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Cal Football

Bear Insider Video: Cal ILBs Jackson Sirmon and Femi Oladejo

August 28, 2022

One of the expected strengths of the Cal defense this season will be the starting tandem of redshirt junior Jackson Sirmon and soph Femi Oladejo -a potentially dynamic duo up the middle for the Bears this 2022 season.

The 6-2/240 Washington transfer is the second-leading returning tackler in the Pac-12 after totaling 92 tackles, one forced fumble, an interception that he returned for 20 yards, one pass breakup and one safety in 2021. Chalk the veteran ILB as a fan of the talented young Oladejo.

“It’s hard for me to believe it’s only his second year,” said Sirmon. “He’s a very talented, smart guy who works super hard and it been great to be able to play with him and all the other guys, too.”

The 6-3/255 soph surprised some with his early impact as a true freshman, playing in 9 games and earning a start vs. Oregon State in the Bears’ win, adding 36 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries for the season.

“It’s been a blessing,” said Oladejo of playing alongside the veteran ILB. “I get to learn from him every day. I knew right when he stepped in the weight room, he was actually working so I knew he was trying to get ready.”

Oladejo noted that their chemistry has continued to grow after a spring and fall under their belt together since SIrmon’s transfer.

“Every day just on the film and mental reps and just always communicate,” said Oladejo.

“He’s a big push-up guy so every day, he’s just walking up on the sidelines like,  “Come do pushups with me.” So he’s making me do extra pushups, trying to watch extra film and we just we push each other, but it’s the whole linebacker group does a really good job of pushing each other to get the most out of everybody.”

Oladejo appreciates the similarities as well as the differences between he and Sirmon.

“Oh, he's a sneaky guy,” said Oladejo with a smile. “He's definitely sneaky. But I would probably say we’re both powerful. Were both powerful and we’re both big guys that can move so that’s kind of the linebacker scheme in the room.”

The Bears have lots of viable depth in the ILB room, with fellow inside backers Nate Rutchena, Trey Paster and Mo Iosefa all having played solid minutes with good production last season.

“That’s always a positive,” said Sirmon. “It's always a positive to have a lot of guys in the position and on the team that can step in and contribute. It pushes you every day, we all push each other so it's nothing but a positive.”

If fans haven’t heard a lot about the ILBs through fall camp, it’s because, with primarily non-contact practices, it’s probably the hardest position to gauge performances till real game action. Both were asked their primary responsibilities in non-contact practices.

“Just run to the ball,” said Oladejo. “Just find wherever the ball is at and call out.”

“I think with inside backer, you get a little bit of everything,” said Sirmon. “You don’t get too heavy of a dose with the individual things but you do get a little bit of everything every play so it definitely keeps me entertained. I don’t get bored out there and I don’t think anyone else in the inside backer room does.”

The multiple formations the Bears’ defense shows will make it difficult to focus on one or two individual players to put pressure on the D with their multiple fronts, blitz packages and players with position versatility.

“Absolutely,” agreed Oladego. “Everyone on the defense is a dawg. Everyone is going to make a play so I am really excited for this year. Our defense is very versatile and we're running a lot of fronts so I am excited.”

“I like our room. It just helps having depth everywhere. Everybody is locked in on helping the team win and the chemistry is going to help us win a lot this year.”

Both are optimistic that this team has what it takes to make big waves this season.

“Pac-12 championship,” said Oladejo of his realistic target.

“Yeah we all have that goal, the Pac-12 Championship,” said Sirmon. “We're gonna take it one day at a time, one practice at a time, and one game at a time and ultimately whatever happens happens but you know we all have the goal of winning every game and playing the best football we can.”

The Bears will be back in action tomorrow at 4 continuing to prepare for Saturday’s home opener vs. UC Davis.

Other stories:

Bear Insider Video: Cal DBs Young, Gamble and Hearns

Bear Insider Video: Rancho Cotate Safety Sai Vadrawale

Cal Football Saturday 8/27 Report


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