PREVIEW: Three things to watch for when Cal is on defense against San Diego State

BERKELEY -- We have three things to watch on defense for from the Golden Bears as they travel south to face San Diego State on Saturday.

For our Three Things to Watch, see the above video.

BERKELEY -- DeVante Wilson is more than willing to own up to his own past failures. He knows he was soft last year, both physically and mentally. He knows he needs to be better, this season, and he's said as much. Watching film of last year's game against San Diego State, Wilson finds a play that illustrates this perfectly: With 9:06 left in the first quarter, he's blocked by the Aztecs' left tackle, and disengages, only to not make a second effort. Five minutes later, with San Diego State up 7-0 and down in their own zone, Wilson is blocked down onto his face by a guard. Over and over, he was frustrated by 6-foot-7 Aztecs left tackle, Kwayde Miller, who returns as a senior this season, after starting all 14 games last season at left tackle. "I've been going back and watching the film from last year, and I felt like we were OK. They run a lot of draw plays, and sometimes, we were getting up the field too much, opening up the B gap," Wilson said this week, as the Bears prepare for a 7 p.m. Saturday tilt against San Diego State at Qualcomm Stadium. "This year, we're trying to study them a bit more, and we know if they're doing a certain scheme, we've got to shut it down, not pass rush, and try to condense those lanes as much as we can."

The word that kept came up with defensive line coach Fred Tate was "tentative," and it applied both to last year's effort, and the opener this year against Hawaii, as the Bears allowed 248 yards on the ground last Friday against Hawaii -- more than Cal surrendered on average last season (209.8) and far more than the Warriors averaged on the ground last season (123.9 ypg).

"I watched myself, and I was trying to read and going off of their movements, instead of just coming off," Wilson said. "This year, we've got to just cut it loose and just play. I feel like we're nowhere near where we need to be, especially going against San Diego State. We need to up our level of intensity, and guys have to do their jobs. We just have to pick up the intensity and bring it this week."

The first point of emphasis when approaching the Aztecs is, of course, Donnel Pumphrey, but the Bears can't discount new quarterback Christian Chapman, who rushed 16 times for 72 yards last season.

"We have to be disciplined," Wilson said of the defensive ends. "We have to make sure that the quarterback hands the ball off. They like to run a lot of boot plays, so we have to keep our eyes in the right spots, and read it as we go."

Sophomore defensive end Cameron Saffle had five tackles and 2.0 tackles for loss against Hawaii, but did not play last year against San Diego State. He's been one of the most dynamic forces off the edge for the Bears ever since he was inserted into the lineup full time after a cameo against Utah last season. "Looking at last year, we played the run pretty well," Saffle said. "We've been looking at that film, and I know we gave up a lot of yards last week. A lot of young guys were excited to get out there, and we got out of our gaps. This week, we understand that if we just do our job, we'll be in the right place to stop the run. Looking off of last year, we've got to stop the power -- because that's most of their run -- and a little bit of toss, a little bit of stretch, and when they do pass, it's off a boot, or a draw play. We're game planning against that. There's only a handful of things, so it's not too complicated. Last week, with the bye week, it helped us get extra-prepared for them."

One player who did play -- and quite a bit -- last year, was cornerback Darius Allensworth. As often as Wilson and Miller showed up, Allensworth was twice as prominent, both for plays that he made, and plays on which he was an eyelash away from making, including a tipped pass on a would-be interception.

"I feel like I had one of my better games, I feel like, led the team in tackles with 10, two PBUs (pass breakups), I think, missed the one you said over the middle, but I had a pretty productive game," Allensworth said. "I'm going to go out there and do the same thing I did last year."

Allensworth was only thrown at three times last week, as he shut down his side of the field. He won't be taken out of the game so much this week.

"That was my first year starting at corner, and I played nickel in that game, some," Allensworth said. "I'll be in the nickel too, this week. It's just all about getting accustomed. I feel if those plays come to me this year, I'll finish. I'll be rolling to the field, they might use me in different positions, which I love."

The Bears will be putting arguably their best downfield defender where he can make plays, rather than on an island.

"They're moving me around, letting me be able to make plays," Allensworth said. "That's good for NFL scouts. I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Allensworth, if he does roll over to nickel towards the field side (or if linebacker Derron Brown occupies that spot) will likely be responsible for Pumphrey, when he moves into the slot, but given the fact that Cal's offense and defense have worked so heavily on perimeter blocking since Jake Spavital came on board, Allensworth feels ready for it, especially after this past week, when the defense showed up very well in those drills. San Diego State runs a lot of screens that would be at home in Jeff Tedford's later offenses, so that extra practice should be worth the time.

"It plays a huge role," Allensworth said. "I feel like, this year, in practice, we have more game-like situations, with the perimeter and two-minute. Things like that, getting us more in game situations, they run perimeter, they run a screen drill, and we're going to be ready for that. They tried a couple last year, and me and D-White [Darius White] took care of that. We might see it, might not, but we've just got to be ready and apply what we do in perimeter to the game."

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