Wilcox, Bynum and Weaver Kick Off Pac-12 Media Day For Cal

July 24, 2019

LOS ANGELES, CA -Pac-12 Media Day kicked off for Cal early in the session, with head coach Justin Wilcox, linebacker Evan Weaver and cornerback Camryn Bynum fielding questions from Pac-12 media throughout the conference.

Heading into the season, what are some of the unanswered questions the staff will be looking for clarity on in fall camp?

“I think you look at it by position groups, said Wilcox. “It's depth at offensive line. Who are going to be the rotational guys there, how is tight end position going to shake out and who can do what? We've got some talented guys in there that haven't played much. The receiver room is obvious in terms of there's inexperience. We've got some athleticism and how is that going to look and develop? And it won't be settled by Game 1.

“We've got to continue to improve in all those areas, but I think it's going to be something that starts to get sorted out during fall camp. Obviously the quarterback situation, running back room. I think anywhere you don't have -- like on defense, like the secondary, those guys have played a lot of football together. They're all returning, so it's a little cleaner right now. But a lot of those -- the inside linebacker spot, don't know what's going to happen there. The rotational guys at D-line. But that's the fun part. Guys have been working extremely hard this summer, and they're prepped and ready for fall camp. And that's the fun part of this, to see what shakes out.”

As for the inside linebacker spot vacated by All-American LB Jordan Kunaszyk, JC transfer Kuony Deng leads the early competition.

“Well, we had him in spring, and actually had him a little bit in the bowl practice,” said Wilcox. “But he's done a really nice job.

“Traditionally a guy that tall, it doesn't seem natural sometimes, but he plays very natural in there. He's got instincts, long levers. In the run game, he's just got a tackling radius that's bigger. And in the pass game, just the windows. If you talk to the safeties, they notice it. Because when they throw seam routes, they’ve got to throw it over the top of his hands, so it puts more air on the ball. Or if it's choice routes and underneath stuff to the tight ends and backs, he's tipping the ball away. He's got potential, which is great. But he still has a long way to go in learning how to -- and he's got to go out and perform, and he's just still a work in progress.”

The Bears will be breaking in a new starting running back in 2019 after the departure of two year starter Patric Laird, with soph Chris Brown taking the early lead in the competition.

“Patrick did a great job for us the last couple years, on the field and off the field, as well, just setting a tone and being a great leader,” said Wilcox.

“That room, we've developed some more depth. We're encouraged about the group as a whole. They've been unproven, but I think if you look at spring -- last year at the end of the year and then spring football, I think Chris Brown, who was a true freshman last season, did some really, really good things. He was really noticeable in the spring, being a powerful guy, good runner. And then the rest of that group, there's certain guys, Marcel Dancy, DeShawn Collins, DeCarlos Brooks who's coming in who can do certain things. So I think there will probably be somewhat of a committee going there. That's what fall camp is for. So we're about to find out.”

Wilcox was pleased with the progress the team made through spring practice, noting some standouts who continued to develop their games.

“Chris Brown,” said Wilcox. “I think Cam Goode, who's coming off of injury, played really well for us a couple years ago, and then last year got injured the first game. He did some nice things in spring. Will Craig at left tackle, the young receivers, Monroe Young. Got two transfers in this summer at receiver, we were in need, to help us. So a number of guys.”

Weaver comes in as one of the unquestionable team leaders in 2019 and to prepare for the increased responsibilities, the All-American linebacker remade his body in the offseason.

“I think it's just one of the things -- when he gets to his age, he's learned more and more about playing linebacker, and now it's, okay, physically what can he do to be better and then mentally what can he do to be better,” noted Wilcox. “So one of the things we challenged him with and he challenged himself was kind of getting leaner. And he's still a big guy. He's almost 240 pounds. But that'll just help with his flexibility and his change of direction.”

Weaver had the chance to go back to his hometown of Spokane in Eastern Washington during the summer, though he continued to work hard and eat right.

“I got to go back about two weeks this summer to work out and hang out with my family,” said Weaver. “Spokane’s just been a great city for me my whole life and has really helped me to build character.”

Last season, Weaver compiled an amazing 158 tackles, including a single game high of 18 vs Colorado. Can he top that mark in 2019?

“I believe I can,” said Weaver. “The team’s scheme -Coach Wilcox puts the whole team into position to make plays. So honestly, it just depends on what’s happening during the game. I sure hope I can.”

The linebacking corps were a tackling machine in 2018, with Weaver and Kunaszyk forming the top tackling duo in the nation by a long shot.

“I think it’s about just being able to have trust in each other and Coach Wilcox, Coach DeRuyter and Coach Sirmon,” said Weaver. “They’ve done a great job. Their whole scheme is just perfect for everyone on defense. I feel being able to execute that and execute the gameplans has really helped us out.”

On the other inside linebackers, Weaver noted:

“Kuony’s a great linebacker, as you know. We have a few other linebackers who have been doing well -Colt Doughty and Even Tattersal. Just being able to rotate with all three of those guys -it’s going to be a good season.”

The dynamic linebacker has the prescription for how the nation’s #15 defense can continue to improve.

“You can always get better,” said Weaver. “Yards per carry, total yards, total points, tackles for loss. Just being able to wreak more havoc in the backfield. Really reducing big plays. So anything over 15 yards, if you can limit those, you can really win a lot of games.”

Cornerback Camryn Bynum has big goals and expectations for the 2019 along with his teammates.

“As a team, we expect to go to the Rose Bowl, win the Pac-12 and be able to win the Rose Bowl,” said Bynum. “That’s the biggest goal. You want to win a bowl game. But the Rose Bowl’s not just any bowl game. It’s something every player in the Pac-12 wants and we’re really looking forward to it. That’s our biggest goal. We don’t want to be any lower than that.

“Personally, I just want to help my team win as best as I can and don’t miss any opportunities like I did last year, whether it be a dropped pick or blown coverage or a pass deflection where I could have taken one more step to get the interception.

“Success for me will come when I’m able to make all plays I need to and expect to make.”

Stay tuned for more from Cal beat writers’ informal lunch session coming soon.

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