The reason Cal is seriously looking at using more of a 3-4 system isn’t just because the success it had against Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl. Indeed, that was an adjustment to specifically stop the Falcons’ offense.
But it did provide food for thought. The Bears recognize the linebackers are the strength of their defense, so it makes sense to try to get more of them on the field.
Cal returns all three starting linebackers from last season, although Worrell Williams and Anthony Felder didn’t start the final two games of the year. Williams was a bit of a work in progress last season making the move from the outside to the middle, while Felder played better during the first half of the season. Still, having those two guys returning, along with all-conference outside linebacker Zack Follett, must allow defensive coordinator Bob Gregory to sleep well at night.
No matter what system Cal decides to use, it will certainly have depth. Mike Mohamed exhibited great potential as a part-time player last year. If the Bears go to a 3-4, he would likely be on the outside along with Follett, with Williams and Felder in the middle. One stat from last season that really jumps out at you is that Mohamed recorded 46 tackles despite playing in a reserve role.
Eddie Young also played better and better as the season went along last year and should definitely be in the mix for some playing time. And then there’s D.J. Holt, who stood out on the scout team and could make a contribution as well.
The Bears also will get junior college transfer Devin Bishop off his redshirt year, as well as freshman Robert Mullins, a pretty highly regarded recruit in ’07 who missed last year recovering from an injury.
There’s no question the presence of guys like Mohamed, Young and Holt should help Williams and Felder. The competition should elevate everyone’s level of play. Williams and Felder will be seniors next season, and you can bet they aren’t too interested in anyone taking their playing time away from them. The spring may be especially good for Williams, giving him more time to get more comfortable playing inside.