Oregon’s defense has some major similarities to the defense Cal played in the mid-2000s. Nick Allioti, Oregon’s longtime and oft-criticised defensive coordinator employs similar strategies to Bob Gregory, Cal’s DC before Clancy Pendergast. They prefer to play ‘bend but don’t break’ to a degree, relying on not giving up the big play and ‘giving’ up some. They use a rover and a 4-3 front for the most part. Oregon fans have been critical of Alliotti in the past, and to a degree even now (which seems ridiculous considering two consecutive BCS bowl appearances, where Oregon was competitive though not the better team in both), much like Cal fans were of Gregory.
This year, Oregon is middle of the pack defensively. Their passing defense is best in the Pac12 at just over 200 yards a game, particularly respectable considering they’ve been up big against three teams to the point those teams went to the pass early. They give up over 180 and 380 rushing yards and total yards a game, which puts them in the bottom third of the Pac12 for both. This creates an interesting strength-on-strength matchup – Cal’s strong receivers against a good secondary, and Cal’s less than intimidating run game against a team that gives up rushing yards.
The defensive line is on the small side – no doubt a major contributor towards the difference in their performance against the run and the pass. The starters are DE Terrell Turner (Senior, 6’3, 265), DT Taylor Hart (Soph, 6’6, 283), DT Isaac Remington (Junior, 6’4, 285), and DE Dion Jordan (Junior, 6’7, 240). Ricky Heiumuli, a 320 pound sophomore with a lot of talent provides some depth.
This group was gashed by LSU in the opener, something that set the tone for the rest of the game (that and the turnovers). While Oregon wasn’t beaten as handily as it appeared, they consistently lost the LOS against LSU (and Auburn for that matter). Cal’s will present a challenge closer to these SEC teams than what the line has faced since LSU – Cal’s pro-set and I formation are the best approach to beating this front, and while Cal doesn’t have LSU/Auburn quality lineman, they should have a size advantage – it will be important for Cal to get the run going early.
More after the jump.
This group has some experience and speed, particularly with MLB Dewitt Stuckey (Senior; 5’11, 220) and OLB Michael Clay (Junior, 5’11, 225). They’re joined by OLB Josh Kaddu (Senior, 6’3″, 225) to form the starting lineup. Kirk Alonso (Junior, 6’4″ 240) provides support, among others. The unit hasn’t been as good as guy slike Spencer Paysinger and Casey Matthews were in previous years, but part of that is a dropoff in the players in front of them.
CB Cliff Harris is the star here (Junior, 5’11”, 165) – one of the best corners in the country. He’s joined by FS John Boyett, (Junior, 5’10, 200), Rover Eddie Pleasant, (Seneior, 5’11, 210) and CB Anthony Gildon (Senior, 6’1, 180). This group has been very good this year, holding teams to under 210 passing yards a game despite defending big leads. LSU’s Jarrett Lee had under 100 yards passing, though the Tigers were content to run most of that game.
Cliff Harris is again the star at PR – he killed Cal with a PR TD last year that ultimately was the difference. With James and the other running backs – among others- to chose from, Oregon’s KR unit is in good shape. Rob Beard kicks the field goals and Alejandro Maldonado kicks the PATs, apparently… and neither has missed yet. Jackson Rice is the punter, and has an impressive 46.9 yard average thus far. Pretty good group as far as I can tell.
Greatest Advantage Against Cal Offense: The Oregon defensive backs have the size, athleticism and experience to shut down Cal’s duo of Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen.
Greatest Disadvantage Against Cal Offense: The Cal OL should be able to move the LOS consistently.
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