Position Preview: Linebackers

The Year That Was

New defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast brought some aggression to the Cal defense, and it resulted in a team that produced the second-most sacks in the Pac-10, up from fourth a year prior. (The Bears’ 34 sacks was behind only Stanford’s 36, and the Cardinal played an extra game.)

The most noted beneficiary in the corps was likely Mychal Kendricks, who blossomed into one of Cal’s best pass rushers. After posting two career sacks, he was second in the  Pac-10 as a junior with 8.5 in 2010. Fourth in the conference with 14.5 tackles for loss, Kendricks was a 6-foot, 240-pound blur from the outside that hammered opposing offenses. Just ask UCLA running back Derrick Coleman.

The inside was also rock solid, with Mike Mohamed and D.J. Holt making 96 and 85 tackles to rank fourth and 11th in the Pac-10, respectively.

Key Changes

Mohamed, who was the conference’s leading tackler in 2009, is Cal’s only major loss. The senior inside linebacker was taken in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos, and the Bears will miss him for both his heady play and leadership. He’ll also forever be remembered for this play.

Keep an Eye

Even with Mohamed gone, Pendergast should have some new toys to play with in last year’s crop of new linebackers. David Wilkerson received the most praise from head coach Jeff Tedford during last year’s fall camp, and recorded a tackle in his first two games before suffering a concussion and taking a medical redshirt. Nick Forbes, who saw action in two games last fall, Chris McCain and Cecil Whiteside were all highly touted recruits that have yet to prove themselves on the field.

Outlook

D.J. Holt and Kendricks both return to anchor a linebacking corps that should help keep Cal in most of their games. Holt did an admirable job when Mohamed sat out with injury early in the season, and should return on the inside. Expect Wilkerson to start on the outside, with the possibility of being paired with McCain or Whiteside, who had a very strong spring; Kendricks has the versatility and athleticism to move inside if required.

When it’s all said and done, Cal could have one of the deepest and most talented units in the conference.