It says a lot about Cal’s troubles in the defensive secondary that a player who missed half of last season due to injury and now is playing a new position is the unit’s key man.
Junior Stefan McClure, who played five games last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury, has been shifted from cornerback to safety in a position group with lots of moving parts.
Whether the Bears can afford to keep McClure there depends on how others develop at corner.
“I like the depth on our football team,” coach Sonny Dykes said Wednesday during Pac-12 media day at Paramount Studios. “But the secondary is still one part of our team that we still don’t have as many bodies that are ready to play as we need to.”
McClure had sufficiently recovered from surgery to repair a torn meniscus that he was able to participate in spring ball. That allowed him to learn a new system under first-year defensive coordinator Art Kaufman and new defensive backs coach Greg Burns.
It also enabled the staff to move McClure from corner to safety, where he will team with Avery Sebastian (returning from an Achilles tendon tear) to form what they believe will be solid tandem in the back line of their defense.
“I’m very comfortable with it. I actually like it,” said McClure, who said he played some safety as a high school senior, but was recruited to Cal as a corner. “I look forward to playing safety, to being in the middle of the defense, being able to communicate, being an extra person who knows the whole defense inside and out.”
Dykes also has confidence in McClure.
“He’s been a really solid player for us,” Dykes said. “He’s very consistent in his approach and the way he handles being a student, being an athlete. He’s a hard worker. He’s versatile.”
Whether the Bears can keep McClure at safey depends on the development of their young corners.
Sophomore Cameron Walker, forced to play Sebastian’s strong safety spot much of last season, will be returned to his natural position. Darius Allensworth, sidelined by injury as a freshman last fall, also is healthy.
And junior college transfer Darius White has provided encouraging glimpses this summer.
“Darius White is a guy that we think can make a difference,” Dykes said. “Just what we’ve seen this summer, he’s very athletic, very skilled. But you never know how he’s going to make that transition from junior college to the Pac-12.”
McClure likes what he’s seen.
“He’s fast, he’s in and out of his breaks quick,” McClure said. “He’s looking real good.”