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Cal Football 2019: North Texas Defensive Preview

Can we break through the Mean Green Defense?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 07 North Texas at SMU Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A little different approach this week with the defensive preview. We have our friends over at Underdog Dynasty answering some questions about their defense and what to expect from the Troy Reffett run unit.

What type of scheme do the Mean Green Run? Will we see much blitzes and wrinkles or will the defense run most of their base the whole game?

Defensive coordinator Troy Reffett runs a 3-3-5 and is typically aggressive with blitzes and likes to play man coverage. Unfortunately, they’re still breaking in some new starters. They were in the base for the most part in the opener. Against SMU they added more principles and looked out of sync. Against SMU last weekend Sonny Dykes’ offense torched UNT for over 500 yards with 49 points. Cal’s offense won’t be that successful, but with UNT replacing so many key guys from last year’s defense, the Bears should be able to get what they want nonetheless. Safety Khairi Muhammad is the player to watch for. He’s the known commodity from last year’s defense. Given Cal’s success against Washington on the ground, expect UNT to blitz a lot to make up for the lack of size on their defensive line.

Who are some players Cal should be looking out for?

Khairi Muhammad and Taylor Robinson return at safety and are sure tacklers. LaDarius Hamilton is their most disruptive player on the line as he has the speed to get to the QB. Bryce English at DT has been talked up for years but has rarely produced. Considering Cal’s run-first tendencies, English has another opportunity to have a breakout game.

What is the turnover from last season and the expectation of the defense this year?

UNT only lost five starters from last year’s team but they were arguably their most disruptive players. Linebackers E.J. Ejiya, Brandon Garner, and cornerbacks Nate Brooks and Kemon Hall, were the cornerstone of last year’s defense. Replacing those players have been tough. With the return of Khairi Muhammad and Taylor Robinson at safety, big play prevention is the expectation but Reffett continues to employ an aggressive defense. As the SMU game has showed us, the returns haven’t been too great so far as they have forced one turnover this season.

North Texas gave up 31 against Abeline Christian then gave up 49 against SMU. Which version of the defense should we expect?

Expect to see the one against SMU. Cal isn’t as potent as the Mustangs, but keeping Fine off the field and wearing down UNT’s front seven should be the goal. Maybe the defense will make a few plays in the backfield due to their team-speed, but if Cal keeps it on the ground and wears down their front seven the Bears should be able to score at least 30.

After looking at Cal’s offense the past couple of weeks, how do you expect them attack the UNT defense? What weaknesses should Cal exploit?

Perhaps the biggest revelation from Cal’s win over the Huskies is that the Bears now have two great backs in Chris Brown and Marcel Dancy. Through two games, Chase Garbers still doesn’t look too comfortable dropping back and scanning the field. The pass protection looks a bit shoddy too. Against UNT’s experienced safeties I imagine Cal will be be cautious in letting Garbers just rip it. If Beau Baldwin features Brown and Dancy the Bears should be just fine though. Since Reffett has been the DC, UNT has been notoriously known in C-USA circles for being average at best against the run. They sell out a lot to get havoc plays (TFLs, sacks, etc.) but this also leaves them vulnerable for explosive plays. Their corners are similar to washington’s in that they are inexperienced, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a game-plan similar to the one employed last week from Cal with a potential for more shots downfield given the talent advantage Cal has in this game.