Cal cornerbacks Darius White and Darius Allensworth
After a particularly rough season for the Cal defensive backfield last season, much hope has been pinned on the improvement of the unit this season to help make Cal more competitive in their quest to return to bowl eligibility in 2015.
Much of that hope and expectations has been placed on the shoulders of senior cornerback Darius White and redshirt soph corner Darius Allensworth -D squared, if you will.
As a highly-touted jc transfer in 2014, White was expected to elevate the play of the cornerback position upon his arrival but a shoulder injury the first day of practice kept him off the field the rest of fall camp and when he finally got a chance to play, he was thrown into the fire fairly unprepared and untested and it showed.
This spring has done wonders for White's confidence and combined with more strength and a better grasp of the defense as well as technique at the D1 level has made a big difference for White as his successful spring attested.
"It's really good for me because when I was coming in off the injury, I really didn't have much experience and hadn't practiced much but just got thrown into games," said White. "Having this spring to build up my confidence and give me all the reps I need, it's helped me build my confidence so I can become a better football player."
Cal defensive backs coach Greg Burns agrees that the extra practice time and the confidence it's built in White have made a big difference in both White and Allensworth.
"They've made strides this spring," said Burns. White has improved from a focus standpoint and handling the fundamentals and being more consistent.
"Not taking away anything from Allensworth because he's improved a lot this spring, too, but White's improved the most (amongst the db's).
"Winning and doing things the right way will continue to build confidence in these guys."
Allensworth came into 2014 as a redshirt freshman with limited practice time himself after recuperating from a torn acl his senior year of high school. He's made big strides this spring, as well.
"I feel like as a unit, we've made a lot of improvement," said Allensworth. "We couldn't play a game tomorrow, but we've improved a lot over the course of the last 14-15 practices. We'll just continue to keep doing what Coach Burns has been teaching us and what Coach Kaufman has been instilling in us.
"We should be good this season. We should be good to go."
After a rough first week of spring ball, the defense continued to improve as the spring session wore on, at least partially attributable to defensive coordinator Art Kaufman's higher level of comfort in installing more complicated schemes as his defensive units have gained more experience in his system.
"We're running a couple new disguises, a couple new defensive schemes so I feel like it's going to work pretty good," said White.
Beyond some critically-needed experience and less vanilla defense, the confidence both players have gained playing against some of the top receivers in the country every day in practice along with their improved abililty to stick with their talented counterparts in coverage has clearly impacted Allensworth and White's confidence level on the field.
"It's making us a lot better," said Allenworth. "You've got Kenny Lawler on the outside with D. White going against him every day. I go against Trevor Davis every day.
"Cal fans know those names. We go against them every day so they're making us the best corners we can be so I embrace the challenge every day and I look forward to it."
To view White and Allensworth's comments in full, use the embedded viewer below: