From the Cal offensive depth chart to the defensive depth chart we go!
Seeing Aaron Tipoti and Kendrick Payne in the starting lineup is no big surprise. These two have been regular contributors for two years running, and they were going to be in the four-man deep rotation regardless. Tipoti at defensive end (plus switching him to nose tackle) will be something worth watching, since he's only played a little bit at the position. DeAndre Coleman will hopefully now have the consistency to wreck it on defense. Villiami Moala on the two-deep is immensely pleasing, because he is the man that can upgrade the 3-4 to upper echelon.
Mustafa Jalil being out stinks, but it does open up opportunities for guys like Todd Barr, who was a great DE talent coming out of high school, has all the fundamentals, and now seems to have put on the weight on to get the defense ready to rock. Also worth watching is Keni Kaufusi, a defensive end who's just had trouble getting into the rotation with the talent in front of him (three NFL players).
So here was our surprise, except it wasn't really a surprise. The 3-4 inside linebackers generally have to be experienced and intelligent, which means senior talent that know the system. Mike Mohamed, D.J. Holt, Mychal Kendricks, now J.P. Hurrell and Robert Mullins. We'll see if they can hold their own in their senior seasons before guys who provide intelligence and talent like Nick Forbes rise up.
I imagine we'd eventually see Forbes rotating in as the first linebacker off the bench. It's good to see Jalen Jefferson hit the rotation, and he'll probably play some (although maybe not too much Week 1 against the intensive Pistol). Dave Wilkerson figures to get into the rotation if he ever gets healthy. And of course Khairi Fortt lingers whenever he heals up.
Chris McCain and Brennan Scarlett are set here. McCain will be all "Go-go-Gadget-form-tackle" on one side, with Scarlett providing a potentially special rush presence on the other side. Dan Camporeale is the super-sub who knows the playbook inside and outside and has as much experience as anyone. Nathan Broussard could also be a guy that provides some solid upside here, and maybe Fortt will see some time here when he's healthy.
This could be the best position on the whole defense if everyone stays healthy. Even better than the defensive line. Considering how crucial the 3-4 OLBs are in making the scheme go, I'm pretty excited to see them in action.
Steve Williams, Marc Anthony, Kameron Jackson. Those are your three corners you'll be seeing almost the entire season, particularly against the pass-heavy teams in the conference. This is a bit of a thin position with Stefan McClure likely to blue
redshirt, so health at this situation will be critical. I like our top three though, although this becomes a worry spot against the Washington State's and the UCLA's (Mazzone now, not Pistol) of the world.
Alex Logan has been getting kudos all spring and fall. Good to hear, because he's going to have to really step up and play solid at strong safety these next two seasons. This position is demanding in Pendergast's scheme, and it's a lot to ask of Logan to match up to his two predecessors. But what we're hearing sounds really good. It's also good to see Tyre Ellison sneak up on here in his final season.
Josh Hill has been playing forever (starting, shifting, nickelback, etc.), and now he's fitting right in at free safety. I'm pretty comfortable with our safeties despite losing both our starters to the NFL. That never happens!
Bryce Treggs is the big name starting as a frosh, and it's good to see him end up as the backup to Keenan Allen as the backup punt returner. I'm not sure who I'm more comfortable with (Treggs probably has better open field speed, while Allen might be more comfortable at the position and can handle the football better).
Cole Leininger is the other guy starting as a frosh at punter, and all reports are that he's solid-looking. Considering who he's replacing, that's a good sign! Backup kicker too apparently.
Vincenzo D'Amato continues the Italian tradition at kicker. I don't know what to expect here. Can he replicate Giorgio Automatico?
Finally, we have long-snapper and placeholder two-deeps! What the what now? A WR at placeholder? We're so doing a fake field goal this year.