We had our usual Thursday chat with defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast today, and he had some fairly revealing stuff to say.
First, he said true freshman linebacker Brennan Scarlett and cornerback Kam Jackson are going to start playing. Pendergast will have to pick his spots, but it sounds like Scarlett will spell fellow freshman Chris McCain on first and second down when needed. Pendergast wants to get Jackson some experience because he is now the first cornerback off the bench with Marc Anthony out and Stefan McClure starting.
“With our depth at corner, Kam is one play away from going in there,” Pendergast said.
About Scarlett, Pendergast said: “He has a better grasp now of what we are doing. His body type fits some of the teams that are coming up. I think he’s ready now to take a big jump.”
Pendergast said he’s settled on his 11-man starting lineup and the complete rotation of players. He likes Chris McCain and Dave Wilkerson as the starting linebackers and Aaron Tipoti as the starting nose tackle (with Kendrick Payne still getting snaps as his backup).
During the first half against Oregon and throughout the game against USC, Cal’s defensive linemen have been more disruptive than they have all season. Tipoti has really shown up in recent weeks, as has defensive end Ernest Owusu. Trevor Guyton has been pretty solid all year at the other defensive end.
“I anticipate all those guys will continue to play well,” Pendergast said. “They’re the tone-setters.”
True freshman Mustafa Jalil and sophomore Deandre Coleman have established themselves as the backups at defensive end. Redshirt freshman Gabe King, who was taking the second reps during spring practice, has been passed up by Jalil at this point.
“Gabe has been progressing,” Pendergast said. “He’s worked hard and showed progress on scout team. We’re happy with the strides he’s made. But we’re going to play the best guys, and right now he’s not on the two-deep. He’s worked really hard at it, but right now Jalil is just better. We’re going to go with the best guys out there who give us the best chance to win.”
About Jalil, Pendergast said: “To do what he’s doing as a freshman is pretty impressive. He’s very active with his hands, he gets off blocks and he’s a very good athlete for his size.”
Pendergast also said Coleman is starting to play more like the player he thinks he can be.
“He’s very powerful,” Pendergast said. “He has a chance to be a force because he is a big man and he can run. He’s what a lot of 3-4 teams look for body-type wise at the next level. There are probably 2-5 of those kind of body types in every draft. There’s just not a lot of those kind of guys.”