"We're playing with so many young players, guys that physically probably aren't ready to play," Dykes said Tuesday on the Pac-12 teleconference.
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That certainly isn't the case for redshirt senior defensive tackle Deandre Coleman, a mammoth specimen at 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds and one of the handful of projected starters on either side of the ball to actually start every game this season. And while team accomplishments have been fleeting for Coleman -- his high school team in Seattle went 2-34, the San Francisco Chronicle noted, and Cal is 24-37 (14-30 Pac-12) during his college career -- he is far more likely to find personal success in the NFL.
Regarded as a likely third-day selection, Coleman has been productive in both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses, posting a team-high and career-best nine tackles for loss with 2.5 sacks in the latter this season under new coordinator Andy Buh. Dykes singled out Coleman's performance in the 41-24 loss at Colorado last week, when he had two tackles and one tackle for loss and deflected a pass that was intercepted.
"I think he has had a good year, I really do, especially toward the back end," Dykes said. "I think he has gotten better and better and better. He is a big kid, athletic and has a chance to be a good football player. Got a good future."
Showing consistency has always been Coleman's biggest question mark, but he can address it against a bruising Stanford offensive line in the 116th Big Game, his last in a Cal uniform. The Cardinal have outstanding guards in David Yankey and Kevin Danser, and center Khalil Wilkes is one of the more overlooked players in the conference.
With only 300-pound freshman Jacobi Hunter available as the backup at both interior defensive line positions, Coleman will have to play well without being able to rotate in and out of the game, flashing the burst and power necessary to hold Stanford's front at bay.
Stanford is the kind of big and strong team Dykes aspires for Cal to become, but for now, only Coleman brings that vision to the field.