NCAA FB

2003 PREVIEW: California defense breakdown

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Basically ... Uh oh. The defense improved last year allowing around 14 points less than 2001, but it still wasn't all that great. Now there's almost no returning experience, no depth and little developed talent. The secondary will have the most problems, but the front seven is also going to need time.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Donnie McCleskey, 45
Sacks: , 3
Interceptions: , 4

DEPTH CHART
Returning Starters (2
)
DE - , 6-3 250 Jr. 
L.P. Ladouceur, 6-5 265 Jr. 

DT - , 6-3 295 Jr. 
, 6-2 285 Soph.

NT - , 6-3 295 Jr. 
, 6-2 270 Sr. 

DE - Monte Parson, 6-2 265 Sr. 
L.P. Ladouceur, 6-5 265 Jr. 

LB - Ryan Estes, 6-2 215 Soph.
, 6-2 225 Jr. 

LB - , 6-1 235 Jr. 
, 6-3 230 Soph.

LB - , 6-1 230 Jr. 
Joe Maningo, 6-1 220 Jr.

CB - , 6-0 190 Sr. 
Wale Forrester, 5-10 195 Soph.

FS - , 6-0 180 Jr. 
Matt Giordano, 6-0 190 Jr, 

Rover - Donnie McCleskey, 5-10 180 Soph.
, 5-11 195 Jr. 

CB - Tim Mixon, 5-8 170 RFr. 
, 5-11 195 Jr.

Returning ST Starters (1)
PK/P -
, 6-3 220 Sr.

Star of the defense: Junior DT
Player that has to step up and become a star: Redshirt freshman CB Tim Mixon
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore Rover Donnie McCleskey
Best pro prospect:
Alexander 

Defensive Line
Projected Starters
- Defensive end , Jr. - Lupoi came from out of nowhere to take over one of the starting end jobs. A career backup, the 250-pound junior will need to give the Bears a little bit of the same pass rushing ability that and provided.
- Defensive tackle , Jr. - Alexander grew into a top run stuffer last year finishing with 25 tackles and five tackles for loss. He's big and very, very fast for a tackle. Look for him to develop into one of the better tackles in the conference.
- Nose tackle , Jr. - At 295 pounds, he's a bigger option on the nose than the 270-pound . The two will combine for the starting job with Sverchek getting the first look coming off an eight tackle season. 
- Defensive end Monte Parson, Sr. - Parson hasn't done much in his Cal career, but now he's the starter at one of the ends. He has a little bit of experience and a good first step. 

Top Backups
- DT , Sr. - Beckham has been a consistent starter for the Bears for a couple of years making 71 career tackles, six sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. He isn't a big player on the inside, but he has a great motor and always seems to make plays. He'll have to battle to get the starting job back from Sverchek.
- DE L.P. Ladouceur, Jr. - The 265-pound junior has been a career backup, and now he'll have to play a huge role as the top backup at both end positions. 

The Skinny: The line was one of the strengths of the 2002 team, but now it'll have to count on several young backups. The top-notch recruits are still at least a year away from contributing, so there can't be too many injuries. There's a huge drop-off in talent on the ends from last year. The tackles should be strong.  
Defensive Line Rating:
5.5

Linebackers
Projected Starters
- , Jr. - Hunter emerged as a force on the outside using his great speed to make 43 tackles and a sack. With a little bit of starting experience when went down, Hunter has enough experience to instantly become one of the better starters on the defense. He's a huge hitter and a great all-around athlete.
- , Jr. - Tremblay was a reserve last year making 27 tackles in the middle. He doesn't have any starting experience, but he's considered a strong enough prospect to be a factor right off the bat.
- Ryan Estes, Soph. - Estes is speedy player with good all-around ability, but he has yet to really show what he can do after missing last year with an Achilles tendon problem. He's expected to own one of the starting spots on the outside.

Top Backups
- Joe Maningo, Jr. - The JUCO All-American is a guided missile with speed and a tremendous nose for the ball. He'll push for time on the outside.
- , Jr. - Slater has been a reserve player so far on the inside, but he'll become one of the team's top reserve on the outside backing up Estes. 

The Skinny: There's no appreciative experience anywhere in the group. Hunter and Maningo are talented, and Tremblay and Estes has positional, but there's little to no depth. The corps might turn out to be good, but the Bears are going to sorely miss , , and .
Linebacker Rating:
4.5

Secondary
Projected Starters
- Cornerback , Sr. - Mostly a special teams player and a backup defensive back, Bethea will get the starting nod at one of the corner spots. He's a big player with tremendous speed making 42 tackles and four interceptions last season. The team's top returning kickoff returner, he's great with the ball in his hands.
- Free safety , Jr. - Gutierrez has been a decent reserve with good quickness. Now he'll need to be a consistent playmaker as the starting free safety replacing the 80 tackles of
- Rover Donnie McCleskey, Soph. - McCleskey is the rising star on the defense coming off a 45 tackles season. He isn't big, but he's tremendous tackler in the open-field and has the speed to handle most receivers. Now that he knows what he's doing, he should be one of the better defensive backs in the Pac 10. 
- Cornerback Tim Mixon, RFr. - The 5-8 Mixon has worked his way up the depth chart to become a starter. He has tremendous speed and good athletic ability. Now he has to prove he can be as productive as or were.

Top Backups
- Cornerback , Jr. - McGrath was the team's best special teams player making 21 tackles. He hasn't done much as a defensive back, but he'll have to as one of Cal's top backup corners. 
- Free safety Matt Giordano, Jr. - Giordano is a top JUCO recruit coming from Fresno City College. He made 62 tackles and recovered four fumbles as one of the nation's best JUCO defensive backs. 

The Skinny: The secondary stunk last year, and that was with and first round draft pick . How is this group going to be any better with almost no returning starting experience and no depth from a corps that gave up 278.8 yards per game? Expect there to be problems for a while.
Secondary Rating: 3.5

Special Teams
- Placekicker.Punter , Sr. - Frederickson returns to handle the kicking duties. He'll have to replace Mark Jensen who hit 19 of 27 field goals last year, but had problems with midrange consistency. Fredrickson was a strong punter averaging 39.5 yards per kick putting 19 inside the 20.  

The Skinny: Fredrickson will be solid with JUCO transfer Lucas Everett pushing for the punting job. Cornerback averaged 22.9 yards per kickoff return last season. With the loss of it'll be up to Tim Mixon to handle the punt return duties. 
Special Teams Rating:
6

Tagged: California

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