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Will Miles Williams or Craig Woodson Be Cal's Next Great Safety?

The Texas duo follows a line of Golden Bear standouts at the position since Justin Wilcox became head coach
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Who is next in Cal's succession of standout safeties under Justin Wilcox, who was a safety himself as a player at Oregon?

Will Craig Woodson or Miles Williams (cover photo) be next?

The Bears have one of their two safety spots settled with sixth-year senior Daniel Scott being a preseason first-team all-Pac-12 selection. He is just the latest in a steady stream of elite players at the position since Wilcox arrived in 2017..

Ashtyn Davis has started 16 games in his two pro seasons and is competing for a starting safety spot with the Jets in his third season.

Jaylinn Hawkins is in line to be a starting safety for the Falcons this year in his third NFL season.

Camryn Bynum, a cornerback at Cal, is competing with a first-round draft pick to be a starting safety for the Vikings in his second pro season.

And safety Elijah Hicks was Cal's only first-team all-Pac-12 selection last year before being drafted by the Bears last spring.

Which brings us to Scott, who might be the best safety in the Pac-12 this season, and it also brings us to the player who will win the starting job at the other safety position.

A number of people are competing at the spot, but the competition for that spot is likely to come down to a pair of fourth-year juniors from Texas -- Miles Williams and Craig Woodson.

Both have personalities as big as their home state, according to the coaches, and both and willing to have their voices heard throughout practice.

"It's really the Texas in us," Woodson said. "It just means we got a different kind of swag."

"I'm not shy to show who I am," Williams said.

So this Texas Nexus will be heard.

Woodson had been cited by past Cal defensive backs as a player who could become special. But an injury suffered in last year's preseason kept sidelined him for the entire 2021 season as well as the 2022 spring ball. He still wears a brace on one knee.

"I'm feeling pretty good," Woodson said Friday. "I'm really honestly just happy to be out here. I wouldn't say I'm completely 100 percent, but we still got time 'til the season."

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He says he will "for sure" be ready for the Sept. 3 opener.

The two offer different skills to the position.

"They're both two different players, unique to their own," said Terrence Brown, one of Cal's two defensive backs coaches. "I think Craig brings a really good physical presence and an ability to have some range. And the team loves his ability to put his face on something from time to time.

"Miles also has the ability to stick his nose in there, make sound tackles at the line of scrimmage or out in open field. He's also been given the opportunity to play a little bit more man-to-man coverage from time to time. That doesn't mean that Craig is not capable of doing so. It's the opportunities presented for Miles have stood out a little bit more than for Craig."

Woodson started two of Cal's four games in 2020, while Williams has yet to make a start at Cal, but Woodson's physical situation may give Williams the edge to be a starter in the opener. This is his fourth year at Cal so he knows the system.

"I feel like my mental game has really taken off," Williams said.

He's also aware of the recent star power at the Cal safety position. He still chats with Davis, Hicks and Hawkins from time to time.

"I know the pressure that comes with the position," Williams said in the video atop the story, "but like coach says, 'Pressure is privilege.'"

Dance Fever

Defensive backs coaches Brown and Tre Watson were serious when it came to discussing safeties, but their attitude took a turn when dicussing (or not discussing) the best dancers on the team and which of the two DB coaches was the better dancer.

Corriea Leaves Field

Ricky Correia, scheduled to be Cal's starting nose guard, had to be helped off the field during Cal's practice on Friday.

Saturday Scrimmage

Cal is scheduled to scrimmage Saturday, although it's unclear how intense it will be or how long it will last. But it will be the first serious intrasquad competition involing hitting.

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