Monday, April 24, 2006

Oakland Tribune: Cal's deep defense has mayhem in mind

By Dave Newhouse, STAFF WRITER

BERKELEY — The focus was on Cal's offense, and its unsettled quarterback situation, in Saturday's windup of spring practice. But the Bears' defense proved larcenous in stealing the show.   "Our defense probably is gonna be ranked in the top five of the country," quarterback Steve Levy said. "It's unbelievable. Everyone's got speed. Everyone's got strength. One, two, three."  Levy meant Cal's defense is three deep in talent.  "You're not going to play on a lower level playing against the threes," Levy said. "Hats off to (defensive coordinator) Bob Gregory, who did a good job recruiting and scheme-wise."  Saturday at Memorial Stadium, Gregory sent his first, second and third defensive units against Cal's offense, and held the upper hand throughout.  Cal's offense has been slightly ahead of the defense since Jeff Tedford arrived in 2002. But the gap has closed, and Levy can't wait to see the final picture.  "As a whole, if we put it all together we're gonna be unstoppable," he said. "This could be, potentially, the best team Cal's ever seen."

Comparisons to Cal's Wonder Teams, Thunder Team and Pappy's Boys must wait. But what is needed for Cal to make its mark nationally in 2006?  "Wins, camaraderie, leadership," Levy said.  DeSean Jackson stood out Saturday. He caught a short inside pass from Longshore and turned it into a 70-yard touchdown on the first play of the controlled scrimmage. Then he returned a punt 57 yards for a touchdown, resembling a miniature Deion Sanders.   Jackson had one punt return last season, a 49-yard touchdown against Sacramento State in the opener. Does he  need to be out there more?  "Yeah, we've got to have him out there," said Tedford.  Cornerback Tim Mixon cut in front of a Kyle Reed pass to Sean Young, picked it off, and had an easy 85-yard touchdown run.  Cal had punt blocks by Marcus Ezeff and Virdell Larkins that turned into touchdowns on short returns by Greg Van Hoesen and Jared Vanderbeek.

Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett ran well, both scoring touchdowns, although neither had a long run because of the sure-tackling defense.  "The tackling was very good today, Tedford said. "It comes with athleticism and speed. They're in a position to make plays, and they're confident in their ability to tackle."  Tedford said that this could be his best tackling team at Cal.  Linebacker Justin Moye was the surprise of the spring in winning a starting job. And Cal's finest grouping of talent is its linebackers.  What other Bears stood out?  "Alex Mack did a real good job at center," Tedford said. "(Fullback) Will Ta'ufo'ou had a great spring; he's very physical and opened some eyes. Defensively, (safety) Bernard Hicks made a huge impact."  And the irrepressible Levy, the quarterback-turned-fullback-turned quarterback, also opened eyes ... as a punter. He got off punts of 43 and 42 yards.


No comments: