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How are the Cal Defensive Backs going to do in 2014?


Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Avinash Kunnath: I'm not sure how to feel. This unit has a bit of experience, although two of the three returning starters are moving to new positions (Cameron Walker and Stefan McClure are essentially flipped). Of all the units we have on defense, this is the one coming back with the most experience, so I feel a bit more comfortable. On the other hand, last year's back seven was one of the worst performing units in Cal history, so it's a wait-and-see sort of thing.

Let's look at each player who we're likely to see.

Michael Lowe:
Third year starting. Of that 2010 class, only four players turned out to be above-average contributors for more than a season--Keenan Allen, Chris Adcock, Chris McCain and Lowe.  (Tosh Lupoi won a recruiting award of the year for this class, which goes to show you recruiting awards are the equivalent of participation trophies at youth soccer tournaments). Lowe has proven to be as good as his job as anyone could be on the worst pass defense in the country, god knows how many messes he had to clean up when the cornerbacks lost their men or the linebackers dropped their gaps or the defensive ends lost contain. He had his fair share of mishaps, but he endured and he's back. I'm happy for that.

Darius Allensworth: Allensworth had the most promising CB tape of any of the 2012-13 recruits we landed, so I'm pretty excited to see him finally take the field. Allensworth locked up a starting spot in spring camp and hasn't let go of it, and I think that he has a chance to be really good given the right amount of time. 

Stefan McClure: McClure has transitioned as well as he can to free safety. Obviously I'm nervous about a defensive back with plenty of knee injuries making open field tackles and constantly cutting rather than just playing straight coverage, but all accounts are that he did really well in nickel/dime packages, so he might play some nickelback too.

Cedric Dozier: Dozier took his lumps along with every other freshman and walk-on who suited up last season, but it looks like he emerged the better out of it and will be a significant contributor this year. I'm not sure if Dozier is ready to be a starting corner, but hopefully he'll have a better sense of what to do under Coach Burns.

Cameron Walker: Walker actually is fighting for a starting position, although I expect him to feature prominently regardless. Cal will be playing so much nickel and dime this season out of necessity that Allensworth, Dozier and Walker will all be on the field. Given Walker's safety experience, he should fit well defending in the slot. 

Caleb Coleman: I know very little about him. I imagine he'll see the field a bit and might get picked on somewhat. We will see if he is up to the challenge. 

Avery Sebastian: They're bringing Avery along slowly, so I'm not sure if he'll be ready yet. That could mean more time for...

Griffin Piatt: WHITE THUNDER! He even worked as a law intern for personal injury claims this summer! How cool would it be if the walk-on comes out and becomes the TwistNHook of football?

This Tweet from Nam is illustrative.

Vlad Belo: I like this unit. Yeah, the young guys took their lumps last year when they were pressed into service before they were truly ready to play. And Cam Walker took special lumps before he was forced to play out of position. But like Avi said above, I think that the young players will be better for the experience they had last year. We have a talented group of athletes in our secondary and I suspect that we will see quite a bit of improvement in these guys.

Like everyone, I hope that Avery Sebastian and Stefan McClure come back healthy. We will see McClure at safety this season, which I am looking forward to. I have been a McClure fan since day 1 (meaning his first college start on a Thursday night vs USC at AT&T Park) and have sometimes been effusive in my praise of him. I truly believed he would be a great corner for us. Injuries derailed him a bit and now he is moving to safety. It's not a bad thing to have a safety with the cover skills of a corner.

The other two guys I'm especially looking forward to seeing play are Allensworth and Dozier. Allensworth, simply because I've heard so much about him and I'm impressed with the way he has, to borrow a Nuke Laloosh phrase, announced his presence with authority. And with Dozier, I've been intrigued with him; he's a great athlete and I see potential for him to be a very solid corner.

There's no rest for the secondary in the Pac-12. But I think we're better equipped this year to have this unit make some plays and hopefully do their part to get the defense off the field.

Leland Wong: Of all our defensive position groups, I'm feeling best about these guys; I'm not sure if that says more about the DBs or about how questionable our LB and DL groups look. Cameron Walker impressed me enough last year that I'm feeling pretty comfortable with him, especially now that's he has slid back to his original position of corner. I'd be feeling a bit more optimistic about this group if we had Sebastian back at 100%, which would enable us to play a lot more nickel with McClure as the nickelback.

Sam Fielder: Like Leland, this group worries me the least, which means that we're in not so great shape on D. I do think that Kauffman's new scheme and the fact that our younger players are battle tested will mean that they won't be historically bad like last year and will hopefully be of a more "bend don't break" D instead of a "whiff on the first move and give up a 75 yard TD". We're still short on depth here, so obviously any injury is going to be huge and a rash of them like last year would be disastrous, but overall, I think this unit will be improved. Not world beaters or anything, but better.