Football: Brother of 49ers lineman joins Bears; defensive tackle seeks immediate eligibility

Cal has signed the brother of 49ers guard Joe Looney to a financial aid agreement, becoming the 24th member of the 2014 recruiting class.

James Looney, transferring from Wake Forest, has filed an appeal for immediate eligibility with the Bears.

A 6-foot-3, 275-pound defensive tackle from Lake Forest, Florida, Looney played in six games as a true freshman for Wake Forest last season, contributing three tackles and a fumble recovery. He did not start a game.

Looney has four seasons to play three at Cal, but whether he is cleared to participate next fall or must sit out as a transfer has not been determined, a Cal spokesman said. He was projected as a starter for the Demons Deacons before leaving the program at the end of spring practice.

Defensive tackle is perhaps Cal’s biggest position of need. Both starters left after last season, and Jacobi Hunter, who played in all 12 games last season as a true freshman, took a leave from the team late in spring ball to attend to personal matters. His status is still up in the air.

Also uncertain is redshirt junior Mustafa Jalil, a former four-star recruit, who missed all of last season and spring ball due to a knee injury.

“We are excited that James is joining the Cal football program,” coach Sonny Dykes said in a statement. “It is critical that we continue to recruit and develop players in the trenches to improve on both sides of the ball.

“James will help us do that on the defensive line and is also an excellent student that will fit into our program nicely both on the field and off.”

Looney, who turns 19 on Thursday, is the younger sibling of Joe Looney, who was a fourth-round draft pick out of Wake Forest by the 49ers in 2012.

James Looney was a four-year starter at Lake Worth High School in Florida and an Associated Press Class 7A all-state performer as a senior in the fall of 2012. He was a consensus three-star (out of five) prospect in high school.

Cal’s 2014 recruiting class includes players from California, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Washington.


Football: Kam Jackson signing with Colts

In case you missed it, undrafted former Cal cornerback Kameron Jackson agreed to terms with the Indianpolis Colts as a free agent, the team reported.

Jackson becomes the fourth player from Cal’s 1-11 team of 2013 to join an NFL roster.

Tight end Richard Rodgers and linebacker Khairi Fortt were drafted by Green Bay and New Orleans, respectively, and defensive tackle Deandre Coleman signed as a free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jackson played three seasons at Cal, enjoying a highlight performance with three interceptions against UCLA as a sophomore in 2012.



Football: Saints take Fortt in fourth round


Khairi Fortt’s trek to the NFL isn’t what he ever imagined.

The Cal linebacker was the first Bay Area player chosen Saturday, taken in the fourth round by the New Orleans Saints with the 126th overall pick.

How he got there was often a rough road. The Stamford, Connecticut native began his college career at Penn State, but sought a new environment two years ago after the Jerry Sandusky scandal rocked the Nittany Lions’ program.

He landed in Berkeley, then endured a 1-11 season last fall — Cal’s worst ever.

“Life doesn’t go as planned,” he said after being picked by the Saints. “I felt like you’re always going to have adversity. I learned from every second I was at Penn State and at Cal.

“Now that I’ve made it here, I feel like all those experiences have helped me be the man I am today. I always had trust, faith in God that he’d put me somewhere.”

Fortt was the second Cal player chosen in the draft, following tight end Richard Rodgers, who was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the third round on Friday.

Cal defensive tackle Deandre Coleman expected to be a late-round pick, was not drafted, but signed a free-agent contract late Saturday night with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Fortt said he’d hoped to be picked earlier, but when the Saints called he was excited.

“Right now, I can’t be happier,” he said. “I finally got picked and I just can’t wait to get down to Louisiana to start working out with the team.”

After sitting out the 2012 campaign as a Cal transfer, the 6-foot-2, 240-pounder had a solid junior season with 64 tackles. He reportedly improved his stock with a strong showing at the NFL combine camp.

Fortt will join former Cal star Cameron Jordan, a standout defensive end, when he arrives in New Orleans. Turns out, Jordan was Fortt’s player host when he visited the Berkeley campus as a high school senior.

“It’s going to be great. You have guys there that are experienced, that I can learn from,” he said. “Having another Cal player there in Cam Jordan … it’s going to play for a great defense and great coaches.

“I’m at a loss for words right now.”

Fortt said he’s willing to do whatever the Saints coaching staff needs from him, including playing on special teams.

“It’s your job. You’re not going to say no. You do what’s expected of you,” Fortt said. “I’m going to fit in where they want me to fit.”

Fortt leaves Cal just three classes shy of his degree in American Studies. His mother has degrees from Georgetown and Columbia and is an teacher, so not completing his academic work is not an option.

“You would be naive to think football is a career,” he said. “I could be done in three years, five years, six years. That’s a good term, but it’s not the rest of your life.

“I know a Berkeley degree can take me a long way.”


Football: It’s Rodgers to Rodgers in Green Bay

There’s a new connection in Green Bay: (Aaron) Rodgers to (Richard) Rodgers.

The Packers selected tight end Richard Rodgers in the third round of the NFL draft on Friday with the 98th overall pick, third-to-last of the day.

