“I think they have more speed at the skill positions,” said Cal head coach Jeff Tedford.
“There is more depth at the skill positions on offense: receivers, two really good tailbacks. Their quarterback is really elusive and a very good player. They have a very solid offensive line. But I think, more than anything, the play of the receivers. [Senior] Scotty McKnight is really their go-to guy, and now they have three or four guys that can go out and play.”
The play of McKnight and USC-transfer Travon Patterson provides the Buffaloes with two big-play guys on the outside. The California secondary – that struggled in 2009 as a unit, but has earned the praise of Tedford in fall camp – will get their first major challenge in preventing the big play. With the speed of Colorado's receivers, the duty of sophomore Josh Hill and junior Sean Cattouse to man centerfield will be a bit more magnified.
Another wrinkle that defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will have to consider is the speed of quarterback Tyler Hansen. Hansen, who came into this season with 640 net rushing yards (not accounting sacks), has the ability to escape a collapsing pocket, and pick up positive yards on the ground. His backup – senior Cody Hawkins – also has shown an ability to run.
“They are both very competitive,” said Tedford, regarding the Colorado quarterbacks. “They are elusive. They can pull it down and run, and they throw the ball very well.”
It will be interesting to analyze what blitz schemes Pendergast will put to use, given Hansen's ability to run the ball. Without a doubt, a key for the game will be how much pressure the Bears can put on Hansen, without losing containment.
The Buffs have a number of weapons that they can deploy, and run a similar style of offensive attack to Cal: downhill running with playmakers outside. Given that, the Bears defense should have an idea or two in planning ways to stop the Buffalo stampede.
On the other side of the ball, Colorado's touted cornerbacks – seniors Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith – will provide the Bears' talented wideouts Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen with a more stiff challenge in making plays. But what will be more interesting is seeing how the Buffaloes come out to defend the all-of-a-sudden potent Cal offense.
Last week, the UC Davis Aggies loaded the box to limit junior Shane Vereen, only to be burned by the big plays of Jones and Allen. Whether Colorado elects to limit the big plays of Allen or Jones, or put more attention in stopping Vereen will dictate where the Bears will focus in terms of moving the ball downfield. With the introduction of Allen, the Bears now have an array of playmakers surrounding Kevin Riley, and can attack any defense in a number of ways.
Practice News & Notes
The injury news is very limited, which is good news for the Bears. Sophomore lineman Matt Summers-Gavin will not start, but “will play some” at right tackle and guard. Tedford says that Summers-Gavin has an opportunity to regain the starting spot, but you get the feel that decision will be determined after the Colorado game.
The only other bit of injury news involves sophomore tight end Jarrett Sparks, who will be out this weekend with an ankle injury. In his place, true freshman Jacob Wark will be third on the depth chart.
Other than that, there is no change to the two-deep for Saturday's game against Colorado. Kickoff is at 12:30 p.m. PT on Fox Sports Net.
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