DeCoud was a part of Cal Head Coach Jeff Tedford’s first full class in 2003, where the Bears’ fearless leader had a full season to hit the recruiting trail and build his class his way.
The All-ACCAL receiver/defensive back fit perfectly in Tedford’s wish list, bringing the size (6-2) and athleticism (also named all-league in basketball as well) that Tedford coveted for his defensive backfield at Pinole Valley High School –just 15 minutes down the highway from Berkeley.
“It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little boy,” said DeCoud. “I used to wake up every Saturday morning and watch football all day and dream of when I could be at a school like Cal and show what I could do and playing at Cal is like a dream come true.
“High school to college is a big transition,” said DeCoud. “The best of the best from high school are playing each other. Plus, you have to learn playbooks that are a lot more complicated than in high school, so playing early can definitely help you for later on.
“The process of learning the defense and learning to stop what teams can do against you –what teams try to do when you’re in certain coverages were probably the biggest part of my transition to the college game.”
As far as the complexity of the individual game plans, it depends largely on the opponent, according to DeCoud.
“Our defense is tailored to the offense we play,” said DeCoud. “We’ll have plays that are designed to stop specific strengths of our opponent and force them to do something they’re not especially good at.”
Despite playing some rover and cornerback last season, DeCoud is slated to play free safety for the Bears this season, with Bernard Hicks checking in at rover.
“I played a little corner against bigger receivers like Dwayne Jarrett or Evan Moore but I’ll be at free safety this year,” said DeCoud.
The Bears will likely also be breaking in some of their younger defensive backs this season in nickel and backup situations like redshirt frosh Darian Hagan and possibly Charles Amadi and Brandon Jones, not to mention true frosh Chris Conte, possibly the biggest surprise of camp.
“Darian’s more like a Daymeion Hughes-type type of back. He has a bit more speed than Daymeion but he has the same type of defensive back instincts.
“Brandon Jones is a speed back. I think he ran a (hand-timed) 4.25 yesterday. I’ll dare any opposing receivers to beat him in a race.
“Charles is really technically sound. He’s out of Edison High School in Fresno where Bernard and Robert (Peele) are from and they’re known for producing defensive backs. He did well in his redshirt year. He came in under the radar but he’s definitely a real good player.
“I’m really impressed with the young guys we brought in this year, too: “Chris Conte, Sean Cattouse and D.J. Campbell.
“Chris has real good route recognition. The first 7 on 7 he came to, he had a broken up pass and an interception. To do that out of high school in your first 7 on 7 session is pretty impressive. He has the tools, he just needs to continue to learn the game. He has a little chip on his shoulder, too, but you’ve got to have that playing in the backfield. You’ve got to have a short memory and a lot of confidence.
“I haven’t seen as much of D.J. and Sean, but from what I’ve seen, they’re good athletes, too.”
Last season, the Bears made a big transition in the defensive backfield, going from long-time db coach J.D. Williams who departed for the University of Washington to new db coach Todd Littlejohn.
“I’d say J.D. was a little more of a hardass,” said DeCoud, with a smile. “He’ll show you how they do it in the pros and he had the technique already ingrained in himself, having played in the pros and in the Super Bowl.
“Coach Littlejohn wants to make sure you know what you’re doing and how you’re supposed to do it. He’s real technical and he’s real motivating. He gets us real juiced up for a game.”
After seeing playing time as a redshirt frosh and in his sophomore season, DeCoud was able to display the talent that a lot of Bear fans had been waiting to see displayed last season as one of three safeties that saw significant action his junior season, playing with Hicks and Brandon Hampton.
DeCoud ended up starting 4 games on the year, including his best statistical game in the season opener, with 13 tackles vs. Tennessee. DeCoud also played a key role in one of Bear star returner DeSean Jackson’s record four punt returns for a touchdown, delivering a crushing block that knocked out one of his UCLA opponents, springing Jackson free for another td.
“I felt like I really grew last year as a person and as a player,” said DeCoud. “Just understanding more how the game works and how I fit into our defense and how I could get better as a defensive back really helped me develop.”
Besides spending six months a year on the field together, the Bear defensive backfield is also close off the field, with many of the db’s living in the same apartment complex in Oakland.
DeCoud took a moment to reflect on the personalities that come together to form the defensive backfield for the 12th rated Bears.
“Syd (Thompson) is definitely more of a quiet, laid back guy,” said DeCoud. “He won’t say much but he’ll throw in a joke here and there.
“Bernard and I have kind of similar personalities –kind of boisterous and loud. We like to have fun back there.
“Brandon (Hampton) is a great guy and has a lot of heart,” said DeCoud. “And all the young guys are great guys, too.”
After a long and productive camp, the Bears are now switching gears and getting down to the business that a month of camp is really all about –preparing for Tennessee –administrators of last season’s 35-18 whooping in the Bears’ season opener on the famed checkerboard field in Knoxville.
This time around?
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