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Cal Football

Drayden Ready to Make an Impact in 2020

May 29, 2020

One of the most talented DBs on the squad, Cal senior cornerback Josh Drayden limited his appearances to four games last season to have a maximum impact in 2020

The Dallas-area native made the most of his limited opportunities, impressing many with his strong coverage and stellar open field tackling. The 5-10/190 senior had two starts and contributed nine tackles (all solo) along with a career-high 4 tackles for loss in his four games on the field in 2019.

For his career, Drayden has played in 39 games with six starts since his arrival at Cal in 2016 and contributed career totals of 64 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, two interceptions returned for a combined 67 yards, including a 54-yard pick six at Oregon State as a 2018 junior plus eight pass breakups, 10 passes defended and three quarterback hurries as a Bear.

“Just knowing that I only had a certain amount of games to play, it kind of triggered something in my mind,” said Drayden. “Just leave something for them to remember you for, and have something to be excited for next year. I also wanted to show the coaches that this is a good plan that we’re doing and I’m not gonna let them down. So I just wanted to keep the energy up, to make sure they know that I’m still in the game even though I’m really not playing, and that I’m seeing everything and moving fast. You know, I just can’t wait to get back out there next year.”

Having the opportunity to observe from the sidelines for nine games gave Drayden the opportunity to focus on and admire the play of his defensive teammates, particularly NFL draftees Ashtyn Davis (Jets), Jaylinn Hawkins (Falcons) and Evan Weaver (Cardinals), along with nickel back Traveon Bech. Seeing his teammates carry their success on the field to the NFL draft was an inspiration for the fifth year senior.

“That was probably one of the more crazier things that’s happened since I’ve been at Cal, just because those are two guys that I’ve been with from the start,” said Drayden of Davis and Hawkins. :So just seeing them make it, it made me and I know it made a lot of my teammates feel like, ‘Hey, we’re next.’

“It’s not that far off; it’s just about, what, a year away? Less than a year? So it has us going even harder, because you’re trying to make it where they made it. When we get there, it could be like a reunion in the NFL. It made it super real. And then, just to see the reactions from NFL fans to my friends was crazy.”

Drayden’s staying sharp back home in Texas but is planning to head back to the bay soon.

“I’ve got a personal trainer out here in Dallas,” said Drayden. “And my brother goes there, too. He runs track at ASU, so we’ve been doing a lot of working out, just staying in shape, getting right.”

With the time away from the field, the team has been staying mentally sharp with regular zoom meetings and other communication.

“We’ve had a couple team meetings, just to check in on everybody, see how everybody’s doing and stuff like that,” said Drayden. “Specifically, the DB’s—we have a little Snapchat group chat just to clock in, show that we’re working out, to show that we’re still doing what we need to do.”

There’s been talk of a return to action in June and for the senior DB, the return to the gridiron can’t come soon enough.

“I hope that’s the case,” said Drayden. “Honestly, I’m ready to get back.”

With his versatility, Drayden could be an excellent fit at either the cornerback position, filling senior Elijah Hicks’ role after his move to safety or at the nickel back position to take over for the recently-graduated Traveon Beck, allowing promising soph Chigoze Anusiem to move into the starting corner slot.

“Honestly, I don’t have a preference—just because I feel like it allows me to show my versatility, just being in different spots on the field,” said Drayden. “I feel like that allows you to get to know the positions, know what other people are doing. So you pretty much just have a better understanding of the defense.

“As far as I know, I’ll probably play both—I think that’s what they told me the last time I checked in. I kind of like getting to play nickel more. You see more action, you get to make more plays, you get to make different types of plays you might not make at corner. Just being around the ball allows for a lot of opportunities to make plays and help the team. I will say nickel, but I also like corner.”

In spring workouts and the first four practices of spring ball, Drayden had a chance to check out early entry frosh DBs Isaiah Young and Trey Pastor, as well as notice the growth in the redshirt frosh DBs.

