Cal Spring Football: Bears' Offense, Defense Expand Playbooks for 2021

Cal inside linebacker Kuony Deng getting more practice time at outside linebacker
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Just two days into Cal's spring football practices it's clear the Bears' offense and defense will be more diversified than they were in 2020.

Of course, that is true of every Pac-12 team, because the practice restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic limited the practice time last spring and as well as limited preparation time before and during the 2020 season.

"Good foundation that we laid, but we want to get bigger and better and definitely have more production on the scoreboard," Bears offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave (cover photo) said Friday.

The playbook will be bigger, he said.

"Yeah, you would think if we have more meeting time and more practice time, which we missed out on in 2020, we'll definitely take advantage of that to add more concepts and do more."

In a sense, 2021 will be the first season that folks get to see what Musgrave's pro-style offense can do.

Obviously there needs to be improvement. In 2020, the Bears ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring (20.2 points per game) and last in total offense (319.5 yards per game).

One goal for the 2021 season is to find a backup quarterback to Chase Garbers, now that Devon Modster has transferred. Musgrave said in the video atop this story that the backup probably will not be named until preseason workouts in the fall, but all the quarterbacks are getting more work and more inclusion in the offense than they did in 2020.

The Bears' defense was not overhauled last season, but the practice restrictions forced Cal to stay pretty basic on defense while relying on proven players who were already familiar with the Bears' defensive schemes.

"We were pretty limited with some of our packages," defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon said.

One of the chief defensive changes during the spring is that inside linebacker Kuony Deng will get more practice time at outside linebacker.  That's not entirely new since Deng played outside linebacker at time last season, but it seems he will get increased playing time on the edge in 2021.

"Explore a couple different options with Kuony," Sirmon said. "He has a really good understanding from the experience of playing that inside linebacker spot, and then we are going to continue to develop him at the outside linebacker spot."

Cal would like have him prepared to play both positions, but his 6-foot-6, 245-pound frame more closely resembles that of an outside linebacker than an inside linebacker.

"His body type lends to be a very tough block on the outside part of the field," Sirmon said, "so during spring Kuony will be taking a majority of reps at the outside linebacker position."

Being able to play on the edge may make Deng more attractive to NFL teams. Sirmon notes that displaying versatility can enhance a player's pro status.

Having Deng play more on the outside may also open up some playing time for Trey Paster, who was moved from safety to an inside linebacker following his freshman season of 2020.


Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53

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