Fall training camp preview: defensive line sees transition to 4-3

Michael Tao/Staff

In all the talk about the new offensive system, don’t lose sight of the defensive overhaul that is nearly as substantial.

This year, defensive coordinator Andy Buh is switching Cal from a 3-4 to 4-3 system.

The big change will lie with Chris McCain and Brennan Scarlett. The juniors will move from linebacker to defensive end, where they will be committed to rushing the quarterback on nearly every play.

But McCain and Scarlett are not the only new players to the defensive line. In fact, Deandre Coleman, at defensive tackle, is the only starter to return. Last year, he played defensive end, so he is also experiencing a position change.

Mustafa Jalil, who fills the other defensive tackle slot, played in all 13 games as a true freshman in 2011 but was hampered by injuries last year. Jalil is the only starter on the defensive line that is in the same position as last year — although he is new to the starting role.

If the line feels a little thrown together, that’s because it is — Coleman is the only starter of more than 300 pounds in what seems like an undersized group of players.

“If you’re a defensive football coach, you want to dictate the style of play that occurs in football,” said Sonny Dykes at the Pac-12 media day on Friday.

Unfortunately, this lightweight defensive line looks like it won’t be dictating much of anything. But if these players can translate their skills effectively into their new positions, they may be able to do just enough to let Dykes’ high-octane offense take charge.

Contact Riley McAtee at [email protected]

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