Red-hot Cal defense has one of 'nation's best' in Upshaw

By Craig Sanders

Arizona Daily Wildcat

California defensive end Regan Upshaw is planning to put the teeth back in the Golden Bear defense tomorrow against Arizona.

Upshaw leads a big, fast, strong and athletic defensive front that has suddenly given the Bears' defense bite. The line, made up of Upshaw, Duane Clemons, Brandon Whiting and Andy Jacobs, has quickly become one of the best in the nation.

With 14 sacks for minus 85 yards in three games, the Bears lead the Pacific 10 Conference. In comparison, Arizona is second with 11 sacks for 77 yards in four games. This is following a season in which Cal recorded a healthy 40 sacks, without the aid of Clemons, who redshirted last year to get bigger and stronger. Arizona led the Pac-10 with 47 sacks.

Cal looks to continue that domination against Arizona, its first Pac-10 opponent.

"I just really get up for Pac-10 games," Upshaw said. "Our win against San Jose State was good because it showed us we can win, but it doesn't mean anything really because it wasn't a Pac-10 game."

Cal lost its first two games of the season, 33-9 to San Diego State and 25-24 to Fresno State, before bouncing back with a 40-7 win over San Jose State. In the first two games the Bears totaled six sacks. Against San Jose State, the team recorded eight. Obviously for Cal, winning and putting hits on the quarterback go hand in hand.

"My responsibility is to get to the quarterback and put pressure on him," Upshaw said. "But this year we have so many good players that there might be two or three of us there at the same time."

That statement has proven true so far this season. Clemons leads the team in sacks this season with 31/2. Upshaw has three and Whiting 21/2.

"We have a pretty athletic group," Cal coach Keith Gilbertson said. "Regan Upshaw has proven he is among the best defensive linemen in the nation. Whiting was the best freshman in the conference on defense, so we have some depth."

Coaches have raved about Upshaw's athletic ability. He was timed at 4.67 seconds in the 40-yard dash (though he said he is faster now), has a 353-pound power clean-and-jerk, a 425-pound bench press, and a 34.5-inch vertical leap, one of the best on the team. He has also gained 15 pounds from last season and checks in at 6 feet 4 inches and 250 pounds.

"I know I have physical ability, but it's all about how you approach the game," Upshaw said. "It's all about the intensity you play with."

Upshaw said intensity is the one thing that pushes him past so many other players. When he gets on the football field, he is there to play hard.

"I definitely come out wanting to win," Upshaw said. "That's what it's all about."

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Upshaw will most likely face a relatively inexperienced Arizona offensive line, one that has allowed the most sacks in the Pac-10 this season 13 for minus 80 yards.

"I don't think they have a young offensive line anymore," Upshaw said. "They have put together four games, so they are veterans now."

Upshaw is a Pittsburg, Calif., product who enters the season as a second-team preseason All-American by Athlon magazine. He was rated by Lindy's magazine as the No. 2 defensive end in college football going into the '95 season, behind only Miami's Kenard Lang. Some publications also have him ranked above Arizona's Tedy Bruschi.

"I have a lot of respect for Bruschi," Upshaw said. "I have even watched him to pick up some things."

Cal's defensive line is undeniably a group of premier players, but overall it is still ranked only 61st in the nation in total defense, giving up 378 yards per game. Upshaw said his team needs to raise its level of play every week if it wants to be a dominant defense.

"I just want us to get better," Upshaw said. "If we do that, with the players we have, we'll be where we need to be."

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