said.
"He knows the game play by Tuesday or Wednesday, and knows exactly where I want him to be by watching film with me each and every week," Webb said of Hansen. "The receivers see that, and how much he gets the ball, and they want that, too. They've done a great job this bye week of getting with me and trying to get on the same page."
San Diego State will bring a peculiar defensive front, which we broke down further here (members), with three and many times four defenders standing, instead of in three- or four-point stances, and constantly shifting.
"I've played a couple like that," Webb said. "It's a little unique. It's just something that you have to prepare for."
Offensvie guard Chris Borrayo played against that front last season, when the Bears allowed two sacks to the Aztecs in a 35-7 win. and remembered exactly what caused the line so much consternation.
"They do a lot of exotic, different things that you don't really like to see on a defensive front," said Borrayo, a three-year starter. "Personally, I like straight-up, man football, where they just line up and try to plug the gaps. This defense, there's one main blitz that I've got to make sure that we're on top of -- that we all have to make sure we're on top of -- against San Diego State. I'm not really worried about what they're going to be running, and how they're going to be running it."
The Aztecs will blitz "as much as anybody in the country," said head coach Sonny Dykes.
• Offensive tackle Aaron Cochran practiced on Sunday, and is anticipated to practice through the rest of the week, after recovering from a sprained knee. He will likely be available this week, but offensive line coach Brandon Jones would rather get a week of practice under Cochran's belt before he's truly up to starting at left tackle.
• Wide receiver Vic Wharton wore a boot on his right ankle late last week, but will practice on Tuesday, Dykes said.
• A native of Southern California, Borrayo is expecting about 12 family members, plus faculty from his Paramount (Calif.) high school to attend the game.
"Personally, I don't like San Diego, to be completely honest," said Borrayo, who only elaborated that there were some "bad experiences as a kid" in his past that caused the dislike for the city itself.
• San Diego State has held 12 straight opponents to under 400 yards of total offense, the second-longest active streak, nationally.
• Much has been made last week and this week of the fact that the Aztecs have the second-longest active winning streak (11) in the nation, behind national champion Alabama. Yes, San Diego State has won 11 straight, but by an aggregate of 389-121 points, with only on game decided by less than 14 points.
"They won the Mountain West going away," Dykes said. "You look at the games last year, and they played very few competitive ballgames in the league. Almost everything was a blowout. I don't know that you can say that about any other team in college football, that they went through their league and pretty much blew out their opponent every week."