Football: Is there enough depth in the secondary to survive the season?

Jason O. Watson

As we get closer and closer to the start of the 2013 season, we're looking at more of the questions facing our team this offseason. With the rise of spread offenses and excellent quarterbacks in the Pac-12, we come to question #3 on our list--do we have the necessary depth in the secondary? Can we develop effective players to complement the starters?

Scott Chong: No, we don't have enough depth in the secondary. McClure, Jackson, and Sebastian are solid players with the potential to be standouts. The other safety position remains a huge question mark between Lowe/Logan. We don't have a proven nickel or dime back. And Oski help us if any of the starters gets nicked up or misses extended time.

It's highly likely that we'll need to rely on the incoming true frosh defensive backs to contribute immediately. While they might be talented, I think Thompson, Syd vs. Tennessee sums up the typical experience of freshmen thrown into the Pac-12 fire.

Can we develop our young players sufficiently? Well, that's the big question for DC Andy Buh and DB Coach Randy Stewart. On the plus side, I don't think that Buh will run as many different schemes as former DC Clancy Pendergast liked to do. Even so, we're awfully young and very thin facing a league where just about every team favors a spread formation with multiple receivers.

Leland Wong: Scott hit it right on the head here. Secondary depth is a pretty big concern and Steve Williams's early departure might end up hurting us a lot. I'm not sure if we'll be able to match up against four- or five-wide sets in a conference full of very talented quarterbacks and Dykes has already said he doesn't think we're equipped for winning shootouts yet. And who knows, our ultrafast Bear Raid offense might result in little time for our defense to rest whereas the opposing offense can at least rely on some depth to keep their guys fresh. Can we at least find someone who will cover the tight end?

atomsareenough: I like most of our starters (McClure, Jackson, Sebastian, and even Lowe had his moments), but who can play behind them? Can Cameron Walker make an impact as a true freshman? How about some younger players that have been in the program for a year or two like Cedric Dozier, Adrian Lee, and Damariay Drew? If even one or two of those guys can step up and be productive players in the regular rotation, that would have a HUGE impact. Maybe we'll find out more during Fall camp, but at this point, it's all question marks, and that worries me. What do you guys think of some of the younger and unproven players on the roster? Do any of them seem to have potential? People were saying some really nice things about Drew's physicality when he was recruited, and Dozier was originally a prized receiver recruit, if I remember correctly... Could either of them make a difference?

Nam Le: Not to set off any alarms already or anything atoms, but for me, none of those guys you mentioned stood out very much this spring. It's most likely going to fall on one of Cheek, Allensworth or Walker do better, barring some massive improvement over summer. The fact that we have to consider one of these guys shows how much Steve Williams' departure has hurt overall, because a few of them are being forced to move into the rotation sooner than anticipated. Both starters at corner will be fine, but you never want to play a freshman unless they're truly ready, and in this case, we'll likely have to put a freshman DB in the mix somewhere.

Our best bet to handle tight ends is going to be one of the safeties, I'd say, and being the better athlete of the two, Avery Sebastian is the one I'd pin my hopes on. [Logan is 6'2, which might help with the ASJs of the world, but there's still no guarantee he has a spot.] It is true that Sebastian looked a tad overmatched in most coverage drills this spring, but to his credit, he recognizes this as a huge weakness in his game, and has been working hard to improve it. We'll see in a few weeks if there's been any pay off.


Vlad Belo: I like what we have at the starting corner positions (Kam Jackson and Stef McClure) and I think that McClure might be one of the best corners we've ever had at Cal by the time his career is over. (And, while I was typing that sentence, I think Kam Jackson intercepted Brett Hundley again.) I also like Avery Sebastian at strong safety and the combination of Michael Lowe and Alex Logan at free safety is okay.

But depth? I don't see a whole lot of it, at least not enough so that we can say we're set if somebody goes down. That's not to say we don't have it. We might see someone emerge in training camp as someone who can contribute in the DB rotation. Cameron Walker, Coach Dykes' first recruit, is an intriguing possibility, as even Coach Dykes singled him out as a guy who might be able to play right away as a true freshman. Perhaps Adrian Lee, whom we have not seen a lot of so far, can also emerge as a backup corner. I am also anxious to see what redshirt freshmen Damariay Drew and Cedric Dozier can bring to the table. They were good recruits, good athletes. If those guys can emerge, we could have okay. But coming into training camp, secondary depth is definitely one of the question marks of this team.

norcalnick: The bigger question might be whether or not a more experienced, healthier front seven can create pressure. Last year's passing defense had some pretty ugly stats for a team with two NFL draft picks playing the cornerback positions. That speaks to some of the issues Cal had at safety, issues Cal had with depth, and issues in getting to the quarterback. Those same issues at safety and depth might persist, which means if the front seven can't create pressure, we know what the weakness of the team might be.

Berkelium97: I am also hoping a wealth of healthy, talented bodies in the front seven takes some pressure off the secondary. Last year we only managed 25 sacks, the fewest since 2007, which was also a year in which a talented secondary gave up too many yards.

Teams like Arizona and Washington State will test our depth by consistently lining up four or five receivers. Fortunately, both games are at home. I am not especially concerned about the Cougs, as the Wazzu offense still hasn't begun to click. Arizona will be a stiff test for the secondary, although the Wildcats' offense had a tendency to faceplant on the road (0 points at Oregon, 10 at UCLA).

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Bears fans, how are you feeling about our depth in the secondary? Voice your concerns or assuage the fears of your fellow Golden Bears in the comments section!

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