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Cal Football Defense Roundtable: The Gregory-Pendergast Transition

1. Do you prefer Clancy Pendergast's defensive scheming to Bob Gregory's more fundamental style? Why or why not?

HydroTech: I like seeing QB sacks, and QB pressure. However, I do recognize that pressuring the QB is risky and pressuring the QB cannot be done in a reckless manner. So it's hard for me to say whether I like Pendergast's (somewhat) more aggressive schemes, versus Gregory's sometimes aggressive schemes.

I think the fact that Pendergast was willing to put some of our CBs on islands with opposing receivers demonstrates faith in those CBs to hold their own. I think those CBs like that demonstration of trust, and it makes the game for fulfilling and rewarding for them.

Kodiak: It's a little early to tell. When we had a bunch of savvy, experienced players, Gregory's D tended to do okay. You could quibble about the inconsistencies of in-game adjustments or defending spread attacks. However, you also have to point to the fact that we rarely got blown out, did have a couple of years where we forced a lot of turnovers, and played some of our best ball against the toughest teams.

In fairness, we had a better offense throughout most of those years, so the defense wasn't put in the untenable position of trying to play a perfect game. On the other hand, whenever we needed our defense to get a big stop this year, it just didn't happen. I think either system can be run successfully with the proper players. Gregory's depends on developing players to where they know where they're supposed to be. Pendergast's seems to be a little easier for young guys to pick up, but might also be more dependent on having great athletes. With our recent influx of talent, it will be interesting to see what Pendergast does in year #2. I think that this past year was a learning experience for him with regards to what college-level personnel can and cannot do consistently.

Even if I suspect that a well-executed BG defense might be superior to an equivalent Pendergast defense, the real advantage of Pendergast's scheme is with regards to recruiting. Young guys like to run, hit, and attack. For right or wrong, if forging a defensive identity that features aggression allows us to attract blue-chip talent, then let's do it and take our chances.

LeonPowe: I don't think this decision can be made in a vacuum, meaning that with our offense currently in a rather inept state, an aggressive defense may be what we need. On the other hand, I think the negative memories of Gregory may be clouding people's minds - or even have influenced my opinion. It wasn't that long ago that Gregory's defense led the NCAA in turnovers - or we had that awesome secondary that picked off over 20(?) passes.

Now that I'm arguing with myself, I would say, when we have a kick ass offense - I prefer Gregory's scheme. A few of us older Bears have seen a really aggressive defense when paired with a sputtering offense - and the results weren't good. When we have a less-than-ideal offense, and have to rely on the defense to win games, I like the aggressive pursuit.

solarise: I'm a savage at heart. High-risk, high-reward D is really my jam. I enjoyed Coach P's willingness to take chances but that's not to say Coach Gregory did poorly.

With one year of Pac10 under his belt, I expect Coach P's D to improve even further w/ new blood such as Cecil Whiteside, Chris McCain, & Gabe King in the Pac12. Things didn't work out smoothly in Arizona [in the NFL] but there's a chance that in the college level there is not enough talent & prep time weekly to overcome Coach P's aggressive schemes.

2. Did the defense overachieve, underachieve, or perform to your expectations? Are you worried about the defense playing superbly well on some games, but getting carved up like pumpkins on other occasions?

HydroTech: I think the defense, overall, was above average. Obviously, there were some fantastic games. Then there were some complete duds. Taking all the games into consideration, I think our defense was a slight cut above the rest.

Kodiak: Considering how badly the defense played last year and the fact that our entire secondary was largely inexperienced, struggling, or unproven, they probably met my expectations. However, I am very worried about the total collapses we saw at times this year. Whether that was scheme, preparation, or execution, that has got to be an area of focus during the off-season.

LeonPowe: They hit all three categories- so I think that's wildly inconsistent. There were a few great games - Oregon, Arizona, UCLA and a few oh-my-god, are we in the 90s again? games. It's difficult to assign a performance grade to the entire season. Incomplete.

solarise: I am overall pleased w/ the development of our defense. Granted we were crushed at times but I always felt that our defense gave us a chance for 3 and outs.

3. What was the biggest strength of this defense? What was the biggest weakness?

HydroTech: I think the biggest strength of the 2010 defense was the defensive line. We seemed to have a lot of experience and playmakers at those positions. I think the biggest weakness of the defense were the linebackers. Aside from Mohamed and Kendricks, the rest of our linebackers were hit and miss.

Kodiak: Biggest strength was the D-line. Biggest weakness was the OLB opposite Kendricks, and a lack of depth at CB that got exposed when Hagan and Anthony were nicked late in the year. You could also point to a lack of a consistent pass-rush against better O-lines. We still haven't had a guy step up like Pain Train to where the offense has to account for him every play.

LeonPowe: Strength: Defensive line and QB pressure (especially from kendricks at the LB). Weakness: I'd say a real lack of caused turnovers.

solarise: Two words. Cameron Jordan. He commanded double teams and was relentless chasing QBs down or tackling RBs from behind. Recovering a fumble for TD against Washington was a great send-off for Cam.

4. What will be the part of the defense that needs to improve the most between this year and next?

HydroTech: Linebackers. We are going to have a lot of inexperienced players at linebacker. They'll need to show a lot of growth and discipline by 2011 so they are not a liability.

Kodiak: Consistent execution and learning to play fast, but also remain disciplined. Our younger LB's and safeties were especially vulnerable to mis-direction all year.

LeonPowe: Catch the ostrich!

solarise: Discipline. I am eager to see Coach P's defense in year two to contain the big plays and keep the Bears competitive in the Pac12.