BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — For the past four years, Evan Weaver has talked a pretty good game.
California’s senior inside linebacker has also had a tendency to back it up.
Whether it was telling defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter that he was the team’s best defensive player — as a sophomore — before ever taking a single rep in practice, or boldly predicting the Golden Bears‘ 20-19 win over Washington in their Pac-12 opener last week, Weaver rarely holds back.
Cal’s coaching staff would prefer their defensive co-captain to tone it down at times. But the Bears also realize there’s an added benefit.
“He’s earned that right to be the guy that lays it down,” DeRuyter said. “Our guys respond to that. When you have a guy who’s very, very confident in his ability, works his tail off, and then produces, everyone else is inspired by that.”
A preseason All-American, Weaver set a definitive tone for the Bears against Washington. He matched his career high with 18 tackles, two for losses, and forced a fumble.
Although a small sample size, Weaver is averaging an FBS-leading 10 solo tackles a game while his 14.5 tackles overall are second.
Weaver and Cal’s defense have certainly caught the attention of North Texas coach Seth Littrell. The Mean Green (1-1) play the Bears (2-0) at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
“They’re very multiple — three-man, four-man fronts and different pressures,” Littrell said. “They mix their coverage well. They’re a very mature, veteran group and they play together.”
Weaver showed a little restraint when talking about North Texas. There were no bold predictions or anything that came close.
Weaver also didn’t make a big deal about the Bears’ wild win over the Huskies that was delayed three hours by weather and didn’t end until 1:22 a.m. Then again, Cal’s players didn’t get back to Berkeley until early Sunday morning.
“Actually drove home with my sunglasses on so that was a little different after a night game,” Weaver said. “That was pretty different.”
Here are a few other things to keep an eye on when California and North Texas play:
FIRST FOR EVERYTHING: The Bears are 7-0 in nonconference games under third-year coach Justin Wilcox but this will be the first game ever between the two schools. Cal will travel to play at North Texas in 2022 to complete the home-and-home.
TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE: Running back Christopher Brown Jr. had a career-high 197 yards in Cal’s season-opening win against UC Davis and leads the Pac-12 while averaging 158 yards a game. The Bears had a more balanced backfield against Washington, with Marcel Dancy rushing for 72 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries.
FINE ARM VS FINE DEFENSE: Quarterback Mason Fine holds about every meaningful passing record at North Texas, and the senior is off to another fast start. Fine passed for 383 yards and four touchdowns in the opener against Abilene Christian, then threw for 152 yards and another score to rally the Mean Green past SMU last week. Fine faces his toughest test so far this season against a Cal defense that is giving up 171.5 passing yards a game.
“Not a big guy but he can spin the ball,” DeRuyter said. “He really runs his offense well.”
BANGED UP LINE: Cal lost two offensive line starters before the season began and the Bears’ depth continues to be tested. The Bears learned this week that left tackle Will Craig is out for the season with a lower-body injury. Valentino Daltoso, the Bears starting right guard, replaced Craig against Washington but is also nursing an injury.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25