AN EARLY DEPTH CHART - DEFENSIVE LINEWDE: Rulon Davis (Junior)/Keith Browner (RS Freshman)
Others - Tad Smith (Sophomore); Eddie Young (Sophomore)
Outlook - We expected a bit more out of Rulon this year, who seemed to be limited even before he went down with a severe bone bruise. He will likely come back healthy and prepared to show fans the pass rush that was promised out of Mt. San Antonio JC. Browner was something of a mystery coming out of HS - great bloodlines and reputation, but some raised questions about a subpar senior season. We have a hunch that Delgado can coax him into eventually becoming a top performer, and he'll need to start that climb in 2007. Smith is coming off his blueshirt; Young came out as an OLB but may fit in for depth here.
DT: Matthew Malele (Senior)/Mike Costanzo (RS Freshman)
Others - John Allen (Senior)
Outlook - We might have had Costanzo here before the Holiday Bowl, but Malele had his best game of the year against the Ags. Was he dinged up before? He's not a space-eater on Mebane's level, but he's a very serviceable DT. Costanzo is reputed to be ready to compete for playing time; he's one to watch in the spring. Allen is potentially a good ST guy and very smart (2nd team All-Academic)
DT: Mika Kane (Junior)/Derrick Hill (RS Freshman)
Others - ????
Outlook - We expect that Hill will start by the middle of the season. Kane's been OK and he did play with a padded cast earlier in the year, but we're not convinced he's ready to be a major contributor. Hill was all-everything out of HS, and we are very eager to see if he's in condition to compete for the starting job. The Bears would like to find someone else to add depth here; Tyson Alualu's a possibility if Mbakogu gets healthy or someone else steps up at DE. A recruit would be nice.
SDE: Phillip Mbakogu (Senior)/Tyson Alualu (Sophomore)
Others - Cody Jones (Sophomore)
Outlook - This is probably the least settled position on the team. Many think Mbakogu is done after surgery on his left knee. If he is, then expect Alualu, who has already been told he's switching positions, to step in and start. We like what we've seen from him at DT - he's very active and was fourth in tackles among linemen as a true freshman. We think he'll make a much better adjustment to DE than Ma'afala, who never seemed to be a good fit. Jones got some game experience in '06.
Summary: OK, we've found an area to worry about. In some ways, Cal never recovered from Mbakogu's knee injury; Ma'afala was an awkward fit at DE and Malele struggled to adjust to a starting role. Of course Cal had Mebane, who made Desmond Bishop look even better than he was by swallowing opposing linemen and forcing backs to dance around his gap. None of our DTs will play at that level in 2007.
On the other hand, our pass rush off the edge can hardly be worse. A healthy, experienced Davis figures to be an upgrade at WDE. Should Mbakogu confound the experts and return, then Alualu can play tackle and Cal looks pretty strong along the line - that's how important his return could be. Alas, few seem to think he'll be back.
What Cal desperately needs is depth at all of these positions. At present, it doesn't appear that we're in the mix for any incoming JC D-linemen, which is a shame 'cause we could use one. Look for any really promising recruits to burn a blue-shirt and help out here.