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September 20, 2007

Cal Preview: Defense

The Wildcats will face their toughest opponent of the season on Saturday as they travel to Berkeley to take on head coach Jeff Tedford and his sixth-ranked California Golden Bears.

Though it will be the biggest test of the season so far as far as the whole team is concerned, Cal is not among the defensive elite nationally, ranking 69th in total defense, allowing 371 yards per game.

Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory will have some tinkering to do up front as injuries have greatly affected Cal's defensive line through the first three games of the season.

Senior defensive tackle Matt Malele, the unit's only returning starter, and junior end Rulon Davis, are questionable for Saturday's game after both suffering foot injuries against Louisiana Tech. Even worse is the fact that starting tackle Mika Kane may not be 100% after missing nearly a game-and-a-half nursing a concussion.

Team sack leader Tyson Alualu remains healthy and will look to improve on his 2.5 sacks this season from his defensive end spot while serving as the anchor of the line.

Expect to see plenty of fifth-year senior John Allen and redshirt freshman Derrick Hill at defensive tackle, and sophomore Cody Jones and true freshman Cameron Jordan, at end.

Injuries have also afflicted the linebacking corps as junior Zack Follett is day-to-day after suffering a stinger against Louisiana Tech on Saturday.

Though the unit lacks depth, the likely starter will be either sophomore Eddie Young or true freshman Michael Mohamed if Follett is not able to play. Mohamed has nine tackles so far this year and Young has two.

At the outside linebacker position will be returning sophomore starter Worrell Williams, who is second on the team with 23 tackles and has a forced fumble. Williams is one of the better all-around athletes on the defense and makes plays all over the field.

Across from Williams will be the Bears' leading tackler in 6-foot-4, 231-pound junior Anthony Felder. Felder has racked up 32 tackles and two sacks this season and his speed is his greatest asset as he runs a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash.

Despite the inexperience and youth up front, especially considering injuries, the secondary may be the weakest unit on the defense. Currently ranked 102nd in the nation, giving up 279 yards per game through the air this season, the Cal secondary needs players to step up.

One of three returning starters is 5-foot-10, 193-pound cornerback Brandon Hampton, who has a respectable 16 tackles and an interception this season and is the team's leading returning tackler from 2006.

On the other side of the field at cornerback is sophomore Syd'Quan Thompson. Thompson saw the field and played fairly well as a true freshman last season and had the un-admirable task of being the corner opposite departed corner Daymeion Hughes most of the time he was out there. This season, he has recorded 14 tackles.

Thomas DeCoud, a 6-foot-3, 204-pound safety, is the only other senior in Cal's defensive backfield. Before an injury in 2006, DeCoud was all over the field, making big-time tackles and delivering big hits. He is doing some of the same again this season, as his tally of 19 tackles would indicate.

Junior Bernard Hicks anchors the other safety spot and has nine tackles in 2007.

Arizona's 5 Keys to Offensive Success
1. Continue looking deep: Arizona's pass offense has improved every game and needs to go right at one of the lowest rated pass defenses in the country.
2. Develop a rhythm: QB Willie Tuitama needs to find a rhythm on offense and get multiple receivers involved.
3. Get the run going: The Wildcats have had little luck in the running game this season and need to see results from it this time out as the Bears have little experience up front.
4. Minimize mistakes: This one should be a no-brainer, but Arizona beat itself out of essentially 21 points last Saturday and cannot afford that kind of performance again.
5. Keep Cal's offense on the sidelines: The longer the UA offense stays on the field, the better. Cal lacks some depth on defense, especially with injuries, and DeSean Jackson can't hurt you from the sidelines.

Tim Schultz

Nebraska NEWS


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