When pads finally came on Wednesday for the first time in this fall, so too started what Cal football coach Jeff Tedford called "real football." Real as in full-on contact, as in no-holds-barred hits. And if you're talking hits, not too many dole them out better than safety Sean Cattouse. In last September's game at Minnesota, he YouTubed Golden Gopher receiver Eric Decker with a hit that left the now-Denver Bronco struggling to get off the ground. The moment was one of the most memorable last season for a Cal secondary that ranked 111th nationally in pass defense, stumbling far short of its preseason expectations.
The Bears have brought in new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, whose schemes have -- perhaps too often, by now -- been described as "aggressive." While the front seven will be given the most dramatic makeover, the defensive backs look to benefit as well. "It really gave us a clean slate, this new defense," Cattouse said.
Cattouse, who along with senior Chris Conte are expected to start as safeties, described the new coverage schemes as "more complex," filled with more movement, disguising and blitzing. They'll hope it makes up for losing three starting defensive backs, including All-Pac-10 cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson.
Conte also must transition from being the reserve corner he's been most of his college career. "It's been easy," he said of the move. "There's a lot more you have to know. There's a lot more on the mental side, but i think football-wise it's a lot easier. The game slows down for you a lot. It allows you to be more of a football player. I like it a lot more. It's more of a natural fit for me, so I'm enjoying it."
As for facing the top-flight passing games of the Pac-10, they insist they're not worried. "I'm not even thinking (about them)," Cattouse said. " I"m just ready to go ball and whoever we got, we got. I don't even know who's supposed to be who. I could care less." Added Conte: "Man, I don't think anybody's ready for us, really. Nobody's talking about us."