Cal Football: What did you see from the Defensive Line in 2012?

Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE

New position coach and no heralded recruits coming in. So what did you see out of the Defensive Line in 2012?

BlueandGold15: In a word: underwhelming. Coming into the season with the likes of Deandre Coleman, Mustafa Jalil, Kendrick Payne - and that's not even mentioning talented backups like Todd Barr - the defensive line was expected to become a consistently destructive force in 2012, but that never really materialized. Like many of the positional units on the team, the d-line suffered its own share of injuries, with Jalil being shut down early, Payne having surgery on one of his hands...the list goes on and on. It got so bad that at one point, the staff was forced to move OLB Antonio Davis down to defensive end. I would hypothesize that another reason for their in-effectiveness was a downgrade in coaching ability from Tosh to Todd Howard. I do not pretend to be an expert on the intricacies of line play, but it seems as logical an explanation as any, seeing as most of the same talent returned between '11 and '12, but the positional coach didn't. Regardless, it felt far too often last season that there was not nearly enough push up front, and that opposing backs/QBs were bursting through to the second level without too much effort. A quick comparison of statistics seems to back that up - the Bears gave up nearly a half a yard per carry more in 2012.

Barring a last minute splash with the likes of Scott Pagano, Kylie Fitts or Eddie Vanderdoes, there will not be an immediate impact player joining this unit in the fall. The Bears will have to simply get better production from those returning, and will throw mid-year transfers Sione Sina and Kyle Kragen into the mix. That being said, there is at least decent cause for optimism from this unit going forward, since last year's injuries forced the backups like Keni Kaufisi into action, and all of them - minus Payne - will return a year better and more experienced in '13.

Avinash: How much do people think the underachieving of the D-line was due to coaching or injuries or scheme?

BlueandGold15: I know that 3-4 linemen are expected to take up space and free up LBs to make plays - two things that don't necessarily show up in the stats - but watching our team this year, I never got the sense that any of our guys were very successful at doing even that. Same scheme as seasons before, combined with the mostly same talent leads me to point the finger more at the first two.

Kodiak: It's hard to say anything other than "disappointing" when a position group is expected to be the strength of the team and falls far short of expectations.

I don't know if I put this solely on the position coach. With only one year, there's not enough of a sample size for me to really point fingers. I did expect to see more out of Coleman and Moala.

I'd lean towards the injury bug being the main culprit. It seems like everyone in the two deep was nicked up in some way. Without enough healthy linemen in the rotation, I think it contributed to wearing down the guys who had to play the bulk of the snaps. Combined with our general offensive ineptitude, and it's hard to say where better coaching/different scheme would have made a difference. Most of the time, it looked like we were just trying to mix/match the bodies that we had to put together some type of front seven.

On the plus side, I liked what I saw from Keni Kaufusi and Todd Barr. In particular, it was great to see Kaufusi flash his potential after coming back from several shoulder injuries.

Looking ahead to next year, I still think that we've got some nice players here...provided that they can stay off the training table.

Kendrick Payne & Robert Mullins sack Brad Sorensen Cal vs. Southern Utah Football 2012 Berkeley (via kevinsyoza)

Berkelium97: It was a forgettable year for the D-line. The entire year was a waiting game as we hoped several of the lineman would get healthy enough to play. It was unusual that no one stepped up to fill the void, as we had grown accustomed to over the years (Owusu and Guyton in 2011, Hill and Jordan in 2010). Whether this is due to coaching or a lack of healthy bodies remains to be seen.

It will be interesting to see if we get more production out of the line when we switch to Buh's 4-3. Facing fewer double teams, the linemen will have more opportunities to disrupt the opposing O-line. Hopefully Barry Sacks' tutelage lives up to the name.

NorCalNick: Yeah, it's really tough to say how much injuries impacted things. It went beyond missing games. Guys were out for spring practice, they were out for fall practice, they were in and out throughout the season . . . there was zero continuity. Add in having to break in a new defensive line coach, tons of linebacker injuries, an offense that didn't keep them off the field, and you have a worst-case scenario recipe.

I think the other issue is that, like BlueandGold15 mentions, 3-4 linemen are occupying blockers more often. Over the last few years we've been spoiled by guys like Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan who can pressure the QB even when they were being double teamed. There wasn't really a guy like that last year . . . or at least not a guy like that who was healthy, and so production declined.

I still have high hopes for next year, despite everything /crosses fingers.

solarise: I feel that the lack of production at DL stemmed from the fact that for most of 2012 season, Cal played in the 2-4-5 nickel popularized by our own Kodiak the Blogger Throwdown Champ. If Jalil or Payne had been healthy then perhaps this unit would've written a different story. Todd Barr I thought had some impressive moments as a five-technique exploding past tackles with his speed. Deandre Coleman was solid from game-to-game. They should both play significant roles in the 4-3 front under Coach Buh.

Looking ahead to 2013, I wonder what would happen to our predator linebackers. My guess is that both Chris McCain and Brennan Scarlett will get their chance to play end to pressure opposing QBs. If nothing else we should add more mass upfront with Jalil, Moala, and Coleman coming back to stuff runs.

Ohio Bear: The defensive line play in 2012 was disappointing, to say the least, but I hesitate to blame it on coaching or scheme. Injuries were a major factor here, IMO. Moala was always banged up, Kaufisi missed time due to injury, and so did Tipoti (who was expected to be a major contributor). Not to mention Kendrick Payne, from whom we expected a breakout year, but who did not reach those heights largely due to not being 100 percent healthy.

I liked what I saw from Deandre Coleman, but we need to see more from him in 2013. I am happy he decided to come back for his senior season and I still hold out hope that he will live up to the promise that he had as an incoming freshman. It is there for the taking for him in Coach Buh's 4-3. I am also looking forward to seeing more development out of Brennan Scarlett and Todd Barr, from whom we saw flashes of good things. They can be really good players off the edge.

And oh yeah: So can Chris McCain. Which brings me back full circle: injuries were a major factor in 2012.

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