“I know Isaiah and Trey—they’re gonna be great players,” said Drayden. “Trey’s big! I didn’t realize how big Trey was. He’s gonna be a special player. And Isaiah—he’s quick, he’s agile, he’s fast. I’m excited to see how they grow.

And then the guys that red-shirted last year, those are our little guys, those our babies. Craig (Woodson), Miles (Williams), Jaylen (Martin)—they’re a cool little bunch. They love the game They love to get better, to see what we’re doing. So when it’s their time, they’ll be ready. Just having that attitude, and seeing them show that at a very young age, is pretty cool and gives us a lot of confidence in them.

“When you get in, it’s always more about knowing what you need to do as opposed to just going out and doing it. And that just comes with experience. So most of them got that year to red-shirt, sit back, watch, go to home games, go to away games, and really just kind of get some off-field experience so when they get on the field, everything kind of slows down for them. I think they got a lot of experience under their belt from that last year. And they’re getting smarter every day.”

Drayden appreciates the fact that he plays with a staff with so much knowledge and big-picture experience, with new DB coach Marcel Yates, both defensive coordinators -Peter Sirmon and Tim DeRutyer, plus head coach Justin Wilcox all bringing the perspective of current or former defensive coordinators to the mix at Cal. He also had the benefit of playing under one of the best DB coaches in the game in former Cal DB coach Gerald Alexander.

“GA is probably the one I learned from the most,” said Drayden. “He’s given me the most information, the schematics stuff, the details in playing defensive back. And I think having Coach Yates come in, he’s been a defensive coordinator. He’s actually coached Coach GA at Boise State. Just having that whole different perspective, you get to compile all the information that you’ve had over the years, from our first coach to Coach GA to Coach Yates. Just seeing what aligns and what doesn’t, you just have more information to use so you can ultimately be a better player.”

The transition to Yates has been a smooth one so far after the veteran coach took over for the charismatic and tremendously-popular Alexander after his departure to the Miami Dolphins following the season.

“He’s a real cool guy,” said Drayden of Yates. “He’s funny. From day one, when he came in the room, we knew what our goals were, how we were gonna get there, and you know what type of coach he was. I feel like all the guys were kind of vibing around him pretty good, and I know all the coaches are.”

Like most fans, Drayden and his teammates are hopeful and optimistic that there will be some form of a season in 2020, whether it starts late, is limited to conference games or some other modification to the regular schedule.

“I’ve heard that they’re trying to play this season no matter what it is,” said Drayden. “There’s a couple different options on the table. I actually saw something the other day that said that the UC schools would be open during the fall, so that’s good for football. I think it’s just the waiting game. I would assume early June is when they’ll let us know if we’ll probably be back, so that’s what I’m hoping for.”

The team will return a lot of talent and loads of experience, with one of the most veteran lineups in the nation but Drayden and his teammates aren’t getting ahead of their skiis.

“I think we’re extremely confident, just because we’ve been in the system for about four years now,” said Drayden. “I feel like a lot of guys got to just sit back and watch how people that just got drafted did it. They’re pros, and practicing like pros. And being pros everywhere you go, every facet of life, so when you step on the field, that’s the easiest part you gotta do.

“I feel like just having those leaders to show us that for these last couple years has been huge. Some of the gaps between the younger guys and the older guys is not that big. So we’ve get to have more bodies on the field playing, more people knowing what they’re supposed to do. More people are confident in executing their assignments, and confidence allows you to play faster.

“I know I’m confident in my team, my defense, my offense, and just the way that we’ve been putting in work for this off-season, until this whole thing happened. Even through this pandemic, a lot of people are still working out, sending videos, stuff like that. So I’m pretty confident in what we can bring to the table.”

As his final season approaches, Drayden can see the goal line and it’s not far off from here.

“I’ve gotta take like two classes this summer, and then I just have one in the fall,” said Drayden. “A lot of time for football.

“I came to the number one public school and got a degree, and that was the goal.”

Other stories:

Saffell is Centered on Preparing for Cal Football Season

Cal ILB Deng and Bears Primed For 2020 Season

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