WHAT WE KNOW: That this is the deepest position on the team. It starts in the middle, where Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt form an experienced, formidable tandem. Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will be counting on the duo to anchor the unit this season. The Bears are especially deep on the outside, where senior Ryan Davis and redshirt freshman Dave Wilkerson begin training camp getting the first reps. But will they stay there? Freshman Cecil Whiteside had a strong spring and has loads of potential, and he could give Davis a run on the strong side. Fellow freshman Chris McCain also impressed during the spring before getting injured. Sophomore Nick Forbes got some first team reps during the spring when Kendricks suffered a concussion. He obviously won’t supplant either guy in the middle but could work himself into the rotation with a strong camp.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW: Just how good are the young players. If you believe recruiting rankings, the Bears have a slew of good, young linebackers. And based on what Whiteside and McCain displayed in the spring, those ratings could be right on. But that’s just one spring. How will Whiteside and McCain do as camp goes along and the defense continues to get installed? Don’t forget that the offense was going through some growing pains in the spring, searching for a new quarterback and playing with two key offensive linemen out (tackle Mitchell Schwartz and center Dominic Galas). The offense still has questions but could give the defense a little more run for its money in training camp. In addition to Whiteside and McCain, what about heralded incoming freshman Jason Gibson? Jeff Tedford has said that just about every player in his 2011 recruiting class is capable of competing for playing time right away. Gibson’s early development will be important to watch as well.
IN SUMMATION: Simply put, this could be the most dominant position on the team. Kendricks can use camp to get back into the swing of things playing in the middle after playing on the outside last season (he rotated between the middle and outside in 2009). That will help Holt get accustomed to playing along side him as well. The potential explosiveness of the outside linebackers could work perfectly in Pendergast’s attacking schemes. Cal’s offense should have its hands full during team drills this fall.