Aug. 14, 2011
One of the Pac-10's top defenses a year ago, the Cal football team has seen a lot of success coming from the defensive line in recent years. As fall training camp nears the halfway point, the d-line, led by fourth year assistant coach Tosh Lupoi, is primed for another big year in 2011.
The results have shown in the NFL as the Golden Bears have had back-to-back first-round picks come from the defensive line in the last two years - Tyson Alualu in 2009 and Cameron Jordan in 2010 - - to make Cal only the second conference school to have accomplished the feat.
While the likes of Alualu and Jordan will be missed, the depth is rich enough that the next line of Bears is ready to step in. Seniors Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu are this season's starting defensive ends, but they will be the first ones to tell you that they need to be on top of their game because the younger players on the depth chart are coming on strong.
"All these freshmen have been amazing," Owusu said. "I remember when Trevor and I came in with Kendrick Payne. We weren't as close to as far along as these guys are. These guys are amazing me at how good they are."
They may be feeling the pressure, but Guyton and Owusu definitely have the potential to man the top spots on the depth chart. Owusu emerged on the scene in 2010, recording a career-high 14 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss (-10 yards) and 1.5 sacks (-9 yards), as well as a career-high two pass breakups. Meanwhile, Guyton enters the campaign with a number of preseason accolades, including as a candidate for both the Ted Hendricks Award and Bill Willis Award honoring the nation's top defensive end and lineman, respectively, and is a fourth-team preseason All-Pac-12 choice of Phil Steele.
Guyton knows that all of those preseason honors will go for naught if he does not take advantage of camp to get in tip top shape by next month's season opener. He's has high goals not only for himself, but for everybody on the line with him.
"Camp is going well," Guyton said. "We're all getting better and that's what it's all about. It's all about just trying to get better. I just want to be the best I can possibly be. I have a lot of high aspirations for this camp and this season, so I'm trying to get better every day and working hard every day. We'll have a good year this season on the d-line. I can guarantee you that."
Owusu has shown flashes of brilliance over the last two seasons and is primed for a breakout campaign.
"I don't want to put any goals or any limits on," Owusu said. "I just want to make sure I do every single thing I can every single day to get better. I don't want to have an exact thing, I just want to get better every single day, every single rep. The sky's the limit for what I can do to get better."
Two of the top incoming defensive ends are freshmen Todd Barr and Brennan Scarlett. Barr and Scarlett come to Cal ranking No. 16 and No. 26 according to Steele among the nation's incoming defensive linemen, respectively, while Sporting News has Scarlett as Cal's top newcomer. Fellow freshman Puka Lopa and redshirt freshman Gabe King are also in the mix for playing time.
The combination of strong returners and promising young talent is a win-win situation for Lupoi, who begins his 12th campaign associated with the program, going back to his playing days as a Bear.
"Within my group, we're going to heavily rely on Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu to be the leaders and to show everyone how it's done," Lupoi said. "What stands out to me at this point is the development and growth of our younger guys, and the possibility of them making an immediate impact. Our unit definitely thrives off of competition every day. I'm really impressed with how those young guys came in, learned the defense quite quickly and are really pushing the older group and the guys to raise all of our games together.
Perhaps the most decorated addition to the d-line is freshman nose tackle, Viliami Moala, a five-star recruit and prep All-American who was ranked as high as the nation's No. 8 defensive tackle according to Lindy's. Moala will battle for playing time with juniors Aaron Tipoti and Kendrick Payne.
With no seniors at the nose tackle position, this defensive line group should be stuffing running backs for the next two seasons.
Moala, who always has a smile on his face, loved the first full-padded practices, although, he has noticed a major difference from prep football to training camp.
"It's a whole different tempo, but we still have to sprint to the ball," Moala said. "Usually in high school, the d-linemen are in the front and if the ball is passed out way ahead of us, we'd say, `OK, I can't reach it.' But here, they really stress that we sprint everywhere the ball goes."
Tipoti currently sits atop the depth chart at nose tackle. Despite the tight competition he will face with Payne and Moala for playing time, Moala said Tipoti and Payne have been nothing short of brothers to him, as he has looked to them for guidance throughout camp.
That mentality is just what Lupoi is looking for. Lupoi has stressed team first over the individual, much like the overall team motto, `Team Matters.'
"We ended [Thursday's] practice and I just noted that it's not about you, it's about the man next to you." Lupoi said. "When that little voice is crawling in your ear, telling you to loaf on this play, you have to fight that voice and to look at the man that you just trained with for the entire summer and know that it's not just about yourself, but it's about this whole team and within your whole family in the d-line group."
The Cal football team is currently in the midst of training camp to prepare for the 2011 season. Single-game tickets for the season-opening TicketCity Battle by the Bay at San Francisco's Candlestick Park against Fresno State on Saturday, Sept. 3 are on sale now. The neutral-site season opener for both teams is not part of the Bears' season-ticket package.
Tickets are also on sale for Cal's five home games this season at San Francisco's AT&T Park. Cal will host Pac-12 opponents USC (Thu., Oct. 13), Utah (Sat., Oct. 22), Washington State (Sat., Oct. 5) and Oregon State (Sat., Oct. 12) at the venue after playing Presbyterian in its home opener on Sat., Sept. 17.
Cal football tickets can be purchased online at CalBears.com or by calling the Cal Athletic Ticket Office at (800) GO BEARS.
After playing the last 88 seasons and every home game at Memorial Stadium since the facility opened for the 1923 Big Game, Cal will host its home games outside of Berkeley for the first time in 2011 while Memorial Stadium undergoes an extensive renovation and retrofit. For updates on the progress of the renovation and retrofit of Memorial Stadium as well as the Memorial Stadium webcam, visit stadium.berkeley.edu.
2011 CAL FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Day, Date - Opponent (Time, TV)
^Sat., Sept. 3 - Fresno State (4 p.m. PT, CSN California)
Sat., Sept. 10 - at Colorado (1:30 p.m. MT/12:30 p.m. PT, CSN California)
Sat., Sept. 17 - Presbyterian (2:30 p.m. PT)
*Sat., Sept. 24 - at Washington (TBA)
*Thu., Oct. 6 - at Oregon (6 p.m. PT, ESPN)
*#Thu., Oct. 13 - USC (6 p.m. PT, ESPN)
*Sat., Oct. 22 - Utah (TBA)
*Sat., Oct. 29 - at UCLA (TBA)
*Sat., Nov. 5 - Washington State (TBA)
*Sat., Nov. 12 - Oregon State (TBA)
*Sat., Nov. 19 - at Stanford (TBA)
*Fri., Nov. 25 - at Arizona State (8:15 p.m. MT/7:15 p.m. PT, ESPN)
!Fri., Dec. 2 - Pac-12 Championship Game (TBA, FSN)
Home Games in Bold at AT&T Park, San Francisco, Calif.; ^TicketCity Battle by the Bay at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, Calif.; *Pac-12 Game; !Pac-12 Championship Game at Home Site of Regular-Season Champion; #Homecoming