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Cal football: Andy Buh, defense struggling out of the gate

The Golden Bears took nearly three quarters to finally shut down Portland State's offense.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Pretty sure every Cal fan will say the defense was the biggest disappointment. What would you say are the biggest issues on defense? What strategy should Cal employ the rest of the season to win games if the defense continues to be an issue?

Sam Fielder: Seems like the biggest issues on D are tackling (or lack thereof) and the lack of push from the DL. We have 1 sack after 2 games, which is terrible. I don't know what strategy should be employed, but they need to get back to fundamental wrapping up on tackles, discpline and aggression from the D line, and general preparation that needs to be better.

Leland Wong: Sam is exactly right--the most glaring defensive issue seems to be missed tackles. This is a fundamental issue, so I don't think it necessarily warrants changing anything in terms of formation or scheme. They should be able to perfect their tackling technique from in-game experience, so I'm cautiously optimistic for the future, even if it's costing us in these early out-of-conference games. There were a few plays when the PSU quarterback (who's 245 lbs, by the way) would be on the run behind the line of scrimmage and the linebackers or defensive backs playing shallow coverage would start to cheat up, allowing him to float balls right above them for consistent gains. I imagine this could be fixed with some better discipline or communication to assign some players to chase down the quarterback while the others stay back.

Berkelium97: When Buh joined the staff, he said he wasn't going to overload the team with tons of schemes and blitz packages. He was going to focus on the basics: fundamentals, discipline, and execution. We have seen very little of that so far this season. DBs are cheating up to stop the run (and getting burned by inside receivers), LBs aren't hitting their gaps, D-linemen can't even get pressure against some extremely green FCS offensive linemen. We're failing to execute the basics of sound defense.

I'd like to see Buh be more creative about generating pressure. If we're going to let the QB convert a 3rd and 15, at least force him to get rid of the ball a little quicker. He's obviously a smart, creative guy (see his disguised cover packages vs. Northwestern). Hopefully he's putting some thought into this.

Atomsareenough: Well, we're not getting good penetration up front, which is allowing rushers to get to the secondary and forcing us to make tackles in the open field, which we're having trouble with. We're also making some mistakes in coverage and getting burned downfield a little more often than I'd like, but our secondary is young and I'm hoping that should get better once they get more experience. I thought the front 7 was going to be a strength, though, and it's also a work in progress, which means our defense isn't very good right now. I wish I had an easy solution; maybe we need more blitzes and stunts and trickery to get pressure, I don't know enough to say.

Norcalnick: If you had told me before the season that Chris McCain, Avery Sebastian, Brennan Scarlett and Nick Forbes would ALL be unavailable due to injury, I'd tell you that Cal's defense would be awful. You simply can't lose your best players at every level of the defense, even if you're Alabama. But when it's a team that was already amongst the youngest, least experienced in the nation . . . I'm sorry, I don't think Nick Saban could scheme around that.

That isn't to say that injuries excuse a poor scheme and bad tackling. Those issues just compound the problem. But if McCain, Scarlett, and Forbes don't get healthy, it's going to be a long year of this. I mean, Cal fans are openly wondering if a player recruited to play defensive end should be a starting safety. Sebastian may not be the best player on Cal's roster, but he's probably the most irreplaceable.