Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 17, 2022

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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36 SEPT. 17, 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED GAME PREVIEW: CALIFORNIA coordinator Al Golden will have to monitor every time he's on the field. Ott is 6-0, 205 pounds. Think Notre Dame junior Chris Tyree but a bump taller and a shade heavier. Ott said he knew he was faster than average when he started playing flag football at 4 years old. Fifteen years later, he's getting game-planned against by the Irish of Notre Dame. Ott was also the Week 1 Pac-12 Freshman of the Week. "I just feel blessed," said the native of Chino, Calif., who held offers from USC, Wisconsin and Georgia among other schools. "Being here was always a dream for me. To actually be here and do exactly what I wanted to do, it's a surreal feeling." FINDING THEIR STRIDE Cal's 2021 season was a roller coaster defensively. Head coach Justin Wilcox hangs his hat on that side of the ball. He was the defensive coordinator at Boise State (2006-09), Tennessee (2010-11), Washington (2012-13), USC (2014-15) and Wisconsin (2016) before taking the top job at Cal in 2017. Given his experience, Cal's inconsistency de- fensively wasn't tolerated last year. Cal allowed a whopping 505 yards in a loss to TCU in Week 2. But the Bears only allowed 104 yards in a win against Colorado in late Octo- ber. The quality of those opponents is obviously completely contrasting, but there is still too much variance in those yardage totals. Wilcox wants to live somewhere in the middle. The four other times Cal allowed more than 400 yards in addition to the TCU debacle were not the stan- dard, but the four other times Cal allowed less than 350 yards in addi- tion to the Colorado domination were promising signs. So much of it is opponent-based. But take Notre Dame's own perfor- mance against Ohio State, for in- stance. The Irish held an offense that averaged a nation-best 561.2 yards per game in 2021 to 395 yards in the 2022 season opener. Cal is not Notre Dame, a consen- sus top-five team to start the year and a consensus top-10 team even after suffering a season-opening defeat. But Wilcox still thinks his team has great potential. "Ultimately, it's a team game. Ev- ery coach, player and unit needs to show improvement," Wilcox said. "We haven't done enough to get to where we want to go to. Defensively, I Junior linebacker Xavier Carlton, who transferred to Cal from Utah, recorded 1.5 sacks in his Golden Bears debut in a 34-13 win over UC Davis Sept. 3. PHOTO COURTESY CAL ATHLETICS/AL SERMENO

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