HELPED HIS CAUSE: Cecil Whiteside. The freshman from Newport Beach was supposed to be making this kind of impact last fall, but he didn’t become academically qualified in time to enroll for the fall semester and ended up gray-shirting. Whiteside is now in the fold and it didn’t take long for him to make an impression. Simply put, Whiteside was one of the most impressive Cal players this spring. He’s already listed on the two-deep behind Ryan Davis at outside linebacker and it wouldn’t be surprising if he is starting at some point in 2011. It’s easy to see why Whiteside was considered one of the top outside linebacker recruits in the nation in 2010.
WORK TO DO: Robert Mullins. Mullins was a fixture on the two-deep last year, mostly as Mike Mohamed’s backup inside. Mullins started the Nevada game when Mohamed was injured. But with some of Cal’s younger linebackers emerging, Mullins is going to have to work hard to stay in the rotation. In the post-spring depth chart released today, Nick Forbes and Steven Fanua are listed as the backup inside linebackers. And with the starting combination of Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt, snaps could be hard to find inside anyway.
WHERE WE STAND: You can easily make the argument that this is the most talented and deep position on the team. Kendricks and Holt should form one of the top inside linebacker tandems in the Pac-12 this season. Dave Wilkerson, meanwhile, has tremendous potential as a rush linebacker and it was on display early in the spring before a groin injury set him back. There are still high hopes for outside linebacker Ryan Davis, who is a senior now and finally looks like will get a chance to produce. With Whiteside, Forbes and Chris McCain looking at backup roles, this is a potentially explosive, playmaking, deep unit.
MOVING FORWARD: It will not be easy to replace Mohamed, who not only was good enough to be a sixth-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos but was arguably the smartest player on the defense and was the glue of the unit. Holt, who played alongside Mohamed last season, should become that guy. Kendricks is one of the most athletic linebackers in the conference and could be ready to earn some postseason honors. The Bears see a lot of Zack Follett in Wilkerson. Davis should be pushed by Whiteside in fall camp.