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Previewing the California defense

....they’re not the best

University of California v University of Hawaii - College Football Sydney Cup Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images

Okay so here’s the deal. As solid at the California offense is, the defense is very very poor (sounds kind of familiar huh?). This one has all the makings of a shootout, but I’ve been wrong before and maybe after a bye week both defenses will have things figured out. The Bears play a base 4-3 alignment, however there is something slightly off to it. In the tape that I’ve watched the defensive tackle to the weak side backs off the ball a yard or two. They don’t really bring a whole lot of pressure and try to play a base defense. I would say, expect them to bring pressure at the freshman but after watching the tape of the Texas game they didn’t do so against the fellow freshman Shane Buechele.

The leader:

Art Kaufman enters his third year as the California defensive coordinator and his 18th overall as a college defensive coordinator. In the past he’s been coordinator such as Ole Miss, North Carolina, Texas Tech and Cincinnati. The Bears saw improvement in the defense in his first two years on the staff, but something seems to have dropped off this year.


This is a California defense that gives up 6.1 yards per play which ranks 94th in all of college football. What seems to be really killing the Bears is in the ground game (which probably means we’ll throw it). Opponents through the first six games are averaging close to 284 yards per game on the ground with nearly six yards per carry. In all games this year, teams have combined for 22 rushing touchdowns on the Bears.

The passing defense really hasn’t been that bad. Teams are averaging just 211 yards per game through the air and have completed just four (!) touchdown passes. Teams have done solid against this group on third down, completing close to 50% of conversion attempts. Fourth downs have been good against this team as well with a 75% conversion percentage. The defense has been awful in the redzone. In 23 trips, they’ve allowed 16 touchdowns and five field goals. The team has made some plays to get the ball back with seven interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

Although Vernon Adams Jr. was killer with his four touchdown passes last season, it was the rushing attack that tore the Bears up. On 63 carries, the Ducks had 477 yards (with just one touchdown). The Cal defense did find a way to intercept Adams twice in that one. I expect the Ducks to keep the ball on the ground while Herbert gets his feet under him.

Three players to watch:

Raymond Davison, #31, junior linebacker, 6' 2", 225 lbs.

The leader in tackles for the Bears with his 52. Also has 1.5 tackles for loss along with one interception. The weak side linebacker is a little bit of a surprise this year as he only had 42 career tackles coming into this season.

Cameron Saffle, #6, junior wide receiver, 6' 2", 205 lbs.

Saffle leads the Bears in both tackles for loss with five and sacks with 2 and a half. He’s also managed to rack up 40 total tackles from the defensive end position. He was one of three true freshmen to play last season and worked his way up from a second place spot on the preseason depth chart to earn a starting role.

Khari Vanderbilt #7, senior safety, 6’ 1”, 195 lbs.

In my eyes Vanderbilt is the best player in this Bears secondary. Although he doesn’t have any interceptions yet this year he has 44 tackles with two of those being for a loss. He was another player going into the year that was listed as second on the depth chart and became one of the bigger contributors.