Cal football: Defensive coordinator Andy Buh under fire

Thearon W. Henderson

The Golden Bears have started out slow in each game every season defensively and have had to make up deficits. Does Andy Buh deserve the heat?

Andy Buh: Are you of the opinion he was dealt a bad hand or is he just not up to the task?

Berkelium97: Both. I am sympathetic to the fact that we're missing our top lineman (Scarlett), linebacker (Forbes), and defensive back (Sebastian). That, however, is no excuse for how poorly this team has performed. Through three games we've allowed 14 plays of 30+ yards; we allowed 24 all year in 2012, 28 in 2011 and 15 in 2010. We're on pace to shatter those marks.

We're in the bottom ten nationwide in scoring defense, total rushing defense, opp. rushing yards per carry, opponent yards per passing attempt, passing yards allowed, total defense, opp. 4th down conversions, opp. red zone visits, and opp. red zone success. We've allowed EVERY red zone trip turn into points, with nearly 70% of them turning into touchdowns.

A few injuries do not excuse a systematic failure to execute on defense. If this continues, this will be one of the worst Cal defenses in school history.

Buh and company are clearly overmatched. Every single opponent has scored a touchdown on its opening possession: Ohio State and Portland State each scored in two plays, while Northwestern took a five plays to score. They seem to have no answers on defense until the second half. They can't even figure out how to sub in players when Ohio State went uptempo in the red zone. From player execution to scheme to game management, this defensive staff has been a colossal failure.

I am not advocating that we do anything drastic, such as firing him mid-season.  If we do not show much improvement as the season progresses, however, Sonny Dykes should seriously consider making a change.

TwistNHook: This does not seem like an either or proposition to me. People are calling for Buh's firing, because a)the buck stops with him and b)they are having emotional overreactions to losing football efforts. Fans are passionate and will have emotional reactions. That is fine enough. And the buck does stop with him, whether it is a talent issue or a scheme issue. It's hard to make a really clear delineation, either way, because we don't have access to the inner workings of the scheme, we don't know what the original plan was. We know what it looks like out on the field, but we don't know if it is an amazing scheme executed poorly or vice versa. Of course, the reality is that it is both.

However, to me, the key admission was after the Portland State game. In the post-game press conference, Buh admitted that he had prepared the team for a certain type of offense and PSU was playing a different offense. That is a pretty big problem, in my view. If you went to work and your boss was like "Did you get the Jones report done?" and you said "Oh, I did the Smith report instead," I suspect your boss wouldn't be super happy.

atomsareenough: It's really hard to say just yet. So far, so awful, but at the same time, it's just a reality the injuries on defense have been catastrophic, and 2 out of the 3 opponents who torched us are legitimately very good offenses (and even Portland State might be pretty decent as well). Buh and the defensive staff haven't done a good job getting the guys mentally ready to play from the first whistle though, and I think that's on him. I think schematically we're probably doing okay; he seems to be able to make adjustments and limit the damage, but I just don't understand why we're making basic mistakes like letting receivers get behind the secondary, or not sealing the edge.

During the offseason, a lot of the talk was about how Buh would focus on the fundamentals and technique, but I'm not seeing it. Yeah, the players that we've had to play so far are young and inexperienced, but I don't think they're getting physically beaten by veteran opponents, they're just making sloppy mental mistakes, and our opponents are talented and savvy enough to exploit them. There's plenty of time for improvement, but as each week goes by and we don't see it, the less confidence I have in the staff that they'll make it happen. Buh was absolutely dealt a bad hand, but his credibility is also rapidly eroding.


Sam Fielder: Tough to say right now, but my initial response is yes. Good players should be able to make up for an inadequaedate game plan while a good scheme should be able to hide some of the weaknesses of the players. This team has neither and both. We come out each week and look clueless for the first and sometimes second quarter, go down big, and then are able to make adjustments in the second half while giving up just enough points to make sure that the Goffense can't come all the way back (save PSU). I think that Buh needs to get at least the season to break in the scheme, adjust to the players, and figure out the opponents. It isn't like we were going to go to the Rose Bowl anyway this year, and it's not like there are prime candidates waiting around if we did replace him midseason. Let the rest of the year play out, see how things go, and I think we'll have a better idea of whether or not he's capable or we're just terrible.

Ruey Yen: There is no doubt that the Cal defense so far has been quite disappointing. I would still give Andy Buh the benefit of the doubt and see how much the Cal D improved as the season progresses (no firing Buh mid-season for me). Even with the key injuries (Buh definitely got dealt a bad hand), the remaining personnel and physical talents are there for the Cal D to be a lot better than what it has shown so far. Of course, improvement on these past few weeks should be pretty easy given how low the bar is set.

Norcalnick: I think it's fair to say that Buh has been dealt a very bad hand with injuries. That said, at some point, he's going to put the talent he has in a position to succeed. At some point, the Cal defense will need to exceed our expectations, however low they may be. The jury is still out, but 3 out of 12 jurors are dead set on sending back a decision of guilty.

Leland Wong: I'm going to give the wishy-washy answer and say a little of both. It's definitely not Buh's fault we're thin in the secondary or that so many key contributors have been injured; those issues have definitely led to points for the other teams and we can see them targeting some of our weaker players for touchdowns and big games. However, while inexperienced players may be hesitant to act or lacking the proper instincts, one recurring issues in all of this season's games is the opposing offense getting big yards after contact.

It's one thing for that to happen occasionally against a powerhouse like Ohio State, but it's happening too frequently and, frankly, should never happen against an FCS team. It is Coach Buh's responsibility to teach them (or to ensure his coaching assistants are teaching them) proper tackling technique so this doesn't happen on every other play. Furthermore, it is his job to come up with the defensive gameplans and to make adjustments based on what he sees on gameday and those seemed inadequate in the Ohio State and Portland State games, respectively.

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