Anyone who follows the USC Trojans knows about the injury woes that have plagued the team this season. The Cal Bears may actually have it worse, especially on defense. Ten players on the preseason two-deep depth chart have missed most or all of the season. Five of those were projected starters.
So it’s no surprise that a defense that was seated in the bottom half of the Pac-12 in defensive statistics last year has only gotten worse.
The Bears are dead last in the conference in total yards allowed, surrendering an average of 529 per game. Averaging 42.8 points given up a game, they also bottom out in scoring defense. Putting that into perspective nationally, out of 123 ranked teams, only four allow more points and just one concedes more total yardage.
If Cal has a strength on defense, it’s on the ground, were they at least allow less yards to rushers than Colorado does. Granted, they’ve still given up the most rushing touchdowns in the conference. In pass defense there isn’t much to praise. They’ve been burned for nearly 1000 passing yards more than the next worst in the Pac-12, Colorado.
The defensive line is anchored by redshirt senior captain Deandre Coleman. He is Cal’s active leader in tackles for loss and tackles and this season leads the team with seven tackles for loss, which includes two sacks. Viliami Moala, a junior, started out as Coleman’s back up but has stepped in at tackle due to injures. He has forced two fumbles. On the edge, redshirt senior Dan Camporeale is a former walk on who has logged a tackle for loss in eight of nine games this year. On the other side, redshirt sophomore Puka Lopa has logged two sacks, but junior transfer Kyle Kragen has supplanted him at the RUSH end position and leads the team with three sacks of his own.
At linebacker, redshirt junior Khairi Fortt, a Penn State transfer, is a bright spot for the Bears as one of 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award and tops the team with 64 tackles. Joining him are Jalen Jefferson and Hardy Nickerson, a redshirt sophomore and freshman respectively. Nickerson is second on the team with 60 tackles while also boasting five tackles for loss with two sacks. Jefferson has also found his way into the backfield with six tackles for loss and two sacks.
The Bears feature two junior leaders in the secondary with Michael Lowe, a redshirt, at free safety and the undersized Kameron Jackson at corner. Lowe has 41 tackles on the season and is one of four defensive backs with an interception this year. Jackson joins him in that category while the other two, Avery Sebastian and Alex Logan are out with injury. Jackson has broken up a team best six passes this season. Meanwhile freshman strong safety Cameron Walker leads the secondary with 53 tackles which is good for third on the team. Redshirt freshman Cedric Dozier protects the other side of the formation at corner and has 11 tackles to his name.
Projected Starting Lineup:
END #43 Dan Camporeale
NOSE #91 Deandre Coleman
TACK #55 Viliami Moala
RUSH #75 Puka Lopa
SAM #7 Jalen Jefferson
MIKE #47 Hardy Nickerson
WILL #11 Khairi Fortt
CB #37 Cedric Dozier
SS #14 Cameron Walker
FS #5 Michael Lowe
CB #3 Kameron Jackson
Check out our preview of the Bear offense.