Kenwick Thompson spent six seasons coaching Cal's linebackers and serving as the program's recruiting coordinator from 2007-12, and was also an associate head coach for his final campaign with the Golden Bears after receiving a promotion following the 2011 campaign. Cal had strong defenses throughout Thompson's tenure, including back-to-back teams in 2010 and 2011 that led the Pac-12 in total defense and pass defense. Thompson coached a unit that was greatly responsible for Cal's defensive success, with linebackers filling out the top two spots on the team's list of leading tacklers each season from 2009-11 the top four positions in 2008.
In addition to the successes of his unit, Thompson was instrumental in bringing along a young 2012 defense that looks well equipped for the future. Despite losing six starters from the previous campaign and both inside linebackers that were also the team's top two tacklers, Cal had several outstanding moments and performances on the defense side of the ball. The 2012 defense keyed Cal's strongest stretch of the season by holding South Division champion UCLA and Washington State to 17 points each in back-to-back victories. During a five-game run that started with the UCLA victory on October 6 and extended through a 21-13 loss to Washington on November 2, the defense allowed more than 21 points only once. Statistically, the Bears' highest rankings nationally came in the big play categories as they tied for 35th in tackles for loss (6.42 tflpg), tied for 36th in total turnovers caused (23) and were 38th in sacks (2.33 spg) out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
Individually, Thompson brought along a trio of promising sophomore linebackers in Nick Forbes, Chris McCain and Brennan Scarlett. McCain was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection for the first time in his collegiate career after co-leading the team and posting career highs of 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, while also adding a career high 50 tackles. Forbes was second on the club with 85 tackles, while his 7.1 stops per game ranked 11th in the Pac-12. He added 4.5 tackles for loss (-20 yards) and 1.5 sacks (-11 yards), and also had three fumble recoveries to rank second in the conference with an average of 0.25 per contest. Scarlett totaled 40 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Sixth-year senior Robert Mullins also battled back from injuries and had the most productive season of his career under Thompson's guidance in 2012, recording career highs of 70 tackles and 4.0 tackles for loss. His 6.3 tackles per game ranked 20th in the Pac-12.
Cal's 2011 group that led the Pac-12 in both total defense (332.92 ypg) and pass defense (204.23 ypg) for the second season in a row ranked 25th and 37th nationally in the categories. The team's linebackers contributed heavily to an aggressive 2011 defense that registered per-game averages that paced the Pac-12 and ranked seventh nationally in tackles for loss (7.69 tflpg), while ranking third in the conference and 19th nationally in sacks (2.62 spg). The Bears' defense played particularly well late in the 2011 campaign. In back-to-back wins over Washington State and Oregon State that started a successful final month of the regular season, Cal allowed only a combined 13 points while holding the Cougars and Beavers to an average of 48.0 rushing yards per game.
The 2011 defense was led by senior linebacker Mychal Kendricks, the Pat Tillman Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and a second-team All-American who recorded a career-high 107 tackles while adding 14.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks. Kendricks' per-game tackles for loss (1.12) and tackles (8.15) ranked third and fifth in the Pac-12. He was chosen in the second round (No. 46 overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia and has become a first-year starter for the Eagles in 2012 after completing his collegiate career with 259 career tackles to rank ninth on Cal's all-time list, while his 36.5 tackles for loss was one-half of a TFL shy of the school's all-time top 10. He also added 13.5 career sacks at Cal.
Fellow senior D.J. Holt played the other inside linebacker spot opposite Kendricks in 2011 and had a career season as well. Holt, who signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Washington Redskins in April of 2012, earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors for the second year in a row and shared the team's Bear Backers MVP honor with Kendricks on the defensive side of the ball. A member of the ESPN.com Pac-12 Blog's All-Underrated squad, Holt started all 13 games and was second on the team to Kendricks with his 82 tackles while adding a career-high 10.5 tackles for loss and a career-high-tying 2.0 sacks. He was 10th in the Pac-12 in per-game tackles for loss (10.5) and 16th in tackles (6.31). Holt finished his Cal career with 218 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks.
Thompson has been instrumental in the development of several other top linebackers in addition to Kendricks and Holt, including 2011 NFL Draft sixth-round selection Mike Mohamed of the Denver Broncos and 2009 seventh-round Detroit Lions' pick Zack Follett.
