Christopher Smith

Cal's New Defensive Coordinator Needs Optimism

Created on Jan. 23, 2014 9:14 PM EST

I wonder if new Cal defensive coordinator Art Kaufman, announced Wednesday, is optimistic.

If he is, he's got a tremendous opportunity with the Bears, trying to resurrect one of the worst defenses in FBS in an environment that is hardly conducive to success.

A few bowl season embarrassments aside, the Pac-12 quietly is positioned to challenge the SEC for conference supremacy in 2014, particularly with offenses led by quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley. Schools like Washington State and Oregon State came close to forgetting the definition of a handoff at times in 2013. Stanford, the yin to Oregon's yang, will plow over you if you don't buck up.

Kaufman coached Cincinnati's defense to resounding numbers in 2013, including ninth in the country in total defense (315.6 yards per game). Still, after the season, Tommy Tuberville cut ties with the veteran coordinator that followed him from Texas Tech.

"The defense played well," Tuberville told the Cincinnati Enquirer when he left Kaufman go. "This is more about recruiting. I always start with recruiting."

The Bears might be content with a mediocre defense in 2014, as the team gave up nearly 46 points per game last year under the demoted Andy Buh and finished 124th in the NCAA in total defense (a monstrous 529.6 yards per game). The unit helped facilitate a 1-11 season.

Kaufman was nominated for the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant in 2011 (North Carolina) and 2012 (Texas Tech), so it's not like the Bearcats' defense put up fluke numbers last season.

Injuries and youth were main culprits in last season's stinker for Cal, and expectations for 2014 will remain low in the Pac-12 North, one of the few divisions that can rival the SEC West. The Bears return a plethora of defensive players, particularly at the second and third levels.

"Art has a tremendous amount of experience and an excellent track record in significant roles on the defensive side of the ball at the highest level of college football," coach Sonny Dykes said in a statement.

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