HELPED HIS CAUSE: DeAndre Coleman/Gabe King: Coleman, of course, got playing time last year. King was a redshirt. These two guys were solidly the No. 2 defensive ends during the spring, and spent some time rotating with Ernest Owusu and Trevor Guyton taking some first team reps. Coleman may have more potential than any defensive lineman on the roster. He has a powerful combination of size and athleticism that could really make him a force as he continues to get comfortable with the college game. King displayed some of the talent that made him such a sought-after recruit, registering a handful of big plays during the spring but also making some mistakes. Still, this duo of backup defensive ends will give the Bears terrific depth this season.
WORK TO DO: Keni Kaufusi: Kaufusi was set back a bit with his injury last season, but he needed to use this spring to really make an impression with the top two nose tackles, Kendrick Payne and Aaron Tipoti, both out with injuries. Instead, walk-on Austin Clark was ahead of him on the depth chart and took all the first team reps during the spring. With Payne and Tipoti expected back fully healthy in the fall, and with incoming freshman Viliami Moala expected to be in the mix right away, Kaufusi has his work cut out for him to make his way up the depth chart.
WHERE WE STAND: It’s clear the Bears are pretty well-stocked at defensive end. Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu are solid as the starters. They aren’t on the level of Tyson Alualu or Cameron Jordan, although Guyton had some strong moments during the second half of last season. Both have a lot of experience. And defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who praised Guyton and Owusu for their play this spring, has the luxury of rotating Coleman and King into the lineup. It was obviously harder to get a gauge at nose tackle this spring with Payne and Tipoti sidelined. After a terrific spring last season, Payne was nagged by injuries during the season, which has been a big problem throughout his career. This will be Tipoti’s best chance yet to get some playing time, now that Derrick Hill has departed. The wild card is Moala, who might be ready to contribute in a reserve role right away as a true freshman.
MOVING FORWARD: The Bears have a lot of impressive bodies along the defensive line, but nobody the caliber of their two NFL-bound defensive ends in each of the past two seasons. This doesn’t look like a dominant group, but one that should definitely hold its own in the Pac-12. And with a deep and explosive group of linebackers playing behind it, that might be all Cal needs.