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Football: Spring practice preview — defensive backs

RETURNING STARTERS: Josh Hill, Marc Anthony

WHO TO WATCH OUT FOR: Adrian Lee

POSSIBLE SURPRISE: Avery Walls

THE BREAKDOWN: Going into last season, it appeared the secondary might be  the weakest area of the team. But Cal’s secondary acquitted itself pretty well in 2010, and has some pieces back this spring in which to build off that performance.

One of the reasons for Cal’s better-than-expected play in the defensive backfield was the emergence of All-Pac-10 safety Chris Conte, who excelled after making the full-time move from cornerback. Conte is gone, but the Bears have some experience and ability returning at safety, which also gives them some depth.

I didn’t list Sean Cattouse as a returning starter simply because he only started six games and the player he supposedly replaced, Hill, still got extra starts because of Cal’s propensity to play the nickel. But pragmatically, Cattouse is a starter. Injuries set him back at the beginning of last season but he regained a starting spot midway through the year and played well. You can pencil him in at a safety spot.

Hill would seem to be the frontrunner at the other safety spot, but he can also play corner and the Bears are thin there. Don’t be surprised if Hill gets  soem reps at cornerback this spring. D.J. Campbell started to get more playing time at safety late last year and should be firmly in the mix. It will be interesting to see if redshirt sophomore Alex Logan or redshirt freshman Michael Coley gets some significant reps as well.

Could Walls legitimately be in the mix? It was just a couple months ago that Walls was still in high school in McDonough, Ga. He graduated early and is already enrolled at Cal, making him eligible for the spring. Walls was ranked among the top ten safety prospects in the nation by multiple publications.

The Bears have two returning corners this spring they can feel good about — Marc Anthony and Steve Williams. Anthony started 11 games last season, playing well at times and having some hiccups along the way. Williams earned three starts late in the season and has the ability to become a standout player.

The depth at corner is a bit dicey, however. As stated earlier, Hill could possibly get some reps there. Speedy Adrian Lee redshirted last season and is a definite possibility as well.

Like a handful of other positions, the competition at corner during the spring could just be a warm-up to the fall. Coach Jeff Tedford has already said that his three incoming cornerbacks — Stefan McClure, Kameron Jackson and Joel Willis — should be in position to be in the playing rotation when they arrive in the fall.

The spring will also be a chance for new secondary coach Ashley Ambrose to coach his playeres on the field for the first time.

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.

  • Jan K Oski

    The mysterious KCAL calls Avery Walls, his man, so good call on making him your surprise choice, JO… It wasn’t clear, if you thought he was a safety or cb. KCAL claims he is one of the fastest Bears, so I’d like to see him out in no mans land as CB. I predict he’ll be manning CB spot opposite Williams by the middle of the season… Who would of thought we’d have CBs from Texas and Georgia a few years back?

    More from KCAL:

    “Avery Walls was working out at DB this past tuesday [3/8] during the 7v7 segment and the kid looked like a natural. with the thin depth at DB and a few notable guys not at practice because of school or injury, Avery was stepping up. He was running with the 1′s opposite Steve Williams and some with the 2′s. man would i love having those two be my starting DBs come this September. Avery had yet ANOTHER solid day of workouts and was competing like none other out there on the field. only play he got beat was on a beautifully thrown deep ball to Kaelin Clay in which Kealin made a great effort to go up and snag the ball. sans that play, Avery was shutting down people left and right.”

    Go BEARS!

  • D-MO

    I think it will ultimpately look like:

    SS Cattouse/Coley/Walls
    FS Campbell/Walls/Logan
    CB Williams/Hill/Jackson
    CB Anthony/Lee/McClure, Willis

  • charlie

    Oski: who threw the “beautifully thrown deep ball to Kaelin Clay”?

  • charlie

    I see that Samuels is still on the roster.

    What’s the scope on him? Is he healthy? He’d help shore up the CB spot, depth wise.

  • Rocko

    I forgot, was it right before the USC game or before the OSU game that the “secondary acquitted itself pretty well” last year?

  • Uh Huh!

    Rocko:
    Just read the stat that says they led the Pac10 in Defense. Interpret the combination of things how you like (lots of points yielded in a few games), but I’ll agree with JO here. They weren’t getting shredded for 400 yards thru the air every game, which can happen when you have a crappy secondary. No, stated once again, they led the Pac10 in Total Defense because they were #1 in Pass Defense yards per game.

    Here it is:
    http://www.pac-10.org/Portals/7/images/Football/2010-Stats/HTML/CONFLDRS.HTM

    Yeah, the secondary did acquit itself pretty well!

  • Jan K Oski

    Charlie, I have no clue, since I’m not kcal. But, if he was playing against the 1s, I’d bet it was Bridgford or Maynard.

  • cajunbear

    I’m looking forward to watching Marc Anthony and Steve Williams. In terms of overall D stats for ’10, Marc ended the season in the top ten and he received honorable mention status for the 2010 CFN All-Sophomore D & ST. With a full season under his belt, Marc’s game should be more consistent.

    Steve Williams is definitely a special talent and I’m sure he will add a little excitement to the secondary.

  • Calduke

    With the crappy offense last year, the defense was on the field too much. Considering that, I think the defense did a great job.