BERKELEY -- With 600 total rushing yards given up over the last two games, California has some holes to fill, and on Tuesday, that's exactly what the Bears' defense was tasked with doing. The entire portion of defense-only (i.e., not special team or 11-on-11 with the offense) practice was exclusively dedicated to perfecting run fits between the defensive line and the linebacking corps, along with nickel backs and safeties.
"The biggest thing is we've got to fit it up," head coach Sonny Dykes said of his evaluation of San Diego State's 334-yard performance against Cal last week. "That's always the thing with us. It all starts with having your run fits. The issues we had against San Diego State were run-fit related, where we got a guy out of a gap here or there, or we lost leverage here or there, and [Donnel] Pumphrey a really good running back, and a fast guy, a speed guy. He made some big plays, as a result of losing leverage, so what we've got to do is keep our run fits, get off blocks a little bit better than we did, and we've got to tackle those big backs. They're going to be different to tackle, than Pumphrey was. They're more physical, run-behind-their-pads, 250-pound guys, as opposed to a smaller, quicker guy."
Texas -- averaging 204 yards on the ground per game -- brings a pair of big backs in now-healthy D'Onta Foreman (6-foot-1, 249 pounds) and Chris Warren (6-foot-2, 252 pounds), to go along with battering ram Tyrone Swoopes, the run-specialist quarterback who checks in at 6-foot-4, 249 pounds.
We spoke with Cal defensive line coach Fred Tate one-on-one to discuss the state of the Bears' run defense and takeaways from last week's game. The following is a transcript of that conversation:
Fred Tate: "We have our work cut out for us this week. Texas is going to bring a solid run game. They're Texas. What we've got to do is continue to improve on what we need to improve on, to stop the run, and I think we'll do that."
BearTerritory: Early on, it looked like the fits were good, at least in the middle. What happened as the game wore on? Was it second-level fits?
Tate: "I think the team's got to fit everything better We played a good football team with a good running back, and obviously, he had some success on the perimeter. Then, some of that stuff in the middle. Bottom line is, we've got to fit it better, everywhere, from front to back."
BT: What did you see on film?
FT: "I saw kids that played hard, and I saw mistakes that we made, and the things that we needed to correct, and slowing it down and watching it, you look at it and say, 'Well, one or two thing here caused that however-long touchdown.' It was just a matter of guys being in the right place, and making plays. We've got to make plays, and not give up big plays. That's the thing that we've got to focus on in the run game."
BT: What were some of the mistakes? Guys not bringing their feet, guys not getting off blocks? Guys not disengaging?
FT: "The thing we've got to do is correct every technique. You can name 50, and 49 of them, we've got to correct. That being said, we've got to do a better job of putting ourselves in the position that we're in, and staying in that position."
BT: What did San Diego State's offensive line do that caused problems?
FT: "The offensive line didn't do anything that caused problems. They played a good, solid football gam. We've got to fit it up, and we've got to tackle."
BT: Cameron Saffle was playing with one leg there at the end.
FT: "Saffle played. He's a hard player. He's done some good things for us. He's got to continue to get better at some things, but he did give great effort, and we're very proud of that. He's doing what we thought he could do, and he's playing at that level."
BT: I know you wanted DeVante Wilson to be 15 times better than he was the week before. Where do you think he was?
FT: "He was 14 times better [...] I'm just being funny. He played a ton better than he did the first game. He was more physical. He did some better things. At the end of the day, he still has to be better. He's got to continue to get better, as we all do."
BT: Evan Weaver really stood out today [Tuesday] in practice. He made his debut on Saturday. What did you think?
FT: Weaver's a young kid that has a lot of -- a ton -- of ability. Obviously, this is his first college experience, and I think the more reps that he gets as a youngster, he's going to be better. I look for him, by the time we get to conference play, which is about a week from now, he can definitely be deep in the rotation."
BT: Do you foresee a point at which you have both Saffle and Weaver bookending each other?
FT: "They probably could. It just depends. If DeVante gets tired and we put Weaver in the game, and Saffle's still in, that could happen, but there's not necessarily a package that we'll put together for them two to be on the field together."
BT: We've seen Luc Bequette do good things, between fall camp and practice, and James Looney looked like he had a good game against San Diego State, but they're one and two at the same position. Is there a possibility of moving them so that they're next to one another?
FT: "We play left and right, and Luc is very comfortable on the left side, right now. If it came down to it, we would put him on the right side, but we'd have to see how he plays, and the thing you've got to do is, young men play better the more confident they are. That's why we have a left and a right side. At some point in time, putting him over there, that may happen, but at the end of the day, you've still got [Tony] Mekari and [Marcus] Manley on that side, that can be very adequate, as well."
BT: How would you grade Looney's game against SDSU?
FT: "Oh, he had a [...] James Looney practices hard, and it carries over to Saturday. He played hard. He played, I thought, a solid game. Obviously, we didn't win the game, so nobody played perfect, but that being said, James brings the same kind of energy that Saffle brings, to the defensive front. We've got to get those other guys playing at that same level of energy, in the other two positions, and I think, at that point, we'll be a complete and good defensive front."
BT: Texas brings a lot of big boys running at you.
FT: "That's good. That's fine. This is a man's game. We've got to run back at them."
BT: It's a different offense from last year ...
FT: "Different offense, still some of the same guys that are still in it, except for the quarterback position, which, [Swoopes] is a phenomenal athlete. What Texas brings to the table, they're so much similar to our offense. They've got some big guys. The biggest thing we've got to do is concentrate on what we're doing, more -- play with great pad level and fit it up."
BT: Practice today seemed to be 'Run until you can stop it.'
FT: It was run at them and run at them, and fit it and fit it and fit it. It wasn't about us stopping it. You can't stop the scout team, you won't stop anybody. That being said, run game, run game, run game, run game, run game. That's what we've got to get better at. It's no secret. We will.