Mohamed racked up the honors for his performances on and off the field during a stellar football and academic career at Cal. His collegiate days included a 2010 senior season in which he was selected as a finalist for the prestigious Campbell Trophy often recognized as the Academic Heisman and was also a recipient of the National Football Foundation's Scholar-Athlete Award. Mohamed finished his career ranked fourth on Cal's all-time list with 340 tackles.
Cal's 2010 defense led by Mohamed paced the Pac-10 and ranked in the top 25 nationally in per-game averages for sacks (2.83 spg, No. 13), total defense (319.08 ypg, No. 18) and pass defense (187.00 ypg, No. 21). The Bears were also first in the Pac-10 in first downs allowed (18.1 fdpg) and second in opponents' third-down conversion percentage (34.7%). The team's pass efficiency defense and scoring defense, which held opponents to 17 points or less in eight of 12 games, were both third in the Pac-10, as well as 31st and 40th nationally. Cal was also fourth in the Pac-10 and 34th nationally in rushing defense (128.69 ypg) to improve in all key areas from 2009. Mohamed finished second in the conference in tackles per game (8.6 tpg) and posted a team-high 95 tackles total.
The Bears' 2010 defensive unit was also spectacular at times, recording five first-half shutouts and holding its opponents to 10 or fewer total points on four occasions - the highest number in a single season since the "Bear Minimum" defense limited seven opponents to 10 or fewer points in 1968. Cal scored four defensive touchdowns in 2010, with one of the scores a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown by Mohamed. Cal either scored on a turnover or after forcing a turnover in eight of its 12 games for a total of 72 points.
The highlight of the 2009 team's defense also led by Mohamed was ranking second in the conference in rush defense (112.0 ypg). Mohamed earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors by leading the conference in tackles per game (8.6) and the Bears with a career-high 112 total.
Follett was the leader of a 2008 defense that was fourth in the Pac-10 and 26th nationally in total defense (315.23), while leading the conference in takeaways (34) and red zone defense (68.2%). Follett earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors as a senior after leading the conference in tackles for loss (23.0) and forced fumbles (5), while ranking fourth in sacks (10.5). He also finished with 87 tackles to tie for second on the team with Mohamed, while fellow senior linebacker Anthony Felder had 93 to lead the squad and give the trio of linebackers a combined 267 stops.
In Thompson's first season in 2007, the Bears posted the Pac-10's second-best pass defense (214.31 ypg). Worrell Williams (105) and Anthony Felder (100) each broke the century mark in tackles to rank second and third on the team, with Follett adding another 64 and leading the team in both tackles for loss (12.5) and sacks (5.5).
In the recruiting world, Thompson helped guide Cal to three consecutive classes from 2010-12 ranked as high as No. 11, No. 13 and No. 15 nationally.
Prior to his arrival at Cal, Thompson spent six seasons at San Jose State and was a versatile member of the school's coaching staff during his tenure. After being hired as the Spartans' linebackers coach and spending three seasons in that role (2001-03), he also worked as the program's recruiting coordinator (2002-03), co-recruiting coordinator (2004), co-special teams coordinator (2004), defensive line coach (2004), strength and conditioning coach (2005) and defensive tackles coach (2006). In his final campaign in 2006, the Spartans posted a nine-win season and defeated host New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl. San Jose State ranked third in the Western Athletic Conference in both scoring defense and total defense that campaign.
Thompson previously coached for seven campaigns at Texas Southern from 1994-2000, including the last five seasons as the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator. In his first two seasons at the school, he worked with the team's running backs (1994) and as the defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator (1995).
Thompson also coached for two seasons at his alma mater Harding as a graduate assistant (1991-92) after getting his start in the profession as an assistant coach in the Italian American Football Association for one campaign in 1990.
As a collegiate player at Harding, Thompson was a two-time All-Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference selection and the league's Defensive Player of the Year as a senior when he also served as a team captain. He recorded 30.0 career quarterback sacks, leading the Bison in sacks in each of his last two seasons.
Thompson and his wife, Monica, have two sons, Jaxson and Jacob.
THE THOMPSON FILE
Associate Head Coach/Recruiting Coordinator/Linebackers
LAST UPDATED: December 4, 2012