Leading the Secondary

Free safety Bernard Hicks is the lone senior starter in the secondary. Moreover, he is the only senior DB on the depth chart. He leads a secondary that is second in the nation in passes defended. Cal Sports Digest caught up with him recently after practice. Hicks talks about how great it is having a healthy Syd'Quan Thompson at CB and the early success of the 3-4 defense…

Bernard Hicks played strong safety last season in the 4-3 defensive scheme. This season the senior moved to free safety in the new 3-4 defense. Thus far, the switch has made tremendous strides. The Bears have allowed only 69 yards rushing per game, but more importantly, the secondary is second in the nation with 16 passes defended.

Hicks recorded his first interception on the season against Washington State last week. CB Syd'Quan Thompson has three, which is tied for tops in the nation. Hicks says having a lockdown corner like Thompson on one side does wonders for him at free safety and the defense as a whole.

"At times, I can leave him on an island by himself," said Hicks. "And I can lean and help on the opposite corner or opposite safety depending what the call is."

Maryland stumbles into this weeks contest after a disappointing 24-14 loss at Middle Tennessee. Nevertheless, the Terps have used three quarterbacks in their passing attack. Neither has been effective.

Terp quarterback Chris Turner has played in both games this season but has completed just 45.2% of his passes with three interceptions and one touchdown. Jordan Steffy has been more accurate but not by much. He has completed 55.6% of his passes for just 115 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Josh Portis is used more as a rusher and has only attempted one pass through two games.

Maryland's passing struggles does not bode well if the Terps are forced to pass. The Cal rush defense is setting its sights on stopping the nation's fourth leading rusher, Da'Rel Scott. The secondary will reap the benefits if Maryland is playing catch up. The success of the secondary and defense has to be attributed to the 3-4 scheme. Hicks believes the communication between the secondary and linebackers has been huge thus far in the Bears' defensive feats.

"Communication is key," said Hicks. "It makes the game easier. Coach [Bob] Gregory and Coach [Al] Simmons really beat it on us."

The long trip to East Coast this week is on every Cal player's mind. The travel is going to be a challenge. Most will agree the Bears have the talent advantage over the Terps, but they will also agree the long trek could be tough to overcome.

Hicks says he is more worried about what he is going to do on the six-hour flight than playing at 9 a.m. PT. He says Coach Jeff Tedford will have them ready to play Saturday morning.

For more details, listen to the audio of Cal Sports Digest interview with Hicks…

Bernard Hicks Interview --

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