So we've added on to our defense recently in picking up a corner and two defensive linemen in the past week. We also picked up a linebacker in Markus Wright. For the majority of these pickups, Jacob Peeler has been either the main recruiter or highly involved in the recruiting process. He's done an excellent job in putting together a recruiting class that wants to be here, so he deserves a lot of credit. Anyhow, Peeler and company took the midnight train to Georgia to pick up Wright. The commitment of Wright is just another example of recruiting in the South. Cal picked up seven recruits from southern states in last year's cycle, and while there's only two so far in this class, that number will grow, since it's only July.
Wright put up some good stats his Junior year, getting 95 tackles, 7 sacks, 13 TFLs, 3 forced fumbles, and an interception. Let's also remember that he has another year to grow as a player, so those numbers can become even more impressive next year. He's listed as a two-star by some, but that's set to change in the coming year. He was 1st-team All-Region this year, so that bodes well for the Bears.
Wright plays outside linebacker, and he will continue to play the position at Cal. The main attributes to look for in an outside linebacker are their range, ability to drop in coverage, and how they fill the holes the linemen create.
- First play, at :15, Wright shows good burst off the edge, something that has been missing from the Cal defense since 2011. Wright makes the sack. At :24 he does the same. Currently, Devonte Downs fills the explosive blitzing linebacker role, but having another linebacker who can rush the quarterback allows for a bunch of different sets on defense. If our secondary and defensive line make a bigger jump than expected next year, I wouldn't be surprised to see a defense similar to the Pat Narduzzi ones at Michigan State (and Pitt). Having people who can put pressure on the quarterback is imperative in those sets. Wright can fill that role. That being said, Wright's team used him as edge rusher on an all-out blitz in quite a few of these situations, so he's had an easier route to the QB. He does have the speed to finish the play, which is promising.
- At 1:03, Wright comes off the edge on a five man rush, and he gets to the quarterback first. That's some impressive speed coming off the edge. It's a little Follett-like, which I welcome. His speed is further shown at 1:09, where he chases down a ballcarrier. He's definitely got the speed to chase down ball carriers and to fill the gap in run support. His speed is further demonstrated at 2:59, where he chases down the ballcarrier from the other side of the field. I think that's part of what drew the coaching staff to Wright; a willingness to never give up on a play.
- At 1:20, Wright shows his skill in run support, playing downhill and taking out the quarterback on a speed option. He knows his option responsibilities (to force the pitch), and he tackles the ballcarrier when that doesn't happen. 1:45 is another play of Wright in run support, playing down through the lane that the linemen squeezed down for him. I like the burst that Wright has in playing through the hole. It's a simple play to make conceptually, but an athletic one.
- At 2:10, Wright plays off a block and strings a run to the outside. He's doing his job by forcing the running back to go horizontal instead of vertical and forcing him to his help (ergo the cornerback and the sideline). He does the same thing at 2:35, stringing out an option to the point of causing a bad pitch. It's the little things that Wright does that are effective.
- At 3:20, we get to see the first bit of Wright in pass coverage. He drops into a good cover 2 zone, maybe not as sharply as he should, but he puts himself into position to jump the route. Luckily, it's a bad pass where he gets an easy interception, but he's still put himself in the right position to make a play. There isn't too much in the way of pass coverage in this tape, but considering how much run he got as a tight end, he understands the route concepts that will be run against him.
- In summation, this guy has some excellent tape of him chasing down ballcarriers, being an excellent edge rusher, and making fundamental plays in stringing out plays. I think that Wright is severely underrated, and has the potential to be a force on our defense when he gets here in 2016.