Status of Cal OLB Kuony Deng Remains Uncertain

Bears' key defensive player was injured in Saturday's loss to TCU
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The status of Cal outside linebacker Kuony Deng was still unknown as of Tuesday morning, but when a prognosis is not available three days after the injury occurred there is cause for concern.

Deng was injured in the first half of Saturday afternoon's 34-32 loss at TCU. He spent the rest of the game on the sidelines on crutches with an apparent leg injury.

"We don't know yet," Cal coach Justin Wilcox said Tuesday morning when asked about Deng's status. "He obviously couldn't finish the game, and we're awaiting some results, and the word from the doctors. So there's nothing to report yet. We'll hope to know something later in the week."

In this case, no news is probably not good news, although there is nothing definitive 

If the Bears lose Deng for any period of time, it will be a significant loss. Deng, a so-called super senior, is in his third year as a Cal starting linebacker, although this is his first year at outside linebacker after being an inside linebacker the previous two seasons.

We noted in our Cal football season preview a few weeks ago that the Bears' two outside linebackers -- Deng and Cameron Goode -- made up the strongest unit on the team.

Here is what we said then:

Outside linebackers – You could make a pretty good argument that Cameron Goode and Kuony Deng are the two best players on the team, and they occupy the two outside linebacker spots in Cal’s 3-4 defense.

Deng is transitioning from being an inside linebacker last year, but his body and style lend themselves better to being on the edge. Goode was simply Cal’s best player in 2021.

Both sixth-year seniors are capable of making game-changing plays. Deng forced two fumbles that enabled Cal to upset Oregon last season, and Goode has 27.5 tackles for loss, 14.0 sacks and two interceptions returned for touchdowns in his 26 college games.

"He's obviously a very, very talented guy," Wilcox said Tuesday regarding Deng. "He makes plays for us in the run and pass game. Losing a guy like Kuony is not ideal, but it's part of the game. We'll hopefully get him back as soon as possible."

Cal can probably get by without Deng is this week's home game against Sacramento State, but his absence might be noticeable if he is still sidelined for the Bears' Pac-12 opener against Washington on September 25 in Seattle. With Deng sidelined for most of Saturday's game, Cal gave up 34 points to TCU. 

Cal currently ranks 109th of 130 FBS teams in total defense, an unusually low ranking for Cal, which has excelled on defense under Wilcox.

In a little more than one game this season, Deng had four tackles, none of which was for a loss.

If Deng cannot play, Braxten Croteaux, who started one game last season, and Marqez Bimage, a transfer from Texas, would probably share time at that outside linebacker spot.

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Cover photo of Kuony Deng by Kelley L. Cox, USA TODAY Sports

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

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