“Another Rodgers from Cal in Green Bay, sweet,”  tweeted the star quarterback (no relation) who also played his college ball in Berkeley.

Rodgers (the tight end) gave up all social media more than a year ago, so he hadn’t heard the enthusiastic welcome from Green Bay’s all-pro quarterback.

“I think that’s fantastic,” Richard Rodgers said. “I can’t wait to get out there and get to work.”

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Football: Damariay Drew arrested, suspended

Cal defensive back Damariay Drew has been suspended indefinitely from the team by the athletic department after a felony arrest this week for allegedly punching a man and kicking his dog.

Drew, a 20-year-old sophomore from Livermore, was arrested by Berkeley police detectives on Thursday on charges of battery with serious bodily injury and inflicting great bodily injury in the commission of a felony.

He was in custody at the Berkeley city jail Friday (on $100,000 bail), according to jail records.

He is scheduled to be arraigned in Oakland court on Monday.

The alleged incident took place Tuesday at 2:50 p.m. in the 2700 block of Bancroft Way, where a victim reported his dog had been kicked and he had been punched several times, according to the Berkeley police report.

The suspect had left by the time police arrived on the scene, the report said. After further investigation, police arrested Drew on Thursday.

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Football: Bears to join NFL draft party late

The NFL draft begins with the first round Thursday, then the second and third rounds on Friday.

On Saturday, when players are selected in the fourth through seventh rounds, Cal will check in.

The first first time since 2006, the Golden Bears are not expected to have a player selected in the first three rounds of the draft. Only twice since 1996 — in ’04 and ’06 — has Cal been shut out of the first three rounds.

Here’s a look at Cal’s draft prospects and when they are projected to be chosen:

BRENDAN BIGELOW, RB: Bigelow’s career was a long tease that rarely produced eye-catching results. The exception was a spectaculr four-carry, 160-yard game with two long touchdowns at Ohio State in 2012. That fueled a sophomore campaign in which Bigelow averaged 9.1 yards per carry on 44 attempts. But he never developed any consistency or gained the confidence of two different coaching staffs. Bigelow averaged 4.0 yards per carry last fall while struggling a bit after the latest in a series of knee surgeries. The 22-year-old Fresno native couldn’t even help himself at Cal’s Pro Day, running a 4.41 hand-timed 40 while struggling with a tweaked hamstring. Projection: Free agent.

DEANDRE COLEMAN, DT: The 6-5, 309-pounder from Seattle had a steady, unspectacular career for the Bears. He had 40 tackles, including nine for losses, as a senior. Coleman totaled 7.5 career sacks. The 23-year-old participated in the postseason Senior Bowl all-star game. Projection: Rounds 5-7.

VINCENZO D’AMATO, PK: Cal has a history of sending kickers to the NFL — Doug Brien, Ryan Longwell, Mick Luckhurst, Ray Wersching — and D’Amato has a chance. He converted 17 of 20 field goals last season, and 40 of 55 for his career. He also made 92 of 96 PAT attempts and scored 212 career points. The 6-1, 250-pounder from Orange County seems likely to get a camp invite. Projection: Free agent.

KHAIRI FORTT, ILB: The 6-2, 240-pounder from Massachusetts had 64 tackles last fall in his only Cal season after transferring from Penn State. The 22-year-old performed well at the NFL combine, boosting his stock after Cal’s poor season. NFL scout Greg Cosell said on KNBR this week he likes what he saw while watching tape of Fortt, calling him a fairly complete linebacker prospect. Projection: Rounds 4-6.

KAM JACKSON, CB: You have to wonder why Jackson, still just 20 years old, decided it was time to turn pro, because it seems unlikely he will be drafted. He hasn’t wowed anyone with his 5-9, 175-pound frame and he had a somewhat ordinary junior season with 42 tackles, six pass breakups and just one interception. Jackson’s big game at Cal was a three-pick performance against UCLA in 2012. Cal could have used him next fall and he might have helped himself by playing another college season. Projection: Free agent.

CHRIS McCAIN, DE/OLB: At 6-6, 250, McCain looks the part. But he was erratic through his career at Cal, partly because he struggled academically. He started 18 games, played in 24 and totaled 90 tackles, including 14.5 for loss and 5.0 sacks. But four games into last season, the 22-year-old from Greensboro, N.C., was dismissed from the team for conduct detrimental to the team. Someone may look at his measureables and decide McCain is worth a try. If that happens, it’ll be up to him. Projection: Free agent.

VILIAMI MOALA, DT: The 6-2, 315-pounder from Sacramento entered the draft after his junior season, during which he started in 11 of 12 games and had a career-high 37 tackles. The 21-year-old played 35 career games for the Bears. Projection: Free agent.

RICHARD RODGERS, TE: Displaced from his natural position last season because the Bears’ offense doesn’t use a tight end, the 6-4, 257-pound Rodgers caught 39 passes for 608 yards as a slot receiver. The 22-year-old somewhat relucantly was briefly used as a power back — an experiment that was unsuccessful and short-lived. NFL scouts apparently have some questions about Rodgers’ blocking skills. Projection: Rounds 6-7.