Cal spring practice standouts: Defense is dominant
Who are the names and faces to watch out for as the new faces of Cal football?
This is, as par for the course in the Justin Wilcox era, a list dominated by defense.
Cornerback Lu-Magia Hearns earned his rep as number one cornerback mid-fall of his freshman year, and he’s carried it over into spring. He continues to make plays in practice against Cal’s starting wideouts despite giving up several inches in height, and in Saturday’s scrimmage broke up a bunch of more passes.
However, the battle for the other side remains up in the air. Evan McLurkin has stepped in and has proven he will be a legitimate option to start next fall. McLurkin is running up with Hearns and rotating with Isaiah Young (also making plays) in pass breakups, and he has been executing at a two-deep level. Corner depth is short due to injury this spring, so expect the battle for the second starting spot to run into fall.
The most consistent unit, in every practice, has been the defensive line.
Ethan Saunders had a relatively quiet 2021, racking up 18 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, and a forced fumble.
He isn’t having a quiet spring.
Noticeably slimmed down from the fall (down 20 pounds!), Saunders has taken almost every starting defensive rep in practice and is living in the backfield from the defensive end position. The offensive line is admittedly thin this spring, but Saunders is towering and speeding at an elite level. The switch has been flipped.
Saunders is getting a huge assist from Cal’s likely starting nose guard. Ricky Correia is anchoring inside and requires significant attention and double-teams up front, opening up the remaining edge and backers wide lanes to the running backs (who have had to work on pro gamer difficulty this spring). If he continues to occupy this much attention, Correia could give the rest of the Bears a chance to wreak significant havoc.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Write For California to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.