BERKELEY -- On Wednesday, it was Mustafa Jalil frisbee-ing true freshman quarterback Jared Goff to the ground during team drills, and on Friday, the defensive line -- and really, the defense as a whole -- that took center stage at California spring football practice under the lights. Redshirt sophomore defensive end Todd Barr was one of the stand-outs, as he looks to make the starting unit in Andy Buh’s new 4-3 scheme.
“Of course, it took adjusting to, but it’s all a part of change, and since the new coaching staff came in, everybody on the team said that we’re going to buy in to what they’re doing, and that’s what we’re doing,” said Barr. “It’s heavenly to us. We love coach [Barry] Sacks. He’s a great coach. He’s really enthusiastic. Coach Sash (Garrett Chachere) is one hell of a guy. They all bring a new kind of knowledge ot us and the D-line, especially running this 4-3 defense.”
Barr has taken to the new system quite well, especially since he now gets to play exclusively on the outside, where he’s best suited.
“Now, I’m a true D-end,” Barr said. “I’m always on the outside, instead of sometimes lining up in the 3-technique, which I enjoy, especially not being the ideal size I would need to be as a defensive tackle. Now, I get to be on the edge.”
The star of the day along the line was newcomer Kyle Kragen, who won two straight one-on-one reps late in practice against the favorite for the starting left tackle spot, Freddie Tagaloa.
“Kragen’s one hell of a player, especially in the passing aspect of the game,” Barr said. “He brings a whole new tool and a whole new weapon to our defense. He’s really good at pass rushing. He’s really talented in the pass-rushing aspect of the game. He’s coming along in the run game. Like he said, it was new to him, because he’s always been a pass rusher, but he’s coming along well in that.”
Early in spring, the defense has had a noted edge on the offense, but Barr knows that there will be some back-and-forth as practice progresses.
“I guess maybe because the offense is learning a whole new scheme; of course, with us, some of the defensive stuff still transfers over, and you still have to do certain things when you’re on the defensive line, linebackers and the secondary, so maybe the offense is having to learn a lot more than us, but everybody on the defense just really bought in to what we’re doing, and we’re all putting in that extra effort to make sure we gel,” Barr said.
The uptick in energy across the board has led to some briefly heated moments in the trenches, but, Barr said, the fact that the team has bonded through the coaching change and the implementation of the new order in the program has helped to ease tensions when they do arise.
“The coaching staff now really preaches being excited for what your teammates are doing, because that’s your teammate,” Barr said. “You’re going to have to rely on them, so when your teammate does something good, you congratulate them and really show the excitement that we really feel, because that’s the same excitement we’re going to have in a game, when our teammate makes a big play that we need a stop on, as well as us and the fans in the stands, we’re going to be excited ... It helps diffuse the scrums.”