Position Preview: Defensive Line

The Year That Was

Cal’s defense excelled in 2010, and All-Pac-10 defensive end Cameron Jordan was a primary reason why. He had 62 tackles, 12.5 for a loss
and 5.5 sacks his senior season.

Jordan, along with fellow starting end Ernest Owusu and nose tackle Derrick Hill, anchored the Bears’ rushing defense that ranked fifth in the Pac-10, giving up an average of 132 yards per game. (It’s actually a slightly misleading stat, since the top six teams were separated by 20 yards.)

 

Like the rest of the team, the defensive line had its ups and downs. The Bears gave up just 162 yards on the ground in their narrow loss to Oregon, over 120 yards fewer than the Ducks’ average. Similarly, the Bears stuffed UCLA’s pistol — which averaged over 175 rushing yards a game — to the tune of 26 rushing yards (on 26 attempts) in their blowout on Oct. 9.

But there were some other games, namely against Nevada (316 rushing yards), Stanford (232) and Oregon State (197), that surely Cal and its defensive line would like to forget.

Key Changes

Owusu returns after starting nine of the 12 games and recording 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Junior Kendrick Payne and sophomore Deandre Coleman are back, as well. The two reserves have game-time experience and will no doubt play bigger roles in 2011.

The biggest question will be how, and if, the Bears replace Jordan’s production. Known for his sense of humor as much as his heavy hits and quarterback sacks, Jordan was drafted in the first round by the New Orleans Saints.

Senior Trevor Guyton, who excelled late in 2010, is a possible replacement for Jordan. Despite starting only four games, he was third on the team with 4. 5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss. The 6-foot-3, 289-pounder is versatile, as he plays both defensive end and nose tackle.

And though Hill battled injuries throughout his career, the 6-foot-2, 308-pound nose tackle — now graduated — was very disruptive in the middle when he was at his best. Against Oregon, Hill forced a fumble and recovered it in the end zone to give Cal its second score of the contest.

Keep an Eye

Incoming freshman Viliami Moala is a force to be reckoned with. The 6-foot-2, 350-pounder ranks as ESPN’s No. 7 defensive lineman in the class of 2011 and looks to be Hill’s heir apparent as the gap-clogging interior lineman in Cal’s 3-4. With the 495 pounds he benched in high school, Moala had already set the Cal bench-press record before setting foot on campus.

He even has his own wikipedia page. Moala is the real deal.

Outlook

The Bears probably won’t replicate Jordan’s production, but they might not need to. Veterans like Owusu, Guyton and Payne will hold their own and help out the freshmen talent. Moala should be a star, perhaps as early as next season, while Todd Barr, another top recruit, should see playing time right away.

It will be a mix of young and old, a recipe that should be solid enough on an otherwise experienced defense.

Image source: Lara Brucker/Daily Cal