Defensive Coordinator: Marcel Yates
Pass Defense: 214.2 yards/game (61st)
Run Defense: 204.6 yards/game (108th)
Total Defense: 28.4 ppg (84th)
Week 5: 24-20 Loss @ USC (197 passing yards, 253 rushing yards)
Redshirt Senior Dereck Boles is the anchor of the Arizona defensive line. He started all of the 2017 season after being a JUCO transfer the year before and has been the nose tackle for this defense ever since. PJ Johnson, another JUCO transfer, is playing in his first year with the Wildcats. Johnson is huge at 6’4”, 335 pounds, and plays the defensive tackle position in this Arizona defense. A combination of the sophomore JB Brown and redshirt junior Finton Connolly will likely rotate around the defensive line and help fill the remaining defensive end role that has been a struggle to replace for the Wildcats since Justin Belknap went down with an injury. Finally, Kylan Wilborn will likely earn the start at the “stud” position (a hyrbid defensive lineman/linebacker).
As seen with the Wildcats stats against the run so far this season, the defensive line is something that the Bears can definitely attack this game. While the interior guys are pretty big and could give Cal’s offensive line some trouble in that area, there really isn’t anyone to be too scared of here. Patrick Laird and Brandon McIlwain should have plenty of success running the ball on Saturday. This also isn’t a great pass rushing group, meaning Chase Garbers (and McIlwain) shouldn’t struggle for time in the pocket, at least due to the Wildcat pass rush.
Sophomore MIKE linebacker Colin Schooler is a complete stud and the best player on this Arizona defense. Think of him as their version of Evan Weaver. After winning the Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year last season, he has shown strides of improvement and could cause problems as our Bears running game begins to get to the second level of the Wildcat defense. Alongside him at the WILL position is fellow sophomore Tony Fields II. He isn’t nearly on Schooler’s level but is a solid player in his own right.
Although it may look differently with certain looks they give on Saturday, the 4-2-5 defense has Arizona running with two true linebackers. However, with two guys like Schooler and Fields II, they can make this work. Arizona has been bad against the run this season, but that can be attributed mostly to the defensive line, as these two players make a solid linebacking corps for the Wildcats.
With five starting defensive backs in their base defense, the Arizona secondary can be pretty difficult to analyze since there ends up being quite a few moving parts. At the SPUR (safety/coverage linebacker hybrid) position, you can expect to see junior Tristian Cooper. The BANDIT (safety) position will be occupied by senior Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, who has been a starter since his sophomore season and is one of the veteran leaders of this defense. At the free safety position, it will be redshirt sophomore Isaiah Hayes and at cornerback, you can expect to see redshirt sophomore Lorenzo Burns and senior Jace Whittaker for the majority of the time. Senior Jarrius Wallace is one of the better players in this secondary and will likely be seen rotating mostly throughout all of the listed positions.
This is a decent group. It isn’t anything special, but Cal doesn’t have a great passing offense either. I think the two will be pretty evenly matched with Arizona’s secondary probably getting the slight edge, but we didn’t expect Cal to be carried by the pass anyway. As far as run support, this secondary does an adequate job, but it isn’t enough in an already poor run defense. The secondary also has been mistake prone in run defense, allowing plenty of big runs this season.
I think Arizona’s defense matches up very well for the Bears. Their weakness comes in run defense, and that is basically the only area that we have found success in on the offensive end this season. Unless Schooler and Fields II go completely crazy, I think Arizona will have a tough time stopping the Cal rushing attack, and as long as we can hold onto the football and play good defense, I think we can walk out with a win.
What do you think, Cal fans? Can our offense get through to this Arizona defense?
How many points will Cal score against the Arizona defense?
This poll is closed
50 or more