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How do we make the Cal football defense great again?


NCAA Football: California at Southern California Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Cal under Sonny Dykes still has not produced a competent defense. This will be the third time in four years Cal will rank near the bottom of the FBS in many major defensive categories. What do you think are possible solutions or fixes going into the offseason?

boomtho: Well first, I don't really accept the premise of the question. There are 119 FBS teams and Cal last year ranked 65th in defensive FEI. That's not amazing, by any means, but certainly competent.

That being said, the other 3 years for Cal have been true dumpster fires. The problem is there aren't a lot of obvious or near-term actionable solutions I can see for Cal.

I get that a lot of fans want to fire most of the defensive staff (especially DC Art Kaufman), and I'm mostly on board with that. I think Kaufman is a decent X's and O's coach, but I don't know that only doing that, without any recruiting chops, can ever cut it at the FBS level, let alone in a situation like this where Cal seriously needs to upgrade its defensive talent.

Beyond firing Art Kaufman, I think Cal should continue to focus on the JuCo route for recruiting defensive talent. Cal has had some success with that recently, so it's certainly already a focus of the staff, but that needs to continue. Of course, this is a really difficult route for a lot of reasons: you generally only get 1-2 years (so it doesn't build long term continuity), academics can be an issue, and there are a LOT of programs in the country fighting for this talent.

Nik Jam: I'll keep it simple. We knew linebackers were short during recruiting, and yet we had either 1 or 0 linebackers come if I remember correctly. That's unacceptable. Either we need to recruit linebackers harder or, if we are and they're not coming, we need better recruiters. It's not like our defensive coaching is very good either. Not much to lose in replacing them.

LeonPowe: There is a large movement online towards a small regime change on the defense leadership. I don't know enough (anything?) about the scheming side of defense, but what I do know is that if you start the season with really 2 rotation linebackers and a handful of defensive backs and half a defensive line and then over the course of the season, give them a bunch of injuries, no defensive coordinator would be able to coach this defense up to a Pac-12 level.

Obviously one can argue (and one'd be right) that the depth and recruiting aspect of being a coach ultimately lie at the coordinator and head coach's doorstep, but I'm of the minority opinion that if the recruiting and depth and bodies issue was fixed, we'd be at least ok as a defense. My whole opinion is based solely on last year's defense which finished in the middle of the pack range. I mean if we had last year's defense we'd be at least +2 in wins.