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Cal Football: Will the pass rush improve in 2013?

We continue our series of offseason question with #8...Will the conversion to 4-3 defense be able to generate a more effective pass rush? *Note that this was all written before the Chris McCain suspension so answers that reference him may or may not be accurate for next year...


Nam Le: A move to the 4-3 allows the Bears to take better advantage of their starting defensive ends, sure. Chris McCain and Brennan Scarlett are better poised to take advantage of their athleticism with their hands on the ground, rather than fighting off pulling guards and backs, I agree. However, I think that any improvements in pass rush won't just be from the move to 4-3 itself, but from the fact that our DL has gotten deeper, very, very fast, too - we're adding 3 JC players in Sione Sina, Marcus Manley, and Kyle Kragen, all of whom are poised to make an immediate impact. Kragen, in particular, has already shown well this spring, and could see time as a pass-rushing specialist. Add three guys who are already physically matured to a hopefully healthy McCain/Scarlett combo, plus a handful of other guys moving to end, and you're very likely to see increased sack numbers.

Avinash: With Keni Kaufusi now departing the program, is our situation at DT getting a little perilous? We seem to have an abundance of DE talent but not enough bulk inside.

LeonPowe: My feeling about 4-3 vs 3-4 is that ultimately scheme doesn't matter as much as the players and over defensive philosophy. I mean if we're running all out, hit squad blitz heavy packages then obviously we're going to generate more pass rush than a fill the gap, cover all the holes bend but don't break defense. 4-3 vs 3-4 seems more like a question of what the d coordinator prefers rather than one alignment being better at pass rush than another. It's much more in the way they're applied.

2013 California Spring Football Preview (via XOSSports)

Scott Chong: It sounds to me that Dykes/Buh are more concerned with gap control and alignment than 3-4 vs. 4-3. From a personnel standpoint, we're essentially the same since we converted many of our OLBs to DEs. In some ways, we might be better suited for the 4-3 because we just don't have enough guys who can two-gap on consistent basis. Coleman is really the only one who has shown the ability to do it. Moala has been inconsistent and injured. Besides them, most of our other linemen are either true DE's or tweeners like Jalil/King.

I think LeonPowe nailed it when he said that overall philosophy is more important. It's really unknown how much Buh likes to blitz and attack versus playing gap control. Ideally, we'd love to generate a pass rush with our base four. McCain and Scarlett have both shown some ability to provide pressure off the edge as has Todd Barr. Kragen reportedly flashed a lot during spring ball. Beyond that, I really don't know how often we'll send guys from the back seven.

With so many teams in conference going spread and uptempo, playing coverage might actually be more important because it's so hard to get to QB no matter what you do.

TwistNHook: Fundamentally, we switched to a 3-4 to take advantage of the great talent of LB several years ago. The Anthony Felders, the Zach Follets, the Worrell Williams. In the last several years, we haven't exactly had that level of talent, but stuck with the 3-4. So, there may be great value in switching back to the 4-3. I am hopeful that Gabe King, in particular, can step up. He apparently had some concerns with the Tedford regime. I'm not 100% certain what they are, but with the change, hopefully he can realize the potential that he has.

Cal defensive coordinator Andy Buh chats about his new job! (via Lindsay Brauner)

JahvidKnowsBest: I won't pretend to know the intricacies of the 4-3 and 3-4, but just from my general knowledge of football and the current roster that we have, I like the move. I'm more a traditionalist too, and the 4-3 is definitely more traditional. I think for a team like our own that has a lot of size upfront, but not necessarily the greatest speed (in both our LBs and DL), I think the 4-3 plays to our strengths. While McCain and Scarlett are both athletic, I feel their athleticism is put to the best use when they are rushing the edge, or playing the run from outside angle. Putting them at outside LB in the 3-4 can get complicated, sometimes forcing them to cover backs and receiver in certain situations, while also not always utilizing them to rushing the quarterback. I think putting them in the 4-3 will reduce some of their assignment responsibility, allowing them to be the athletes that they are and make plays and overall generate a greater passrush.

I also think our backer corp is well suited for the 4-3. Our three starters, Jefferson, Fortt, and Forbes, I think is one of the strongest linebacking corps we've had in a while. These guys could be the best unit on the entire team at the end of the day. I think they all have NFL potential, and I wouldn't be surprised if 2/3 of them are all conference. I am confident with all of them in terms of stopping the run, I think we will actually be fairly good at that. I am slightly worried about pass coverage with the OLBs, but I will have to see how that turns out in Fall. Hopefully, the LBs job's will be considerably easier because of the stronger pass rush generated upfront.

NorCalNick: I think Scott's point about coverage is critical. With the proliferation of mobile quarterbacks, high tempos, constant shotgun and quick routes, sacks are harder and harder to come by. I'm hoping that having a bunch of spread tempo offensive minds on the coaching staff means that the defensive coaches will be as prepared as possible.

But yeah, in the end Cal's base formation doesn't seem like a huge issue. It tends to change from game to game and even drive to drive. If the talent can stay healthy, I'll be less worried about the front seven anyway. It's when Cal goes to a nickel defense that I'm most worried, considering our unproven depth in the secondary.

What do you think? Will the new scheme generate a better pass rush in 2013?