Cal football: Spring review — defensive backs

HELPED HIS CAUSE: Sean Cattouse. The safety came on at the end of last year and started the Emerald Bowl, but much of that is because Brett Johnson wasn’t fully healthy. Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory went into spring thinking Johnson was solid as a starter, but Cattouse played too well and now the competition will continue on into the spring. Cattouse made a lasting impression with a nice interception in the final scrimmage.

WORK TO DO: Darian Hagan. Last year’s starter at one corner practiced just once a week during the spring to focus on academics. Coach Jeff Tedford was pleased with Hagan’s attitude and how he handled his business, but the bottom line is his absence allowed others a chance to make an impact. Chris Conte, Bryant Nnabufie, Josh Hill and Marc Anthony all did that. Hagan should still be in good shape to return as a starter, but he needs to make sure he takes care of business in the fall.

WHERE WE STAND: This is the deepest position on the team. With Hagan and Syd’Quan Thompson at corner, Marcus Ezeff at one safety and either Cattouse or Johnson at the other, the Bears will have a talented and experienced secondary this season. If anyone falters, the depth should shine through. Conte has started games, Nnabufie is a talent who came on during the spring, and Gregory has raved about Hill and Anthony.

MOVING FORWARD: There are no real pressing questions. Cattouse and Johnson will battle for a starting job, but both players will get significant playing time and both are quality players. Hagan should still start the fall as a No. 1 cornerback, and he simply has to continue to play hard and maintain a good attitude. Simply put, Cal is loaded in the secondary, and that should make things easier on the rest of the defense this fall.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • Tyler M.

    JO – In your opinion, who do you see starting at safety with Cattouse after Ezeff and Johnson graduate?

  • Stay Golden

    If JO can answer that then he’s probably in the wrong business. I sure fortune tellers make a little more bank than sports writers. 🙂

  • Calduke

    The key to the defense is the pass rush. If the quarterback has all the time in the day to pass, the receivers will get open. Also, if the defense is in zone and no pass rush, the receivers simply trot over to the open space in the zone and wait for the ball.
    Sure, the backs may be quick, but, the pass is completed before they get to the receiver – the receiver may not get far, but, the pass is completed. Is the Cal 3-4 defense able to put pressure? Hope so.
    We’ll find out.

  • Rock

    Calduke – with the experience on the D-line this year we should have a terrific pass rush, more so than in 2006 or 2007. This could be the best D in the Pac-10 top to bottom.

  • jpf

    Syd is going to make a push for top defensive player in the nation. Can a DB be considered for Heisman? This guy probably the most talented dude on the Cal team (okay maybe not more than Jahvid).

    I was watching him stretch at the Spring Scrimmage and he is so limber and so quick its not wonder he flies all over the field. He is fierce for his size and has incredible hops. Some of the passes he defended last year against guys 6-8 inches taller than him were insane. He could literally go over the top of their arms even if they had the angle on him. BEST DBs Cal’s had in the last 15 years:

    1) Syd’Quan Thompson
    2) Dante Hughes
    3) Nmadi Asomougha
    4) Deltha O’Neal
    5) Donnie McClesky

  • dball

    Jpf, Charles Woodson (1997) is the only defensive back to have won the Heisman.


  • Jan K Oski

    Tyler, I’ll take a shot at your question. The answer is in the post-spring depth chart: DJ Campbell.

    Go BEARS!

  • Tyler M.

    Stay Golden, a key part to the question was “in your opinion”. No fortune telling needed.

    Jan, DJ may be next on the depth chart, but that’s not always very telling. I don’t think that Cattouse was on it last spring and did anyone notice that Amadi is no longer behind Thompson?

  • Jonathan Okanes

    Tyler, good question. You would think D.J. Campbell would definitely be in the mix, but don’t be surprised if you also see Chris Conte with a chance there. He started taking safety reps during the spring before getting hurt, and with all the depth at corner, he could be a good fit there. Also, I’d keep an eye on incoming freshman Alex Logan.