Former DC Clancy Pendergast rarely used a conventionally aligned 3-4. Instead, he often brought both OLBs up on the line of scrimmage or subbed out linemen for additional linebackers. With many of those OLBs now switched to defensive ends, some of the changes are really more semantic than anything else. What remains to be seen is how aggressively Coach Buh will direct his linemen. We've seen an emphasis on gap control under Bob Gregory and we've seen an emphasis on attacking up-field under Clancy Pendergast. Judging from previous stops, expect more of the former than the latter from Coach Buh. He's shown that he prefers to emphasize discipline and fundamentals over selling out to make a big play.
Foremost under the list of concerns has to be staying healthy. Last year, almost every lineman in the two deeps was forced to miss time with injuries ranging from nagging to season-ending. Depth remains a concern with the off-season departures of Whiteside, McCain, and Kaufusi. Whiteside and McCain were our two most explosive pass-rushers and Kaufusi was expected to play a significant role in the DT rotation. The fact that three incoming linemen, Hughes, Manley, and McKinley didn't qualify in time for summer bridge certainly doesn't help matters.
All defensive coordinators lean on the cliched "we want to stop the run and get pressure on the passer" as their mission statement. Let's just hope that Buh and company have the horses and the know-how to make it happen.
Brennan Scarlett was a defensive end in high school, switched to OLB at Cal, and is now back at end. He's got a rare combination of size and speed that allows him to hold the point of attack while also providing a pass rushing threat. Injuries have slowed him the past two seasons.
Todd Barr has one of the best bursts off the snap that you'll ever see. During his first playing time as a redshirt frosh last year, he showed that he was already one of our best pass-rushers. Expect to see him featured prominently on obvious passing downs.
Sione Sina is a highly touted 4* JC transfer known for his motor. However, he's still recovering from ACL surgery and it's unknown whether he'll play this year or redshirt.
Fans have been expecting big things from Deandre Coleman ever since he created stadium-wide oohs by using a blocker as a makeshift battering ram to knock over both lineman and quarterback. There were flashes last year, but we never got to see Coleman become a consistently dominant force. Moving inside from SDE to NT seems to be a good fit for his skill set. Look for him to clog the middle provided he can stay healthy.
Viliami Moala was supposed to be exactly what Cal needed in a nose tackle to anchor its 3-4 defense. Whether it has been injuries, conditioning, or a lack of technique, his on-field production has yet to match the expectations that accompanied the 5* high school accolades. Let's hope this is the year we see "Tiny" keep his pad level low and have a break-through season.
Mustafa Jalil was impressive enough to earn playing time as a true freshman. Unfortunately, his sophomore campaign was hampered by a knee injury which ultimately required season-ending surgery. Due to lack of big bodies on the line, he's moving inside from end to tackle this year.
Austin Clark has done yeoman's work whenever called upon to hold the rope. With Kaufusi off the team, he's the next man up as our backup DT.
With both Whiteside and McCain out, rush end becomes a huge question mark. JC transfer Kyle Kragen showed a knack for getting to the passer during spring ball. However, JC transfers usually take a season of adjustment before they acclimate to Div-I ball. We'll need Kragen to be up to speed sooner rather than later.
Dan Camporeale is an odd choice to move from OLB to rush end. He's a smart player who knows his assignments and gets himself positioned properly. This discipline makes him an asset in coverage. However, he hasn't shown the explosiveness or moves that typically make for a play-making pass rusher.
Antoine Davis was a late add to the 2012 class from Contra Costa College. He was a full qualifier out of high school, but opted to go the JC route in order to get stronger and better prepare himself for Div-I ball. He's tall, long-armed and athletic. The former coaching staff were grooming him as a pass-rushing predator DE/LB.
Puka Lopa may not have the flashiest measureables, but he's tough, instinctive, and one of those guys that just knows how to play. He was highly productive in high school and earned Scout Team POY honors during his redshirt year.
Harrison Wilfey is a JC transfer who has been moved over from tight end to provide more depth.
Gabe King absolutely looks the part of a star defensive lineman. But despite impressive high school accolades which included US Army AA honors and being rated as high as the #5 DE in the country, he's another player who has yet to live up to expectations. After starting at end, he was moved inside to tackle last year. Even with our depleted roster, it remains to be seen if he'll crack the two-deep and become a contributor.
Ordinarily, it's highly rare for true frosh Dlinemen to play and contribute during their first year. But depth issues might press some young players into action sooner rather than later. Of these, juco transfer Marcus Manley was perhaps the most likely to earn playing time because of our lack of experienced depth at tackle. Unfortunately, he, Garrett Hughes and Takkarist McKinley didn't qualify for summer bridge while issues with their eligibility are being worked out.
The starters look solid, but proven depth remains a concern. We're an inopportune injury away from this unit becoming a serious issue. Although we dream every year of a dominant line that can stuff the run while also providing pressure out of our base look, expectations should be more modest until proven otherwise. The potential is there. However, we need to luck into good health while having a number of key players take that next step. Is new Dline coach Barry Sacks the hero that we need?
Defensive Line Summary
Position Coaches: Barry Sacks(defensive tackles), Garret Chacere(defensive ends)
Experience. This is the one position group that has a senior starter and a number of juniors in the two-deeps.
Speed. With converted LBs as ends and some ends shifting to tackle, our line will be lighter, but fast.
Talent. By recruiting stars alone, this is a group with several 4*s and even a 5*.
Health. Until proven otherwise, durability of our starters will be a season-long concern.
Size. Moala is the only true NT. Besides Coleman, we're a little light at tackle. Our rush ends are really under-sized.
Depth. Losing three players from the two-deep hurts. We'll need young players to step up.
Will this unit finally perform up to expectations?
Can our starters stay healthy?
Will we be able to generate a consistent pass rush?
How will Buh decide to use the line? Full attack or gap control?
Fall Camp Preview Series: