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.