Oregon recognizes Cal’s defense features several of the best players the Ducks will face this season

EUGENE — For all the attention Evan Weaver deservedly received last year at Cal, the former Bears inside linebacker wasn’t the only major contributor on the defense.

No. 23 Oregon (3-1) knows this well and isn’t looking past winless Cal (0-3) on Saturday (4 p.m., ESPN). The only team to hold the Ducks under 20 points last season, albeit in a 17-7 defeat, the Bears have key playmakers back at every level of the defense in edge rusher Cameron Goode, weak-side linebacker Kuony Deng and cornerback Camryn Bynum.

“I think it was no secret going into the season there was a lot of attention surrounding their program, and as it warrants because they’ve done a really good job of recruiting and done a really good job of developing football players and you know they’re coached really well,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “We feel they’re as good as any team that we have played and certainly in some areas, some of the best players that we have played against as well.”

While Oregon held Weaver to just six tackles in last year’s game, the second-lowest over the final two seasons for the NCAA’s leading tackler a year ago, Deng had 12 tackles and recovered a fumble against the Ducks last season.

With Weaver in the NFL, Deng has taken over the team lead in tackles with 23 in three games this fall, but his 119 stops, with 7.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and eight pass breakups, show how disruptive he can be.

Goode is Cal’s leading edge rusher, with 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks this season.

“(Deng) he’s really unique in his skill set,” offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead said. “You don’t see many 6-6, 250-pound Will linebackers with his length running around inside the box, and he can cover a lot of ground and he’s very physical. We talked in our meeting (Sunday) about (Goode’s) ability. They call him an outside linebacker. He’s more of a rush end than anything, but he’s one of the most athletic and twitchy pass rushers. Our tackles have really got to be on their game and we got to make sure we’re doing a good job not allowing him to adversely affect the game. Those two guys at the first and second level are two of the best we’ve seen this year.”

Oregon did a better job preventing negative plays in last week’s loss to Oregon State than the week before against UCLA.

While Deng and Goode present a difficult tandem to hold at bay, the Ducks’ offensive line also recognizes the rest of the Bears’ front seven is going to be a challenge.

“(Deng) is really long, he’s a downhill linebacker, great player,” center Alex Forsyth said. “(Goode’s) got a lot of speed off the edge. Their whole front seven is really talented. Their interior guys have got a lot of power, a lot of twitch to them. It’s going to be a great challenge for us up front, but we’re excited for it.”

The back end of Cal’s defense is solidified by Bynum, one of the best cover corners in the Pac-12.

Bynum’s 16 tackles this season aren’t overwhelming, but he led the Bears with nine pass breakups last season. He doesn’t have any this season, but it’s not out due to skill. Opponents simply haven’t thrown in his direction very much, and when they have it’s mostly been when they can get the 6-foot, 200-pound senior matched up against a tight end.

Moorhead said Bynum is one of the best corners Oregon has faced this season.

Ducks slot receiver Jaylon Redd, who probably won’t face off with Bynum much, said he’s a smart, savvy and patient corner.

To date there’s been little competition for the Ducks in terms of opposing secondaries, which is part of what makes Saturday intriguing.

“They’re going to be some of the best corners and (defensive backs) we’ve faced all year,” quarterback Tyler Shough said. “I know they’re going to be ready and our wide receivers are getting ready for this week and for them as well. As a quarterback perspective, I don’t try to think about personnel as a corner per se, more as where they’re forming as a defense. I have full belief in all of our wide receivers. We believe every matchup that we go against is in our favor because (of) practicing and I feel confident in all of our guys no matter the situation and who they’re going up against. Obviously all around the defense they’re going to be physical and fast so we got to be ready for that.”

Camryn Bynum

California cornerback Camryn Bynum celebrates after intercepting a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against UCLA in Los Angeles, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)AP

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