Fall training camp updates: lack of pads hampers Cal defense for now

Riley McAtee/File

Without pads on, the defense hasn’t been able to shine in the same way that the offense has.

But it’s still had its moments.

The first name that comes to mind is Kameron Jackson. The junior has been on every receiver’s short list of toughest defensive backs to face so far.

“He isn’t a big guy, but he’s very quick, he has great hands, he gets up in your face when he needs to and, even when he’s off the ball, he’s pretty hard to fight with,” said freshman wide receiver Jack Austin. “But I feel confident going against him.”

Another name that stands out is Jalen Jefferson. The sophomore, who will now be a starter, has caught at least one interception and could have had several more. Jefferson is the outside linebacker in a unit that will now only feature three players after the move to a 4-3 defense. His partners in crime will be Nick Forbes and Khairi Fortt, who is finally eligible to play after his transfer year.

Outside of those names, finding standouts on defense has been difficult. This is probably because the team is not yet in full pads, which has limited physicality.

It also could be a result of injuries. Defensive end Chris McCain has been dealing with a bruised shoulder for nearly all of camp, and his reps have often been limited because of it.

Injuries have also slowed Nick Forbes, who has missed time with a back injury. He’s slowly making his way back into the lineup during camp.

And on Saturday, Trey Cheeks sprained his ankle. He may miss time as well.

But injuries aren’t even the most depressing story on the defensive side of the ball. During 11-on-11 drills, several hits could have been called for targeting, a new NCAA rule that places restrictions on the way a defender can hit a defenseless player.

Kameron Jackson has been on the giving end of two of those hits. Luckily, no one has been injured so far, and the hits can now be used as good examples of how not to hit.

Right now, the defense is in a state of flux. It’s possible that more will be revealed when the pads go on Monday, but the case may also be that nothing clears up.

Contact Riley McAtee at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @riley_mcatee

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