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Cal Linebackers Roundtable: What Does Losing Mike Mohamed Mean?

Mike Mohamed made it a habit of punishing the Cardinal.
Mike Mohamed made it a habit of punishing the Cardinal.

1. It was clear the Cal linebacking department was the biggest weak link of this whole defense, because we only had three capable linebackers to fill four spots. If we had one of either Cecil Whiteside, Chris Martin or Chris Little available to us, how much better would this group have been?

Kodiak: Dramatically better.  Part of the strength of the 3-4 is being able to rush or drop any backer at any time.  That's hard to do when one of the positions simply isn't getting it done.  Also, we could have used players who have pass-rushing ability.  Our base rush-4 look was often ineffective at getting pressure against better lines.  In fact, some of our blitz packages didn't work because our guys weren't very proficient at getting to the QB.

Berkelium97: They would have been better, but probably not good enough to overcome losses of 37-7 and 48-14.  Maybe the Nevada game would have turned out differently, but they'd have to be some exceptionally smart freshmen to keep up with Nevada's offense.

solarise:  I'd say about 20-40% better, since Keith Browner and Price was not effective putting pressure on QBs consistently. Nevada would've still given us problems though since Martin or Whiteside would've been true freshmen.

2. Although I'll always have a special place in my heart for Mike Mohamed, I don't think there'll be that much of a dropoff at linebacker with D.J. Holt and Mychal Kendricks returning, plus all the potential young talent coming into fill the remaining two spots (Nick Forbes, David Wilkerson and Stephen Fanua inside; Cecil Whiteside, Jason Gibson, and possibly Chris McCain on the outside). Tell me why I'm wrong.

Kodiak: Sorry, I think there will still be a significant drop-off at the ILB spot.  In the games where MikeyMo was out or limited this year, we really struggled.  Neither Stephen Fanua nor Robert Mullins were able to show anything other than a tendency to over-pursue and get caught out of position.  My suspicions is that Wilkerson moves back inside and replaces MikeyMo.  However, replaced an All-league senior with a RS frosh, no matter how talented, is a recipe for growing pains.  The most touted Pac-10 LB recruit in recent memory (Vontaze Burfict) has had plenty of ups/downs within his first two years.  You could say the same thing for Chris Galippo and Devon Kennard. 

On the other hand, I think the vacated OLB spot will be addition by subtraction.  One of the young studs will be a really nice change at that outside spot.

Berkelium97: If I had to tell you why you're wrong, I'd point to the Nevada game.  I don't know how many times Holt bit on a Taua run up the middle only to have Kaepernick bounce outside for a 15 yard gain.  I can't guarantee it, but I'm sure Mohamed would not have been as fooled as often as Holt was.

However, I think the transition to the loss of Mike Mohamed will be much easier than the transition following the loss of Follett, Williams, and Felder.  We'll miss him, but we have plenty of talent at the linebacker position, though some of that talent is paired with little experience.

solarise: Injuries.

3. Cal hasn't had a true pass rusher since Zack Follett--Kendricks doesn't exactly fit the mold, although he did garner some sacks through the season. Who do you  hope will be that pass-rush threat next season?

Kodiak: I'm hoping it's Whiteside.  Because that would mean we've really got some threats on the outside.  Kendricks has some ability, but hasn't developed yet into a Follett-level terror.

Berkelium97: If there is a Follett on the team, I haven't seen him yet.  Unless one of the young guys fits the mold, we'll have to rely on Kendricks and Jarred Price.  They haven't been great at pass rushing, but they certainly haven't been bad.  I was surprised at how Price can use his size disadvantage to get past larger linemen (particularly against NFL-bound Nate Solder of Colorado).

solarise: My heart says Whiteside, but Kendricks may benefit the most with our emerging talented LB depth.

4. Project the starting

Kodiak: Whiteside, Wilkerson, Holt, Kendricks.

Berkelium97: Inside: Holt, Wilkerson     Outside: Kendricks, Whiteside

solarise: Kendricks, Holt, Wilkerson, Whiteside