WHAT WE KNOW: The Bears don’t have an upperclassmen like Tyson Alualu or Cameron Jordan. Cal brought in one of the top defensive line classes in the country this year, but it likely will be at least a little while before those folks made a big impact. In the meantime, the Bears appear to still have good depth along the defensive front, but no first round NFL draft picks like Alualu and Jordan. Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu should be solid at defensive end, and while Guyton flashed an occassional dominant moment last season, neither player — at least so far in his career — has become the threat that makes offensive coordinators alter their gameplans. That being said, Cal could have a fierce rotation on the outside with DeAndre Coleman and Gabe King backing up. Both could ultimately become better players than the guys they are currently behind. The Bears have some depth returning at nose tackle in Kendrick Payne and Aaron Tipoti, but each could be pushed by incoming freshman Viliami Moala. Coach Jeff Tedford said at Monday’s Bay Area Media Day that Moala is physically ready to play right away. Training camp will tell us if he is mentally and emotionally ready as well.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW: How much better can Guyton and Owusu get? Both were part-time starters last season, but enter camp as the definitive front-runners on the first team. Guyton especially demonstrated last season that there is potential and possibly more production to come. While Alualu had an excellent career, he really turned himself into a top-level NFL prospect during his senior year. Could one of Cal’s defensive ends this season do the same? On the other hand, could players like Coleman and King play well enough in camp to overtake one of them? And how about highly touted incoming freshmen Todd Barr and Brennan Scarlett? The Bears have several young players that figure to do big things during their careers. Are they good enough right away to make a mark during this training camp?
IN SUMMATION: If the young players prove they can play at this level immediately, this could be a wicked group in terms of depth. The top four at defensive end are formidable, and the incoming freshman could really provide for an impressive rotation. Moala could add to the depth at nose tackle. The storylines to watch are whether Guyton and Owusu are ready to take that next step and separate themselves, and how much the incoming freshman assert themselves right away.