PREVIEW: Cal offensive coordinator Jake Spavital breaks down the Texas defense

BERKELEY -- California offensive coordinator Jake Spavital breaks down the defense the Bears will see when they host Texas this weekend.

BERKELEY -- So far this season, only one player has double-digit receptions for California: Wide receiver Chad Hansen, who has 28 grabs for 350 yards and three touchdowns. Last week against San Diego State, Hansen had a career-high-tying 14 grabs for a career-high 190 receiving yards. 35.4% of Davis Webb's passes have gone Hansen's way.

"I don't know, but I'm glad it's working like that," Hansen said earlier this week, when asked if he had an answer for why, exactly, he's been quarterback Davis Webb's answer to seemingly every coverage challenge. "Hard work, I think. He saw the work ethic that I had, and he shares the same type of work ethic. He's very competitive. He never likes to lose." Webb's arm wasn't sore last week, after throwing a school-record 72 passes, but his body was. So, too, were the Bears, after dropping a 45-40 decision to the Aztecs, in a game which saw Cal only run the ball 22 times.

Against the Longhorns last season, Hansen didn't play a single snap, as Jared Goff threw the ball 37 times for 268 yards and three touchdowns, while the Bears rushed 41 times for 280 yards. That is the type of offense that new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital wants Cal to have when Texas comes to town on Saturday.

"There were a lot of things that controlled that game," Spavital said. "We were down 17 points, and that's one of the beautiful things about our offense -- we can score pretty quickly at times, but you've got to do it throwing the ball. Overall, you would like to be 50-50. We wanted to establish the run game. It wasn't working efficiently at the beginning of the game. I think I ran it six or seven times in the first quarter, and we probably had 15-20 yards rushing, so as a play caller, you get discouraged ... When we went down 17 points, you've got to keep throwing it around a bit, trying to get back into things."

How can Cal run more against the Longhorns? This is the defense that allowed Khalfani Muhammad to rush for 164 yards last season in Austin, and ranked 111th in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game, and in two games thus far, Texas has allowed Notre Dame and UTEP a total of 341 yards on the ground -- 88th in the nation.

"The schemes haven't changed," Spavital said. "I think they might play a little bit differently, based off of how we are right now, offensively. I think our tendencies are all over the place, based off of throwing it around a lot versus San Diego State and running the ball more efficiently against Hawaii. I think that they're going to be pretty sound in what they do. We have to find out pretty early in the game on what approach they're going to do with us. If you look at all their games, we've got a lot of tape on them. We have all of their last season and the first two games this year, and they play a lot of teams differently. Once you've figured out what they are, we'll have a pretty good idea of how they're going to play us." The Longhorns bring disruptive sophomore defensive tackle Chris Nelson and emergent end Charles Omenihu, who has six tackles and one sack in just two games, after tallying 17 tackles in 12 games last season.

"Schematically, we've got to be in the right spots," Spavital said. "I think we've got a good run plan for this week. Coach [Brandon] Jones has put together some great run plays, and of course, you want to be a balanced team, because I think that keeps the defense on their toes, but I think we're ready to do whatever to try to get this done."

With three cornerbacks possibly ticketed for the NFL in Davante DavisHolton Hill and Sheroid Evans, plus safety Dylan Haines (he of nine interceptions over the last two seasons), the Longhorns' back end is formidable, and will test Hansen, and the other receivers he may wind up throwing to, if he decides to spread the ball around.

"I think they're very talented," Spavital said. "I recruited a lot of them when I was at Texas A&M, and I know the kind of talent that they've got. They're very long corners, they're all 6-foot-plus, and that puts a lot of length on that, and they can run."

"They're very big, athletic, they run really well," Hansen said. "Just when you're describing a Texas team, they're just athletic. They have the best athletes coming out of high school."

Cal has speed to burn thanks to Demetris Robertson, Hansen, Vic WhartonMelquise StovallBug Rivera and Matthew Rockett, though Rockett has had a sore knee this week and is questionable for Saturday. But, Robertson, Rivera, Wharton and Stovall have combined for 29 receptions in two games. "I thought in this last game against San Diego State, you saw Davis start to go to other targets, at certain times," Spavital said. "It was great to see from a passing game standpoint, but I think Chad is still playing at a very high level. I think the continuity that those two guys [have] is pretty incredible. You'd like to see the other guys step up, so I think each week, with these young receivers, hopefully another one will step up and make a name for themselves."

The speedy five-star Robertson caught four passes for 81 yards, including a 59-yard touchdown against San Diego State last week. He's made, according to Spavital, a "huge jump."

"I think the bye week, you could see the strides that he took," Spavital continued. "He comes to work every single day, and you continuously see him get better each day. In that San Diego State game, you saw him catch a long touchdown, and I think that's just going to build even more confidence in that kid."

Stovall has been used sparingly, after showing off how explosive he can be over the spring, and during fall camp. If Texas plays its base 4-3, and doesn't sit back in a 3-3-5, Stovall could get on the perimeter and get the ball in space to make some plays. Overall, the offense we've seen so far in games is much more vanilla than the wrinkles we saw during the spring and in fall camp, so perhaps there are some tricks still to be unveiled as the season wears on.

"I think that's a lot to do with the teams that we've faced," Spavital said. "That was kind of the message with the team this week. There's a lot of people that are going to get opportunities to catch a ball, and go play in space. When your opportunity comes, it may not happen very many times in one game, but there's going to be an opportunity over the course of the season where there are going to be times when you get a lot of catches."

null Top Stories