Cal football: Grade the defense and special teams

Thearon W. Henderson

The Golden Bears special teams has drastically improved. The Cal defense has done the opposite.

Grade each aspect of the Cal defense & ST through three games (rush D, pass D, ST) and explain each grade in a few sentences.

norcalnick:

Rush defense: D+

Did a reasonable job against Northwestern, got very surprisingly gashed in the 1st half against Portland St., the was unsurprisingly gashed all game against Ohio St. I actually think the front seven has done a not awful job on most run plays, but once a run gets to the 2nd level it's over.

If Forbes and Scarlett (amongst others) get and stay healthy, I think that Cal's rush defense will be mediocre the rest of the way.

Pass defense: F

Do I really need to get into it? An insane schedule and Avery Sebastian's injury are, admittedly, huge mitigating factors. But from a coldly results based perspective, the simple reality is that Cal's pass defense ranks amongst the worst in every meaningful category nationally.

Special teams: A

I'm trying to think of a single mistake on special teams, and the only example I can think of is a few kick offs out of bounds (the equivalent of a 10 yard penalty) and a shanked punt. No missed field goals, no blocked kicks, no long returns allowed, infrequent penalties, a pefectly executed fake field goal . . . I mean, if we were being greedy we could demand a few return touchdowns (and Muhammad almost broke one) but 80% of the battle in special teams is avoiding mistakes and that's just what this group has done.

Nam Le: Correction: We missed one field goal.

Norcalnick: I have blocked the Portland St. game from my mind.

atomsareenough:

Rush Defense: C-

I don't feel as if teams are running all over us, but we've failed to hold the edge repeatedly, and we gave up way too many 4th down conversions against Ohio State. As with much of our defense, there's a lot of good effort coupled with critical breakdowns leading to big plays.

Pass Defense: D-

Partly due to patchwork secondary getting burned, and partly due to lack of pressure from the front 7. Wayyy too many long passes being completed against us though.

Special Teams: A-

Special teams have been great. Yeah, there have been a couple of shanked punts, but even Brian Anger would have an occasional one of those, and a couple of kickoffs out of bounds are but mild annoyances rather than something consequential. The only real negative play I can really think of was the failed on-side kick against Ohio State. We've done a great job on covering kickoff and punt returns. I'd like to see some more big plays from our own kickoff and punt returners, but I can't really complain too much on that front. I like the exciting trick plays we've been able to successfully run on special teams. D'Amato is a very reliable FG kicker. Execution has been really solid all around, and this unit feels like a strength of our team. Kudos to Coach Tommerdahl.

Sam Fielder:

Rush Defense: C-

It hasn't been great but in comparison to our pass D, it looks positively solid. Hopefully the bye week helped get some of the D Line healthy and coached up.

Pass Defense: F

Hardly any sacks or pass rush pressure, huge pass plays given up and decimated by injuries. It's tough to watch and I don't know that it is completely the fault of the players, but boy this aspect has been ugly.

Special Teams: A-

Only one missed FG and a couple of FGs out of bounds. This unit has been as solid as can be and the two fakes have been absolutely brilliant.

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