Last week, we reviewed the 2013 season for the Cal Golden Bears’ offense. While there were plenty of painful moments, there were also glimpses of a bright future. This week, we take a look at the Golden Bears’ defense and the picture is not so pretty.
The Bears’ defense had an abysmal season and there is no sugar coating it. Every major defensive statistics ranks the Bears at or near the bottom in the nation. The two major statistics to look at are total yards allowed per game and points allowed per game, as the Bears ranked second to last in the nation in both categories. On average, the Bears allowed 529.6 yards per game and 45.9 points per game.
The numbers are as pathetic as they look. The Bears’ defense gave up 500 or more yards in seven of their 12 games, including 600 or more yards in three of those seven. This defense got gashed for big plays often, as they allowed the most plays of 20 yards or more with 87. That is a little more than seven plays of 20 yards or more a game was indicative of a defense that tackled poorly and missing assignments with regularity. A lot of that is due to youth and poor coaching.
On the final depth chart, the Cal defense only featured two seniors in the two deep. More than half of the players featured on the two deep are Sophomores or lower. Only four of the projected opening day starters on defense finished their, as injuries and players leaving the program decimated the defensive roster. The Bears lost several notable players to injuries in defensive end Brennan Scarlett, linebacker Nick Forbes, corner back Stefan McClure, and strong safety Avery Sebastian.
The Bears also lost several players from various other ways, with Chris McCain getting removed from the team for off-field issues, Gabe King leaving to focus on academics, and David Wilkerson transferring to Arizona. They also lost starting safety Alex Logan, who retired due to medical reasons.
The constant shuffling of the depth chart, especially with younger players, never allowed the unit to build any chemistry and cohesion. This led to numerous breakdowns and lack of communication. It was tough on the coaches, as well, as they were constantly having to account for the various changes in the roster. The coaches were unable to get these players fully prepared, as they had to teach the young players on the fly.
Defensive coordinator Andy Buh has come under quite a bit of fire from the fan base, with many calling for head coach Sonny Dykes to fire the much maligned coordinator. The defensive unit was historically bad, as they set their single season record for points allowed. While you can point to the injuries as the reason, you can also point to the poor schemes, techniques, and fundamentals displayed by the defensive unit. It is on the coach to find and fix those flaws and Buh and his staff failed to do that during the season.
During games, Buh failed to have his guys ready to play. He also struggled to make in-game adjustments, as Cal’s streak of 14 straight games of giving up 30 points or more is the longest by automatic qualifying conference team. If you give up that many points in that many games, you are failing to make the proper adjustments.
This puts the Bears in a precarious situation, as they have to make a decision on whether to retain Buh or not. Buh appeared to be over his head for much of the season, but is the administration going to give him a pass for the injuries that plagued the roster?
The Pac-12 is filled with high powered offenses and having a defense to hold these units at bay are essential to succeeding in conference. There is some potential to bounce back next year, as they have 15 players that started or were projected as starters returning next year. So if Buh returns, then it will be his make or break season with all the returning players. If he fails to turn it around then he will be shown the door next season.
Overall, it was a historically bad season for the Cal Golden Bears’ defense. They are a young unit that was devastated by injuries, so there is potential to be much better in the future. The Coach Buh question will linger through the offseason about whether he is the right man for the job or not. The offense has the potential to leap into the elite in the nation, but will the defense continue to be the anchor weighing them down?
Defensive Player of the Year
Deandrea Coleman, DE:
Coleman was one of a few standouts on a terrible defense. Coleman was a disruptive force for a Bears’ defense that featured very little, as he led the team with nine tackles for a loss and was near the top of the team with two and half sacks. The senior defensive end put in an excellent final season with very little help. He has possibly played himself into the second day of the upcoming NFL Draft.
Chris McCain, DE/OLB:
This was a simple choice. McCain was the team’s most promising player heading into the season. He was coming off of an Honorable Mention All-Pac 12 the previous season and was expected to be a major contributor for the defense this season. He has had numerous off-field issues and immaturity issues that has irritated teammates. He was then dismissed from the team for conduct detrimental, which provided a fitting ending for his disappointing career.