California Golden Bears cornerback Cameron Walker (14) celebrates a defensive play against the UCLA Bruins during the second half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Op Ed: Brennan Scarlett and Cal's new defense

The Golden Bears’ much-maligned defense should get a jump start this year with the return of Brennan Scarlett, the 6’4″ defensive end out of Portland who missed all of last year with a hand injury.

We’ve all heard of Scarlett’s potential as a player, but the former A-list recruit has yet to match expectations underneath those Saturday Night Lights at Memorial Stadium. In 2012 he recorded 40 tackles, six of them for a loss and had 2.5 sacks to go along with three QB hurries and two forced fumbles. Decent numbers, no doubt, but it set the bar higher for him during a 2013 campaign that saw him sidelined throughout.

Without his presence, California had the worst defense in the Pac-12. Not the worst of all-time, but the numbers alone speak for the once-proud defense’s woes, after having given up a historically awful 45.9 points per game.

Perhaps he’s no Margus Hunt, but with those bear paws fully healed Scarlett can certainly do some damage. And incoming defensive guru Art Kaufman expects him to, as he ushers in a new scheme that includes more pass rushing and less zone coverage.

“This year communication is a lot better,” linebacker Jalen Jefferson recently told Athlon Sports. “Guys feel confident out there. We’re moving in the right direction.”  The ever-confident linebacker is one of three Cal players recently named to Athlon’s 2014 Preseason All-Pac-12 Team, according to a press release on the team’s official website

Combine the return of Scarlett with that of another former top-10 national recruit, Mustafa Jaliland the injury-plagued season from last year might make the biggest question mark for the Golden Bears turn into an exclamation point. 

But don’t take my word for it:

“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.”  –Vince Lombardi

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