Cal's pass de­fense is atop the Pac-12

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Joey Kauf­man

LOS AN­GE­LES — Fresh­man quar­ter­back JT Daniels made a suc­cess­ful re­turn from a con­cus­sion last week at Ore­gon State.

Daniels passed for 177 yards and one touch­down as USC man­aged a 38-21 win.

This week pre­sents a more dif­fi­cult test.

When the Tro­jans host Cal on Satur­day, Daniels will face the best pass de­fense in the Pac-12, a unit that holds op­po­nents to an aver­age of 184 pass­ing yards per game.

For­mer USC de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Justin Wil­cox is in his sec­ond sea­son as the Golden Bears' head coach, and coaches and play­ers re­marked this week that Wil­cox's fin­ger­prints are all over the group.

“In gen­eral, I'd say I'm ex­cited for the chal­lenge,” Daniels said. “Cal is a re­ally good de­fense, just from watch­ing a cou­ple games that I've seen so far. I think Coach Wil­cox is a de­fen­sive mas­ter­mind. His play­ers are well-coached and they ex­e­cute. It’ll def­i­nitely be a good chal­lenge.”

The Golden Bears’ de­fense has al­ready made life dif­fi­cult for some of the con­fer­ence's top passers this fall. Wash­ing­ton benched se­nior quar­ter­back Jake Brown­ing dur­ing its 12-10 loss at Cal two weeks ago. Gard­ner Min­shew, Wash­ing­ton State's Heis­man Tro­phy hope­ful quar­ter­back, failed to throw mul­ti­ple touch­downs last week, though the Cougars pre­vailed in a 19-13 win.

“Scheme-wise, it’s a night­mare for a quar­ter­back,” USC coach Clay Hel­ton said.

Hel­ton re­marked that for­mer quar­ter­back Sam Darnold had “prob­a­bly” his tough­est game last sea­son against Wil­cox’s de­fense due to dis­guised pass cov­er­ages that put him un­der duress through­out the game.

“They do a tremen­dous job of show­ing you one thing and bail­ing to an­other,” Hel­ton said, “show­ing Cover 0 and bail­ing to (Cover) 2, show­ing you Cover 2 and then all of a sud­den here comes pres­sure.”

Wil­cox is the de­fense's pri­mary play-caller, while for­mer Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter is the de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor.

“Their scheme is as good as we've seen,” said Bryan El­lis, USC’s quar­ter­backs coach. “They give you noth­ing easy, which as a coach, when you’re game plan­ning, that’s the first thing you look for. What for­ma­tions do I get the sim­ple ones? And there are no sim­ple ones.”

El­lis said he has urged Daniels this week to "trust your eyes, trust what you see," stress­ing the need to ad­just to chang­ing cov­er­ages.

“What­ever you see pre-snap is not what you’re go­ing to get post-snap,” El­lis said.

The matchup could serve as a mi­cro­cosm of Daniels’ fresh­man sea­son, an on­go­ing ad­just­ment to col­lege foot­ball af­ter grad­u­at­ing a year early from high school.

At times, his per­for­mances have been hum­bling. Daniels is 11th among Pac-12 quar­ter­backs in pass ef­fi­ciency and has com­pleted 56.6 per­cent of his passes for 1,806 yards, nine touch­downs and seven in­ter­cep­tions this sea­son.

“What he’s learned is col­lege foot­ball is a lit­tle faster and a lit­tle harder than he thought it was go­ing to be,” El­lis said.

On the other hand, he has re­sponded well.

“He still is con­fi­dent, which is a good thing,” El­lis said. “I think it shocked him a lit­tle bit. The dif­fer­ence in col­lege is the dis­guis­ing of the cov­er­ages and how fast the D-line gets to you. It doesn’t mat­ter who you are. Ev­ery­body has good Dline­men. When you play Di­vi­sion I line­men each week, you don’t have five or six sec­onds any­more to throw the foot­ball. No mat­ter who you play, you get three sec­onds. You bet­ter make a de­ci­sion, you bet­ter make it timely and you gotta be ac­cu­rate with the foot­ball.”

Few teams have more ad­vanced de­fenses than Cal, mak­ing Satur­day's game a barom­e­ter of his progress.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.