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The Strength of the Defense? Cal Defensive Line Roundtable

Will Aaron Tipoti and company be able to chase down enough quarterbacks to disrupt opposing offenses this year?
Will Aaron Tipoti and company be able to chase down enough quarterbacks to disrupt opposing offenses this year?

The Cal defensive line has had its share of talented players during the Jeff Tedford era. Ryan Riddle, Lorenzo Alexander, Nu'u Tafisi, Brandon Mebane, Tyson Alualu, and Cameron Jordan, just to name a few, have shined for Cal over the years; you can still see some of these guys playing in the NFL. What is in store for the 2012 California Golden Bears on the defensive line? The conventional wisdom is that the defensive line is the strongest unit on defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's defense.

What do your CGB leaders think?

TwistNHook: bla bla bla Tosh bla bla bla Shaq Thompson bla bla bla.

LeonPowe: I don't think either of those individuals are associated with this university nor it's d line.

However, before he skedaddled, Tosh did help us recruit and coach up some serious studs on the d line - the point where the dline has been a strength of the team for the past several years with high draft choices and great individual performers.

The current players - I'm really excited about, although worried about the long "nicked up" list after training camp, but I'll leave it for writers who know a lot more than me to quantify why I should be excited.

unclesam22: I'm interested to see what this D-line can do. The talent is there on paper and I think that they may have something to prove this season. I'd love to see them really mature and start dominating the line of scrimmage the way that I believe we all think that they can. I'm also interested to see what kind of a difference Coach Howard makes this year. I think he'll do well with the talent that this there and it should be fun to watch these big guys take it to people.

(Read more thoughts after the jump. To see Cal's depth chart on the D-line and the rest of the team, click here)

HydroTech: The one thing I will be looking forward to seeing more of this year is whether we can get sacks with our DL. Since Clancy Pendergast has arrived at Cal, it seems as if he's turned loose (so to speak) our DL by letting them play one gap instead of two. But even despite that change, it seems like we rarely saw a defensive lineman log a sack. While I am happy for sack whether it comes from a defensive linemen or a linebacker, it would really be nice to have a huge pass rushing threat at the interior of the line (coming from a defensive linemen) rather than purely relying on outside pressure from linebackers. I think Cal has some talented defensive linemen and is pretty deep at the position. I'm hoping it just shows in the statistics columns though.

Kendrick Payne interview at this year's spring game.

Kodiak: This is the deepest group of D-linemen that I can remember at Cal. Used to be we would have one stand-out per year. This year, we have several potential break-out players. I think Tipoti is the most complete player we have. I like the fact that we're already looking to use him both inside and on the end because he needs to be on the field as much as possible. Also, this opens up more snaps for Vili Moala who is really the only true nose tackle that we have.

I'm hoping Mustafa Jalil gets healthy soon. It's rare for a true frosh to earn starting snaps and I can't wait to see how he's gotten better after a year with Blasquez.

In fact, I'm excited to see a lot of the young players like Todd Barr have their chance. And, I have a soft spot for the oft-injured Keni Kaufusi to finally get back into the main rotation.

One thing I'm curious to see is what effect new position coach Todd Howard has on our pass-rushing techniques. I've wondered the past few years about our guys being somewhat one-dimensional in their approach. Or at best, having just one move and one counter. During the spring, Kendrick Payne spoke very highly of Coach Howard's NFL experience and his emphasis on better hand techniques.

Like Hydro said, I hope this pays off as more sacks and pressures from our linemen. Historically, we're a really, really tough defense when we can generate pressure from just our front 3 or front 4. But it seems that since Follett graduated, we've had to rely on stunts and blitzes. This might explain some of the feast and famine results we've had on defense. One example I remember vividly is the game we lost against Arizona two years ago. We sent six pass rushers, but didn't get there in time. That allowed the long completion to a single-covered Juron Criner to set-up their go-ahead FG.

With any luck, the Dline will make the rest of the defense, especially the secondary, look stronger this year.

Ohio Bear: I really like the looks of our two-deep on the D-line. It appears to be solid everywhere. We have experience in Aaron Tipoti at DE and Kendrick Payne at NG. But the player I'm really looking forward to watching is DeAndre Coleman at the other DE. It feels like we have been waiting for DeAndre to break through. We can only hope that he unleashes that potential and shows us why he was such a prized recruit when he entered the program.

This unit is probably the strongest unit of the Cal defense, the one we have the least to worry about. At least that's the way I see it.

Vincent S: I know most of us are caught up on how deep our D-Line is. As deep as it appears to be, we still have enough guys injured that we apparently can't even run a full fall camp. That concerns me. When all our healthy, we appear to have the deepest D-Line in the history of Cal football. Currently though, that's definitely not the case.

norcalnick: I firmly believe that the defensive line is the strongest unit on the team, and they might be the unit with the biggest burden as well. If Cal's linebackers aren't as good as they were last year there will be a tremendous need for the defensive line to create pressure on the QB and stuff the running game.

Can this line do that consistently with just three players on the field at once? My 'fear' is that the defensive line will be very good, but that for the team to be successful it will need to be elite.

Wait, everything I wrote above is too pessimistic. These guys are going to be unblockable all year long. Can't wait to watch them in action.


Ohio Bear: Well, I don't know about unblockable. But I am optimistic that they will be able to disrupt things at the point of attack. With the questions that Cal has at linebacker (foreshadowing a future roundtable!), it is especially important for the defensive line to be able to do that this year. If the defensive line is closer to blockable than unblockable on the blockability scale, it might be a long year for the defense.