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Spring practice preview: linebackers

The reason Cal is seriously looking at using more of a 3-4 system isn’t just because the success it had against Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl. Indeed, that was an adjustment to specifically stop the Falcons’ offense.

But it did provide food for thought. The Bears recognize the linebackers are the strength of their defense, so it makes sense to try to get more of them on the field.

Cal returns all three starting linebackers from last season, although Worrell Williams and Anthony Felder didn’t start the final two games of the year. Williams was a bit of a work in progress last season making the move from the outside to the middle, while Felder played better during the first half of the season. Still, having those two guys returning, along with all-conference outside linebacker Zack Follett, must allow defensive coordinator Bob Gregory to sleep well at night.

No matter what system Cal decides to use, it will certainly have depth. Mike Mohamed exhibited great potential as a part-time player last year. If the Bears go to a 3-4, he would likely be on the outside along with Follett, with Williams and Felder in the middle. One stat from last season that really jumps out at you is that Mohamed recorded 46 tackles despite playing in a reserve role.

Eddie Young also played better and better as the season went along last year and should definitely be in the mix for some playing time. And then there’s D.J. Holt, who stood out on the scout team and could make a contribution as well.

The Bears also will get junior college transfer Devin Bishop off his redshirt year, as well as freshman Robert Mullins, a pretty highly regarded recruit in ’07 who missed last year recovering from an injury.

There’s no question the presence of guys like Mohamed, Young and Holt should help Williams and Felder. The competition should elevate everyone’s level of play. Williams and Felder will be seniors next season, and you can bet they aren’t too interested in anyone taking their playing time away from them. The spring may be especially good for Williams, giving him more time to get more comfortable playing inside.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • STEVE IN CONCORD

    Jonathan-
    Did Cal kicker Tom Schneider petition the NCAA for another year of eligibility after missing all of the 2007 season, or has he graduated and moved on? If so, who is the competition for Jordan Kay? Also, do JC transfers get a redshirt year?

  • Jan K. Oski

    Hey Steve,

    I know you asked J.O., but I thought I might share this tidbit with you from a few months ago. This Bear’s Insider forum thread has wholesome information:

    http://mbd.scout.com/mb.aspx?s=166#s=166&f=1419&t=1923576

    I’m betting that Seawright will take over the kickoff role that was Cal’s Achilles heal last year. His average kickoffs from high school would put the ball in the endzone everytime. Plus, he’ll be sure to give Kay some serious competition.

    Go You Bears!

  • Todd Nizzle

    What about Alex Cook?

  • Tony

    Look for Charles Johnson to make a strong contribution as a late JC pick up last year. Alex Cook had a problem with the academics..not at Cal anymore. Worrell Williams shouldn’t start..he’s a good blitzer that’s his strength. Does Felder have the desire? Obviously the strength is Follett as a Playmaker blitzing. Mohammed is the big surprise, he can really cover a lot of ground and has a good nose for the football. I personally disagree that the Linebackers are a strength. Follett is the one for sure strength outside of Zach. I think the Linebackers are overrated for Cal. Bring the youth baby…Charles Johnson, DJ Holt, Mohammed, Eddie Young and watch out for Mychal Hendricks in the next few years!!!

  • STEVE IN CONCORD

    Jan-
    Is Kay the placekicker now. If so, why didn’t Schneider try to come back? He certainly would have qualified for another year given he never played a down in 2007. He really improved in his junior year and it looked like he had a chance for a shot at the NFL if he had a good senior year. I guess kickers usually don’t get drafted anyway. I wonder if he is working out for any NFL teams.

  • Jan K. Oski

    Hey Steve,

    J.O. has said before that Schneider did petition, but it is unlikely that he will receive another year this late in the game. The whole process looks to be completely illogical, so don’t get your hopes up.

    I don’t know for sure, while J.O. does have the spring depth chart, but my bet is that Kay is the #1 placekicker due to experience. However, the job has to be up for grabs like almost every other position. As you may have read Seawright has a powerful foot and respectable control, so it should be an interesting spring and summer… I’ll leave the last sentence of your post for J.O., because I don’t know. Historically, I thought Doug Brien and Ryan Longwell were drafted in late rounds by the 49ers and Packers, respectfully. I’d think Schneider probable won’t be drafted due to his injury.

  • Jonathan Okanes

    Steve, Schneider petitioned but it was never really likely he’d get an extra year granted. As of a few weeks ago, Cal hadn’t heard an official ruling, but the Bears are moving on as though Schneider is gone. Joe Robles is the only other kicker in camp this spring, but Cal is expecting David Seawright to join the team as a walk-on in the fall. There is some speculation that Seawright could assume kickoff duties right away, but as far as placekicking goes, it appears it’s Kay’s job. JC transfers are eligible for redshirt years. Current linebacker Devin Bishop redshirted last year after transferring from CCSF.

  • MemorialSectionHH

    JO – I agree with the 3-4 based on the LB talent, but I’d be concerned that the shift in base defense might limit the Gregory’s ability to mix up/get the most out of his overall defense.

    No knock on Gregory (I remember how great his 2004 defense performed), but has he coached a 3-4 defense before? (outside of the air force game?)

  • Tyler

    JO,

    Is Cal still interested in De La Salle LB Brady Amack? Last I heard he was still uncommitted.

    Seawright was a big name in San Diego this last season so I wouldn’t be surprised if he were to make a big impact soon. (Jamaar Jarrett was also a big name; it’s a shame the Bears were not able to land him.)

  • Big D

    I thought I read that Brady Amack committed to Air Force Acadamy…

  • AC

    JO, what is the status of redshirt sophomore (and JC transfer) Charles Johnson? Where does he figure on the depth chart?