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Football: Spring practice preview — defensive line

By Jonathan Okanes
Friday, March 25th, 2011 at 11:40 pm in Football, off-season stuff.

RETURNING STARTERS: Ernest Owusu

WHO TO WATCH OUT FOR: Gabe King

POSSIBLE SURPRISE: Keni Kaufusi

THE BREAKDOWN: Of all positions on the field, this is the unit where the least could be decided in the spring. That’s because the Bears are bringing in one of the nation’s top defensive line classes in the fall, and whatever movement there is this spring could certainly be adjusted when training camp begins.

It would be in the best interest of nose tackles Kendrick Payne and Aaron Tipoti to put their best foot forward this spring, because five-star recruit Viliami Moala arrives in the fall, and he could compete for playing time right away. Payne beat out Derrick Hill for the starting job at the beginning of last season but struggled with his health and didn’t emerge into the type of player the Bears were anticipating. Guys like Payne, Tipoti and Kaufusi will use this spring to position themselves  for the competition looming in training camp.

For the first time in a few years, the Bears don’t enter a spring with a proven, dependable defensive end. Defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi has had the luxury of coaching players such as Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan in recent years – talented, accomplished players who could anchor the line. Owusu started nine games last season, but he may not even be the top returning defensive end.

Trevor Guyton came on near the end of last year and should enter the spring as a leading candidate for a starting role. And Deandre Coleman flashed his immense potential at times and Cal should be looking for him to make a big jump this year. Redshirt freshman Gabe King has the combination of size and athleticism comparable to Jordan and could make a push as well.

As with the nose tackle position, the Bears will be welcoming some highly regarded defensive ends in the fall, most notably Brennan Scarlett and Todd Barr. Again, the returning players at that position will need to use this spring to make their best case heading into training camp.

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  • rotfogel

    This is the most talented DLine Cal has ever had…and that’s saying something when the last two years produced two first rounders out of the DLine. All of them are studs and I’m really interested to see G.King. He really looked very explosive on tape. Coleman also is an absolute beast. Very excited about our front 7 which is right up there, in terms of talent, with any team in the country. Couple the DLine with these LBs…goodnight.

  • c98

    For the next few years, everybody’s backfield is going to be BEAR TERRITORY!

  • charlie

    Payne is a starter if he is injury-free. If Moala is as good as everyone (rightfully) thinks he is, he will back up Payne and receive significant playing time as well.

    The D-line goes into a (at minimum) 2-deep rotation during a game, so naming a “starter” doesn’t necessarily mean other players won’t play.

    In a 3-4 scheme: I see Owusu, Guyton, King, and Coleman ALL getting significant playing time at defensive end…with Payne and Maola manning the middle.

    When Cal goes into a 4-3 scheme, Tipoti and Kaufui will likely get significant playing time as well. Besides Moala, I think at least one additional true freshman d-lineman will play in 2011.

    Go Bears!!!