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Cal’s Meteoric Defensive Turnaround — In Stat Trends

May 30, 2019
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It might be the most impressive — and nationally recognized — piece to Justin Wilcox’s young tenure at Cal. The Bears’ three-year defensive trends have been a bit mind-blowing. A defensive back at Oregon in the ’90s, Wilcox is no doubt a defensive specialist. But he’s also done a deft job at getting in the right players, positional coaches, and defensive coordinators. To understand and appreciate just how far this defense has come in three very short years, take a look at some of the charts below.

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Cal’s Meteoric Defensive Turnaround — In Stat Trends

Sebastabear
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Excellent article. Love the stat stuff. As a nit, you may want to correct this statement

Quote:

The pass defense received a lot of recognition last year deservedly so but rushing first downs allowed have dropped from 158 in 2016 to 2016 last year. That's salty.
2,016 rushing first downs by opponents would indeed be salty, but probably more in the "salt encrusted mummy" sort of way.
NYCGOBEARS
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Wonderful article!
Bear8
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Scoring 30 out of 33 attempts is deceiving if the successful scores were field goals and not touchdowns. The breakdown of those two will tell us a lot more.

Imagine how we would be rated nationally for total scores allowed if some of those interceptions against Oregon, among others did not occur. Without blaming any particular player, the interceptions positively ruined our mid-season after going 3-0 in OOC.
Big C
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And to think we might be even better in 2019! (knock on wood... and get some offense)
NathanAllen
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Bear8 said:

Scoring 30 out of 33 attempts is deceiving if the successful scores were field goals and not touchdowns. The breakdown of those two will tell us a lot more.

Imagine how we would be rated nationally for total scores allowed if some of those interceptions against Oregon, among others did not occur. Without blaming any particular player, the interceptions positively ruined our mid-season after going 3-0 in OOC.
19 of the 30 (63.33%) scores were TDs. And opponents had 26 total offensive TDs against the Bears, so seven of those came outside of the red zone.

For context, 25 of 38 (65.79%) scores on red zone trips were TDs in 2017 and 42 out of 50 (84%) red zone scores were TDs in 2016.

I haven't looked at this metric across other teams or at a national average, but if teams are only getting TDs against you six out of every 10 red zone trips, I'm thinking that's pretty good. Especially if they only make it to the red zone 33 times in 13 games.

It's pretty incredible how poor the defense was in 2016 and how it was in 2018 (and can be in 2019).
Bear8
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As much as I would like to think it was coaching that caused the change, I have to attribute some of it to the maturation of the players. S&C makes a big contribution, as they say the speed of the game slows down, you're smarter as a defensive player and you know where your teammate is going to be at any given moment. Then, there is also smart coaching, accurate placement of the players, assignments, and play calling. So it's not just one thing, but being a senior out there is one helluva lot different than being a frosh. As an example, Phil Steele often rates teams higher in his magazine based on the number of returning upperclassmen.
fat_slice
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Bear8 said:

As much as I would like to think it was coaching that caused the change, I have to attribute some of it to the maturation of the players. S&C makes a big contribution, as they say the speed of the game slows down, you're smarter as a defensive player and you know where your teammate is going to be at any given moment. Then, there is also smart coaching, accurate placement of the players, assignments, and play calling. So it's not just one thing, but being a senior out there is one helluva lot different than being a frosh. As an example, Phil Steele often rates teams higher in his magazine based on the number of returning upperclassmen.


Yes - but credit must be given to the coaches to be able to retain those players, something the offensive side of the ball hasn't been able to do.
Rxrg09b
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Bear8 said:

As much as I would like to think it was coaching that caused the change, I have to attribute some of it to the maturation of the players. S&C makes a big contribution, as they say the speed of the game slows down, you're smarter as a defensive player and you know where your teammate is going to be at any given moment. Then, there is also smart coaching, accurate placement of the players, assignments, and play calling. So it's not just one thing, but being a senior out there is one helluva lot different than being a frosh. As an example, Phil Steele often rates teams higher in his magazine based on the number of returning upperclassmen.
I agree that the maturation / S&C helps a ton, but even Davis is saying it was the coaching - doubt it's all lip service:

"The change in the coaching staff is something that was tremendous in terms of getting this program going in the right direction," Davis said. "My position coach (Gerald Alexander), especially."
NathanAllen
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Rxrg09b said:

Bear8 said:

As much as I would like to think it was coaching that caused the change, I have to attribute some of it to the maturation of the players. S&C makes a big contribution, as they say the speed of the game slows down, you're smarter as a defensive player and you know where your teammate is going to be at any given moment. Then, there is also smart coaching, accurate placement of the players, assignments, and play calling. So it's not just one thing, but being a senior out there is one helluva lot different than being a frosh. As an example, Phil Steele often rates teams higher in his magazine based on the number of returning upperclassmen.
I agree that the maturation / S&C helps a ton, but even Davis is saying it was the coaching - doubt it's all lip service:

"The change in the coaching staff is something that was tremendous in terms of getting this program going in the right direction," Davis said. "My position coach (Gerald Alexander), especially."
This was also an unprompted quote from Ashtyn. He went out of his way to mention the change in the coaching staff being a game-changer for himself and the trajectory of the program.
Big C
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The defensive players know they are now in a program where "D" is no longer left on the back burner. It's certainly no coincidence that pretty much all of the defensive players came back (exceptions: Rambo and Psalms), whereas 4-5 years ago, many would probably have transferred, grad transferred or tried the NFL.

The offensive players, OTOH...

On balance, we are in a better place than before, without question.
ClevelandBear
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How does it compare to our meteoric fall in offense?
CalBarn
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ClevelandBear said:

How does it compare to our meteoric fall in offense?
Great question......
SFCityBear
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ClevelandBear said:

How does it compare to our meteoric fall in offense?
I never particularly cared for Dykes' offense. For all the hype, I expected more points, and his team was on the field mostly for very short stretches, either a quick score or a a quick 3 and out, so the defense rarely had time to rest between possessions. Not a winning strategy, IMO. A few long sustained drives are better. Tire out the defense, and give your defense time to rest when we have the ball. I think we are on the right track with Wilcox. I would like him to start landing better offensive recruits, especially in the O line.
NathanAllen
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ClevelandBear said:

How does it compare to our meteoric fall in offense?
The answer comes this week! I wanted to start with a positive...
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