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Cal Football

Bear Insider Video: Cal ILB Blake Antzoulatos

March 15, 2020

After a season of being groomed behind Cal's All-American linebacker Evan Weaver, frosh ILB Blake Antzoulatos is ready to step up for playing time for the Bears.

“Things are going good, just getting time out there to run around with the guys,” said Antzoulatos last week after practice. “We’re just adjusting our defense with the whole new offensive scheme theyr’e running, so it’s great.”

The MLB position’s been locked down at Cal for the past two seasons, with recently-departed Evan Weaver leading the nation with 383 tackles in 2018 and 2019, along with current Carolina Panther Jordan Kunaszyk, who tallied 148 tackles in 2018 and junior Kuony Deng with 119 in 2019 But with Weaver’s graduation, a slot has opened for a group of young MLB’s who will compete for the spot next to Deng.

Besides Antzoulatos, sophomore Evan Tattersall, redshirt frosh Kyle Smith and Ryan Puskas as well as spring entry frosh Muelu Iosefa‍ are all in the mix and receiving reps, particularly with Deng out for the spring with an upper body injury, leaving both spots open.

“Football’s all about being a game of opportunities,” said Antzoulatos. “It definitely sucks that Kuony’s down. He’s definitely a great leader for the team and a mentor in the (meeting) room right now, but we’re just there to make plays and help the team in any way we can. If that means playing when other people can’t, then yeah.”

As for Antzoulatos’ assessment of the young ILBs competing for playing time?

“Tat’s a great guy,” said Antzoulatos. “Tat’s a year ahead of me. Really fast, athletic dude who really loves to play football. There’s Kyle (Smith) and (Ryan) Puskas. Puskas is down right now (out for the spring with a lower body injury). Kyle Smith’s my roommate. We spend a lot of time together. Great dude. 

“I think they’re all really hard-working, athletic dudes. I think we have a great room that I think will eventually probably be one of the best.”

Antzoulatos was a fan favorite in the 2019 recruiting class for his big-hitting, aggressive, sideline to sideline playing style that reminded many of Weaver’s hair-on-fire play on the field.

At Pac-12 media day last summer, Weaver told a story about one of his first encounters on campus with Antzoulatos that the frosh LB denied with a smile but the two had a strong relationship as the veteran LB took the newcomer under his wing.

“Me and Weav were pretty close,” said Antzoulatos. “He took me under his wing a little bit. When he was here, we got food and hung out or whatever on the weekends.

“Hard-nosed football is the only way to play it, especially my position. The way Weav plays, I love it.”

Though the bears have some key losses from the 2019 squad, they return eight starters and a lot of young talent, giving hope that the defensive performance will be at least as strong if not stronger than in 2019.

“We have a bunch of returners,” said Antzoulatos. “We lost a couple key guys in Ashytn (Davis), JHawk (Jaylinn Hawkins) and Weav but I think we have guys who can make plays on any level. We’ve got Craig Woodson, a guy in my class who I think it gonna have a great year. KD’s back, of course. So I think our defense is looking pretty good.”

What’s Anzoulatos looking forward to the most in the 2020 season?

“Playing,” said the ILB. “Nothing like it. Nothing like playing some football.”

Other stories:

Millner Likes What he Sees in Weekend Visit to Cal

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Bear Insider Video: Cal ILB Blake Antzoulatos

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