"I look forward to seeing how this one ends." - Image via farm2.static.flickr.com, thanks to super awesome epic Grecian hero man, Jason Snell of Excuse Me For My Voice.
TwistNHook: Am I the only person excited to see what the new 3-4 Defense can do this season?
HydroTech: I think you're the only person.
TwistNHook: Unique as always.
HydroTech: You're not unique. You're a weirdo.
TwistNHook: If your mission when you woke up this morning was to make me cry, then congratulations. Mission accomplished.
ragnarok: Okay, as for defense, CBKWit currently has major concerns at the NT position. I have to admit, I do too, but I guess I'm just too excited about having 4 great linebackers on the field to worry much about the NT. I imagine the LBs must really like the 3-4 because they get to rush the QB more often.
I guess we should go over who is at the LB position. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe it goes something like this: Follett at WLB; Felder at WILB; Williams at SILB; and Young at SLB. Yah?
Yellow Fever: The only one I am unsure about is Young. But I think he is there. This is clearly the strength of the D. Although, with 3 seniors out there, Tedford is looking to get experience for other, younger LBs, such as Kendricks. So, we could see a few unexpected stars blossom out there this year.
"Oh, so *that's* how it ends!" - Image via media.knoxnews.com
CBKWit: I'm not really worried about Young. Whenever he's on the field, he seems to make plays (Int in Holiday bowl '06 comes to mind), and I like the depth we have behind him. I think little brother Bishop, Mike Mohammed, DJ Holt, Charles Johnson, and true frosh Mychal Kendricks, who has been terrific during fall practices, will all see the field this year. That's a lot of good linebackers.
I am more definitely concerned about nose tackle. Hill is a great talent but inexperienced; Kane is experienced but is no Mebane or Lo Alexander, and both of them missed a lot of fall camp. I'm worried about getting gashed up the middle on running plays and having our DEs double teamed on passing plays.
HydroTech: I'm excited about Mohammed. He looked great last year in limited playing time. Btw, was he not at fan appreciation day?
TwistNHook: I didn't see his blue eyes and mop of blond hair there at all. Didn't
somebody say how on a video game, he was dark skinned? That's hilarious.
He must be stopped at airports all the time.
CBKWit: By all accounts, Rulon and Alualu had great camps, and their back ups, Cameron Jordan and Ernest Owusu, were magnificent in the spring. I think this group will put a lot of pressure on opposing QBs this season, which would be a welcome change from the last 3 years.
The Nose Tackle position is what concerns me. These guys didn't stand out as much as the DEs in the spring, and Hill and Kane were banged up for much of the fall. I am worried about Ringer getting 6 yards a pop right up the middle.
TwistNHook: Now, somebody must explain to me what the LBs responsibilities are in a 3-4 if the NT is failing on containment. Such things are beyond me.
Yellow Fever: To go and chase down the quarterback?
TwistNHook: Fair enough. I meant more on failing to contain the RB. Will there be
LBs sitting there waiting or are they off prancing and mincing about?
Yellow Fever: Does Follett seem like the prancing type to you?
TwistNHook: Good call. More of a mincer.
"Take it to the HOUSE!" - Image via cache.daylife.com
HydroTech: If the NT cannot soak up 2 OL blockers in the 3-4 scheme, we're basically going to have OL-men getting to our LBs. That is not what we want. We want the LBs making tackles not shedding the blocks of the OL. So basically, between the 3 down linemen in our 3-4, we should hope that they occupy 4 OL blockers (5 is even better but might be a bit too much). Remember, we want our LBs making those tackles close to the LOS not our safeties making tackles in the secondary.
CBKWit: That is my primary concern, that our NTs won't occupy two blockers against MSU. Then we'll have at least 2 Offensive Linemen blocking our ILBs (Williams and Felder) who should be making tackles. This is my biggest concern for the MSU game - if we can handle Ringer up the middle, we should win.
TwistNHook: Is Hagan starting this game? It's Syd, Hicks, Ezeff, and Hagan, right? I feel like our DBs are in a great position. I know that Syd had a rough start to his Cal career. But that trial by fire only made him better. He has played with some great players, like Hughes.
And we know what Ezeff can do. He was just hitting his stride (not to mention Oregon players) when he got injured last year. If he can stay healthy and Hicks can take over for DeCoud, I think we are set back there.
As for Hagan, I don't know too much about him. But he comes with a lot of hype, so hopefully now will be his time to turn that hype into production. Yes, there are concerns up front, but hopefully the improved performance at the LB and DB level will help mask some concerns with the DLine.
CBKWit: Hagan is starting at the other corner spot, and I think it's a good sign that he beat out Conte. Conte is clearly a smart player and hard worker (cornerback has one of the steepest learning curves and is one of the most difficult positions to play as a true freshman), so Hagan must have really gotten his act together this fall. He definitely came in with a lot of hype and now he has a chance to live up to it.
ragnarok: I'm excited to see what Hagan can do. The other cornerback slot opposite Syd'Quan was rather suspect last year; Conte showed some promise, but made plenty of, well, freshman mistakes. I'd have to think that either Hagan or a more experienced Conte would be an improvement for our secondary.
TwistNHook: Just this morning, I saw that Okanes said Hicks might lose some reps to Brett Johnson.
Another notable development on defense: Brett Johnson took the first team reps Thursday at free safety instead of Bernard Hicks. Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said no decision has been made who will start, but added that he expects both players to get about the same reps in the game. Still, it’s a significant bit of news because Hicks seemed to be a lock to play free safety through the spring and much
That is news to me. I always thought very highly of Bernard Hicks. I have to wonder what the thought process is here. Maybe Johnson is playing at an exceptional level and is forcing the conversation. I hope it's not a negative on Hicks.
ragnarok: I don't sense a lot of consternation among either sportswriters or fans about replacing our team's leading tackler, Thomas DeCoud. I mean, 116 tackles is a lot of production -- 4th in the Pac-10 last year. Now, I now Hydro has gone on record as saying that having your free safety be your team's leading tackler is a bad thing, but even if our linebackers step it up in our new 3-4 defensive alignment, you still worry about a dropoff whenever a guy like this graduates to the NFL.
TwistNHook: We just hope that this year's Defense doesn't put its safeties in a position to make 116 tackles. DeCoud was a beast out there (and he and his father were hilarious at FanFest last year). But hopefully, we won't necessarily need a player quite like DeCoud out there this year. Best of luck to him in the NFL!