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Cal Football Defensive Preview 2019: The Utah Runnin’ Utes

Arguably the best defense in the Pac-12

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Utah Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Our friends over at Block U graciously answered all of our questions on the Utah Defense!

The defense as a team has clamped down on opposing teams from scoring. They’ve also moved up in Opposing scoring defense from 17th last season to 6th this season. What’s the biggest difference? Is there any change in scheme or playcalling that has helped this unit take another step up?

It’s a very veteran group on the defensive side of the ball, almost the entire defense returned from a season ago, and that really helps. That, to me, is the biggest reason you see another jump from the defense, because they all know their role, they’re a year better, and they know what each other are going to do.

The Utes replaced their top 3 tacklers from last season. How have the guys who moved into those roles faired this season?

The guys, namely the linebackers Francis Bernard and Devin Lloyd, have done a great job filling in for Chase Hansen and Cody Barton, who graduated last year. It almost seems like there has been no drop off, which is crazy to think, because those guys were so good. Of course, when you have Utah’s defensive line, a linebacker should be able to make all the plays they want.

Cal’s Takers are arguably rated as the best secondary in the country. How do you sell the Utah Secondary? What’s the argument for Utah’s secondary the best in the country?

Jaylon Johnson is arguably the best corner in the country. He shut down Brandon Aiyuk last week, he shut down Isaiah Hodgins two weeks ago, and he will shut down any star receiver on any team, so it starts with him. Starting nickel, Javelin Guidry is nails in the slot, and he’s arguably the fastest guy in the conference, or one of them at least, and behind them you have a former all-conference corner Julian Blackmon at safety, and the unsung hero of the secondary Terrell Burgess. Just as a unit they are so talented, and when you put them behind Utah’s offensive line, it really is a pick your poison. Utah’s DBs are rarely out of position, and they are such sure tacklers, which you won’t always see from a DB. Cal’s secondary is no joke, but I think Utah has the best overall corner of the group.

Bradlee Anae’s total tackles are down, but he’s already eclipsed his Sack total and is close to beating his TFL high from last season. What’s made him so effective in the backfield? What’s affected his total tackling numbers?

His first step is lethal. He find himself in the backfield when the tackle is just getting out of their stance. He has the uncanny ability to jump a snap, and this he so quick that linemen can’t get a good hand on him. As for his total tackling, that’s not something I’d really worry about. Guys may be running away from him, but going to the other side really doesn’t do you much good. He’s so fun to watch, just watch him one-on-one with the tackle for a while, and he just abuses guys.

Does Javelin Guidry have the best first name in all of college football?

Without a doubt, and with his speed, his name makes sense. The three year starter is such a good nickel, and you won’t hear his name much during a game, which is a good thing for a corner, because he does his job so well.

If you were to make the Utah Defense in a beverage of choice for opponents, alcoholic or non-alcoholic. What would it be?

Tequila. Because after a few shots, you’ll wake up on the ground the next morning with one hell of a headache.

Add a vintage Utah defensive player to complete this defense. Who do you add? Specific year for a specific player.

Eric Weddle, safety/corner that graduated in 2005, and now with the LA Rams. That dude was a nightmare for opposing offenses, and whether you put him at safety for Utah, or pair him up with Jaylon Johnson on the other side, quarterbacks would have no where to go with the ball.