The California Golden Bears have plenty of talent on defense, as they sport a starting lineup with seven upperclassmen, including star corner Marc Anthony, a candidate for multiple awards including the Thorpe.
Cal not only thrives in a 3-4 system, they do so with tremendous depth, as 16 players have started on defense and three players have more than 20 tackles through the first three weeks.
In the secondary, Steve Williams and the aforementioned Anthony may form the most talented corner duo in the conference, which is undoubtedly aided by going up against Keenan Allen everyday in practice. Williams leads the team with 23 tackles, and the pair has combined for the only two interceptions the Bears have had through their first three games.
Despite having a strong defensive backfield that includes senior safety Josh Hill, the Bears have been exposed at times in the passing game, as Southern Utah out of the FCS put up nearly 300 yards on the Bears, while Braxton Miller threw four touchdowns for Ohio State a week ago. For a secondary that’s been consistently solid in the Jeff Tedford era (they gave up just 187 yards per game in 2010), they’ll have their hands full with USC’s passing attack.
Where Cal can mimic Stanford’s 3-4 success against USC however, is at linebacker, where the Bears will throw four linebackers into the mix to disrupt Matt Barkley. Look for the Bears to rotate their linebackers constantly, as even though Nick Forbes is projected to start in the middle, Robert Mullins will get plenty of playing time, as evident with his 23 tackles over the course of the season to date.
Cal has been hit and miss against the run, completely stopping Southern Utah and holding them to 2.3 yards per carry, while allowing Nevada to rack up 221 yards against them, albeit on 56 attempts. Considering that the Trojans have struggled mightily to run the ball, USC could be exactly what the doctor ordered for Cal’s rush defense, especially after facing two mobile quarterbacks, Cody Fajardo and Braxton Miller, who combined to rush for 198 yards in Cal’s two losses.
USC’s more straightforward offense should be a welcomed change of pace, and it’ll be a gauge for how good the Cal defensive line is. The Trojans were sacked four times at Stanford, and Cal will be looking to increase their pressure on the quarterback, something that could come easier given Barkley’s lack of mobility.
Senior nose guard Aaron Tipoti anchors the Bear’s defensive line, along with the USA Today’s First-Team Preseason All-Pac-12 defensive end, Deandre Coleman. Tipoti has yet to register a tackle for loss or a sack, while Coleman has two tackles for loss and sack, totaling 20 yards.
DE Aaron Tipoti #50
NG Kendrick Payne #96
DE Deandre Coleman #91
OLB Chris McCain #40
ILB Nick Forbes #11
ILB Jalen Jefferson #7
OLB Brennan Scarlett #17
CB Marc Anthony #2
S Josh Hill #23
S Alex Logan #6
CB Steve Williams #1