It is no secret that last season’s defensive strategy needed a serious overhaul as we progress into the 2017–2018 campaign. With the hiring of a defensive-minded head coach, the procurement of Tim DeRuyter, and the subsequent transition to the 3-4, Cal is seemingly doing just that. However, in a game as mental as football, the Bears’ defense will need more than just a change in the system; they will need a reinvigoration of their soul. Linebackers are the soul of any defense.
Respectable performances by Devante Downs (84 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT) and Raymond Davison (69 tackles, 1 INT/TD) indicated a linebacking core that could compete. Yet with a rush defense that often seemed to be made more of Swiss cheese than linemen, the glimpses of hope seen with the defensive backs were often overlooked.
That being said, key recruiting at the linebacker position could help jumpstart a defensive revamp. With the recent visit by the 3-star linebacking recruit MJ Tafisi (6’1”, 220 lbs) out of Utah, Cal looks to add energy and athleticism to an ever-growing 2018 recruiting class.
Tafisi is a well-sized, highly athletic rising senior hailing from Alta High School just outside Salt Lake City. A formidable combination of speed, defensive awareness, and on-field strength, MJ has an impressive ability to shoot the gaps and anticipate the next move of the offensive backfield. See his junior season highlights below.
With his high school running both the 4-3 and 3-4 defense, careful coaching under DeRuyter could polish Tafisi into defensive force in Berkeley. Tafisi could be a huge get in the class of 2018 for the Bears as Wilcox seemingly shifts the program’s recruiting gaze westward. However, with offers coming in from the likes of Boise State and BYU, it may be a while before we see a final decision from MJ Tafisi.