WHAT WE KNOW: At least three-fourths of the starting quartet looks pretty strong. The Bears look to be pretty entrenched at corner, where Marc Anthony and Steve Williams return. Anthony was a bit up-and-down in his first season as a starter but had a terrific spring and could be ready to emerge. Williams may be the team’s most talented defensive back. He started three games last season and the Bears are counting on him to continue to elevate his game. Cal also has to feel good about Sean Cattouse at safety. He should be one of the leaders of the defense after earning back his starting job during the second half of last season.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW: Can the Bears find the next Chris Conte at the other safety spot, and how good are the incoming freshmen? D.J. Campbell enters training camp as the favorite to replace Conte, who came out of nowhere in his senior season to become an All-Pac-10 selection and get drafted in the third round by the Chicago Bears. Can Campbell make an impact anywhere near what Conte did? What about Josh Hill? He started at safety for the first half of last season before Cattouse replaced him. As of now, Hill, who sat out the spring to focus on academics, looks more slated to be a nickel back. Coach Jeff Tedford has said the team is thin at corner after the two starters. The only other returning player that figures to be in the mix there is Adrian Lee. That means incoming freshman Stefan McClure, Kameron Jackson and Joel Willis should get a chance to compete to be in the rotation during camp, something that Tedford hasn’t been shy about saying. McClure, the No. 18 defensive back in the country according to Athlon, could have the best chance of contributing.
IN SUMMATION: While Cal’s linebacking corps may be the deepest unit on the field, the secondary might have the best starters. Cattouse has a chance to be one of the Pac-12’s top safeties this season, and while Anthony and Williams still have a lot to prove, both have demonstrated potential. But the Bears have to hope this group remains healthy because there is an unproven bunch on the sidelines backing them up.