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Cal Football

Cal Football 2023 Top Defensive Statistical Performers

December 26, 2023
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The 2023 Cal defense excelled at times but overall struggled to a 9th-rated scoring defense performance for the season, giving up 32.8 points per game. The Bears led only Colorado (34.8 ppg), USC (34.9 ppg) and Stanford (37.7 ppg) and trailed #8 ASU (31.8) by 1 point per game.

In conference play, the Bears fared worse, just .2% out of the cellar-dwelling Cardinal at 37.8 points per game.

The Bears’ rushing defense was solid, checking in a #6 in the conference with 133 yards per game. They fared only slightly worse in conference at #7 behind Washington, averaging 10 more yards per game. Their overall run defense was good enough to finish #38 in the country, a solid performance.

Where the Bears’ really fell short was on passing defense, finishing #11 overall at 280 ypg, only ahead of Stanford and #131 nationally, ahead of only South Florida and Stanford.

It didn’t help the Bears’ defense that they lost 1st team All-Pac-12 MLB and team leader Jackson Sirmon midseason. Sirmon was second in the conference in tackles at the time with 49.

Let's take a look at Cal's defensive statistical performance leaders for the just-completed season.

Defensive Line:

Junior defensive tackle Rickey Correia led the Bears’ DL with 35 tackles along with 2 sacks and 2 ½ tackles for loss as the Bears’ main line of defense up the middle. Veteran redshirt junior DE/DT Brett Johnson was next in line with DL production with 23 tackles, 2 sacks and a pass defended while often taking on double teams through much of the games. Fellow DE/DT Nate Burrell had 20 tackles with 2 sacks, 2 ½ tackles for life, 1 QB hurry and 1 pass defended.

Linebacker:

Redshirt soph MLB Kaleb Elarms-Orr: Before Sirmon went down in the sixth game vs Oregon State, fellow MLB Elarms-Orr was right on his heels at fourth in the conference in tackles. He ended up leading the Bears with 92 tackles in 11 games along with 1 interception, 1 sack and 1 QB pressure. After Sirmon went down midseason, frosh linebacker Cade Uluave saw his first extended playing time in game six against Oregon State taking over for Sirmon. Starting his first game the next week against Utah, Uluave took the conference by storm and eventually racked up 66 tackles, 2 ½ sacks, 6 ½ tackles for loss, 3 passes broken up, 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles, with one returned for a touchdown in his 1st team Frosh All-Conference season. Though playing LB in just 7 games, Uluave led all conference freshmen in tackles, finishing 26th overall. Redshirt junior OLB Xavier Carlton was next with 47 tackles, 5 ½ tackles for loss, 4 ½ sacks, 5 QB hurries and 2 passes broken up. Fellow OLB David Reese came on strong late in the season to lead the team with 6 1/2 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, 4 QB hurries, 3 forced fumbles and 3 passes broken up. Reese finished 7th overall in conference in sacks.

Defensive Back:

Senior safety Patrick McMorris - the senior transfer from San Diego State narrowly finished 2nd in tackles on the team with 90 for the season, adding 1 sack, 4 ½ tackles for loss, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles and 8 passes defended, finishing 5th in conference in breakups. The veteran safety finished just behind Elarms-Orr at 5th in the conference in tackles and 1st among DBs. Fellow safety, redshirt junior Craig Woodson added 81 tackles, 3 ½ tackles for loss, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles and 6 passes broken up, finishing 10th in the conference in tackles and 2nd for DBs. Junior cornerback Nohl Williams was the toughest in coverage on the team. The junior added 53 tackles, 2 interceptions -both returned for touchdowns vs WSU and Oregon, 1 forced fumble and 6 passes defended. 

Related:

Cal Football 2023 Top Offensive Statistical Performers

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Cal Football 2023 Top Defensive Statistical Performers

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