Shaq Thompson, Washington nickelback
The No. 1 safety in the country, Shaq Thompson was all set to follow in his older brother Syd’Quan’s footsteps and anchor the Cal secondary for four years. That all changed when Tosh Lupoi bolted from Berkeley to Seattle, the morning after he was at Thompson’s house. Thompson re-opened his recruiting the next day and, two weeks later, committed to Washington. He has started every game this season for a much-improved Husky defense, proving his worth with 45 tackles to go along with a sack and an interception.
Arik Armstead, Oregon defensive end
Arik Armstead was supposed to be to Cal’s defensive line what Shaq Thompson would be to the secondary. Instead, he has helped shore up the defensive line for Oregon, registering 19 tackles in eight games. The 6-foot-8 specimen was sold on Chip Kelly following Lupoi’s untimely exit from the Cal program.
Ellis McCarthy, UCLA defensive tackle
Ellis McCarthy was the first defect following Lupoi’s departure from Cal. The five-star recruit decommitted the day Lupoi split for Washington. Now at UCLA, McCarthy has only logged eight tackles and a single sack in six games, but at 6-foot-5, 330 pounds, the defensive tackle has the potential to be a future star.
Aziz Shittu, Stanford defensive end
Cardinal defensive end Aziz Shittu originally committed to Stanford in May 2011 but backed out shortly after. Cal was the frontrunner for the five-star recruit from Atwater, Calif., right until Lupoi left. That led Shittu back to the Farm. He surely would have been on the field for the Bears given their banged-up defensive line. Instead, Shittu has yet to play for Stanford, looking as if he will redshirt.
Jordan Payton, UCLA wide receiver
First, Jordan Payton was going to be a Trojan. Then, he committed to Cal. When Lupoi and Eric Kiesau left for Washington, Payton decided to follow them. Now he is on UCLA. Yet, the No. 15 wide receiver prospect in the country has not lived up to his billing thus far. Despite playing in seven, Payton has only caught seven passes for 72 yards and has yet to reach the end zone.
Chris Harper, Cal wide receiver
Who needs Jordan Payton? Chris Harper, a three-star recruit from Encino, Calif., originally signed with Southern Methodist because his dream school, Cal, already had offers out to more than enough receivers. When two of those receivers decommitted, Cal offered Harper a scholarship, and he immediately accepted. All Harper has done as a Bear is catch 29 passes for 380 yards, both second on the team. Harper and fellow freshman Bryce Treggs look to be the foundation of a potent receiving corps for years to come. And with an injured Keenan Allen out Friday and maybe for the season, the Bryce-Harper era starts now.
Zach Kline, Cal quarterback
Zach Kline stayed true to his word. The No. 2 quarterback prospect did not renege on his promise to play for the Bears. The California Football Player of the Year at San Ramon Valley High School, Kline enrolled at Cal early and is redshirting this season. The expected starter next season and the three after that, Kline is considered the future of the program.
Jonathan Kuperberg covers football. Contact him at [email protected]