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Football: Maximo Espitia, Ray Davison making waves at new positions on defense

Two players who made position changes are making positive impressions this spring.

After Monday’s closed workout, Coach Sonny Dykes cited the encouraging progress of new outside linebackers Maximo Espitia and Ray Davison.

Linebacker is a position where the coaching staff envisioned great depth entering last season. Then injuries caused it to become one of the club’s thinner spots.

So personnel changes were made to bolster the position.

Espitia, a junior from Salem, Ore., came to Cal as a fullback, was moved to tight end, then to wide receiver and safety. Now the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder is a linebacker who “has surpassed my expectations to this point,” Dykes said.

“The good thing is he’s got the body to do it. He can carry weight, he’s long,” Dykes said. “I had concerns about how physical he would be, and he’s answered those concerns so far. He’s been more physical, he’s done a good job getting off blocks and tackling pretty well.

“He’s not ready to go by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s making progress and I think ahead of schedule.”

So he could be in the mix come the fall?

“I would expect him to have a chance to be a starter,” Dykes said. “Based on what I’ve seen and the improvement he’s made over five practices I would think he’d be competing for a job.”

Davison, who came to Berkeley last fall as a freshman defensive end, also is getting a shot at outside linebacker.

“A lot like Max, he’s been a pleasant surprise,” Dykes said of the 6-2, 220-pounder. “He’s a little undersized at (defensive end). We moved him to ‘backer this spring to give us some depth and see what he can do.

“He’s got some natural instincts and does some things you want linebackers to do. He is a guy I’m excited about and I think will be competing for playing time in the fall as well.”

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Dykes said players are adapting to new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman and his way of doing things.

“I like what they’re doing — we’re doing a lot of fundamental things correctly,” he said. “We’re leveraging the ball correctly. We’re still learning how to run to the football — I don’t think we’re there yet.

“They’re playing faster as a result of of the certainty. I like where we’re headed.”

Dykes said Kaufman already has shown he can make adjustments and get his players to embrace them.

“He’s always trying to stay ahead as far as his teaching goes. Never misses an opportunity to talk about something that could happen in a football game and have an answer for it,” Dykes said.

Kaufman continues to work with one arm tied behind his back. DT Mustafa Jalil, DE Sione Sina, LB Nathan Broussard, Saf Avery Sebastian and CB-turned-Saf Stefan McClure all will do little or nothing this spring while rehabbing after injuries or surgeries.

*****

Wide receiver Bryce Treggs did some work on the side but otherwise sat out his third straight practice with a tweaked hamstring. His receiving mate Chris Harper is expected to do very little this spring after offseason shoulder surgery.

Jeff Faraudo

  • rotfogel

    Maybe you should change the headline from ‘Basketball’ to ‘Football’.

  • GoBears49

    Looking for a statement by the new defensive coordinator that he knows how to coach the 3 -4 defense as well as the 4 – 3. Maybe, with all of this talk about deep at linebacker, we will play the 3 – 4. Seems to be a more flexible defense to me.

  • sunshipballoons

    What talk about deep linebacker? That was before last season, then they were cut down by injuries and departures. This year, they’re forced to move guys just to have a full corps. Everything I’ve seen says Kaufman is dedicated to the 4-3. That doesn’t concern me. That he likes to use 2 and 3 deep zones is a much bigger concern in light of all the dump and run offenses in the pac-12.

  • GoBears49

    Let’s see what Kaufman says, unless you can provide a quote from him.

  • sunshipballoons

    I don’t really think I need a quote from him. Look at his previous teams: they all ran 4-3s (and at Cincy, he switched them from a 3-4/4-3 combo to a straight 4-3). Since when is a media quote required to run a defense? If Kaufman never says, “we run the 4-3″ to the press, does that mean that Cal doesn’t actually go out on the field next season?

  • GoBears49

    You are technically correct. But in light of Buh’s fairly famous statement that he doesn’t coach the 3 – 4, because he didn’t feel comfortable in doing so, I would think at some point someone, probably Jeff, will ask the question as to what defense Kaufman favors, and even if he prefers the 4 – 3, whether he will sometimes switch to the 3 – 4, and how comfortable he feels doing that and coaching that.

  • sunshipballoons

    I suppose. I just think the answer is so apparent — as far as I can tell, the guy hasn’t run a 3-4 in 30 years of coaching — that the question doesn’t really need to be asked and that the answer isn’t worth publishing.

  • GoBears49

    If he hasn’t run a 3 – 4 for 30 years, maybe he can’t coach it. It is one of the most basic defenses out there. Maybe he should be asked if he can coach it, like Buh was, and if he says he can’t, it’s time to get another defensive coordinator. You have to know how to play the 3 – 4 if the type and number of your personnel dictate it.

  • sunshipballoons

    Alabama exclusively runs the 4-3, and Kirby Smart is considered one of the absolute best DCs in college football. There was a fascinating WSJ article talking about how they only run the 4-3, but say they run the 3-4 because it’s better for recruiting. http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323482504578225742372166234

  • sunshipballoons

    Actually, my bad, that article talks about how they run both. My memory was wrong. But there certainly are teams that only run the 4-3 (or the 3-4 for that matter).

  • sunshipballoons

    That said, about 1/3 of the NFL teams run 4-3 exclusively (except of cousre when they drop LBs for nickel and dime packages). No 3-4 at all.