Bear Bites: Filling In Cal's Defensive Voids
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Category: Sports > Fall > Football
When Cal's defense took the field for the first time last season, it featured seniors such as Syd'Quan Thompson, Tyson Alualu, Marcus Ezeff and Brett Johnson to anchor a relatively young group of 11.
With Thompson, Alualu and Johnson off to the NFL and Ezeff graduated, the Bears now look to a series of talented, but unproven new starters to fill the voids left by the aformention four.
Safety depth was a grave concern last season, and the graduations of both Ezeff and Johnson did not help matters.
To fix the problem, the coaching staff opted to switch cornerbacks Josh Hill and Chris Conte to safety to spell the only experienced safeties on the roster, Sean Cattouse and D.J. Campbell.
Head coach Jeff Tedford plans to rotate the four, noting that there are no "locks" for the starting safety spots. He assured that all four will see the field on Saturday against UC Davis.
With a recent injury to Cattouse, it looks as if the two former corners, Hill and Conte, will line up together as starting safeties when the Aggies take their first snap on Saturday. Thus far, it looks as if Hill has learned the tricks of the trade quickly.
"Hill's done a nice job. He's kind of the quarterback on defense back there," Tedford said. "He gets everyone aligned properly, and Cattouse missed a couple of days with injury and Hill kind of took it over at that point."
While most eyes will probably be on Darian Hagan to see if he can improve his struggles in 2009, another fresh face will line up opposite the senior for his first career collegiate start.
Sophomore Marc Anthony used an impressive fall camp to beat out some stiff competition and assume the coveted role next to Hagan. Most thought that either senior Bryant Nnabuife or standout redshirt freshman Steve Williams would take the slot.
Anthony, a Chandler, Ariz. product and the cousin of starting defensive lineman Cameron Jordan, saw limited action over eight games last season.
When he was selected tenth overall in the NFL Draft, the nation learned that Tyson Alualu was a great player. Now imagine having to fill his starting spot.
For now, the job belongs to junior defensive end Ernest Owusu, whoplayed in 12 games last seasn of the bench. Owusu joins Jordan and Kendrick Payne on the defensive front. Payne, another new starter, is slated ahead of nose guard Derrick Hill, who has battled numerous injuries this summer.
"We'll see. We still have a couple of days of practice left. Right now, they're slated to be there. Like I said, anything can happen. (Hill) is always kind of fighting the injury bug, and so we have to see," Tedford said.
"On Thursday we kind of gear it back a little bit, but I'll see how everyone came out of practice today."
Gabriel Baumgaertner is the sports editor. Contact him at email@example.com.
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