If you have checked out the post-spring depth chart, which I'm sure a lot of you have, you'll see players starting at DB who you generally thought were going to start.
Avery Sebastian clearly earned his starting role last year, and was one of the bright spots on a poor secondary unit. To be honest, I think the sky is the limit with Sebastian, and I even have him slotted as a potential Thorpe candidate if he happens to have a breakout year this year. Backing up Sebastian is Damariay Drew, a class of 2012 recruit who I think has big upside because of his sheer athleticism.
A couple more hits like this and Sebastian could build quite a reputation for himself. Although he got flagged for one of these, I think NFL scouts are drooling. Although size is a detriment for him, he does possess the speed, physicality, and tackling ability to be a viable NFL guy. He reminds me a lot of Cody Grimm from VT. He was an undersized safety walk on who eventually became a 3rd team all American, and has seen significant playing time with the Bucs.
Alex Logan slotted over Michael Lowe is a bit of a surprise. Lowe played decently last year, had a few interceptions, but had his fair share of blown coverages/tackles. However, Logan was not as good I thought; we all remember Braxton Miller making us look stupid against Ohio State.
Although I like Logan's size as a tackler, I don't know if he possesses the speed to cover/tackle in open field the speedy players in the pac-12 as a free safety. Regardless, the new coaching staff must have seen something they liked in him that gave him the starting job.
At the corner positions, we see the starters that we thought would be starting. Stefan McClure I still think is a beast, and if he's 100% after last year's knee injury, I think he could be primed for a breakout season. He played really well as a true freshmen I thought, despite being burned a couple time against USC (that's a forgivable offense though).
Kameron Jackson is the other slotted corner. I think Jackson is a player who has tremendous potential but is still developing. His 3 interception game against UCLA was great last year, albeit a lot of those throws were either severely off mark or there was a miscommunication between the quarterback and receiver.
Now this year's recruiting class was admittedly a bit thin at the defensive back position. If you remember, Dykes and co. were struggling during the final weeks of the recruiting season to pick up another DB.
However, I do believe that Cameron Walker, our highest regarded DB recruit-and a cornerback, could potentially see a lot of time as a true freshmen. I wouldn't say that he will eventually be pegged in to be a starter, but I could see him working his way into a number 2 spot for one of or both of the corner positions.
I've said it since recruiting season, Walker is an athletic freak with amazing body control. His hand eye coordination is exceptional, allowing him to scoop up erratic bouncing fumbles and snag interceptions at awkward angles.
Having a true freshmen such as Walker is vital to maintaining the DB depth integrity. If McClure is not ready to go because his knee, or if Jackson receives an injury during the course of season, I believe Walker could serve as a more than viable backup. To be honest, I would be surprised if Walker was not a full fledged starter by the start of his second season at Cal. I would also be very surprised if Dykes had him redshirt next year, given our lack of experience at the DB position.
Trey Cheek is our other defensive back recruit. Although seemingly the same size as Walker at 5'10, 175, Trey Cheek is an entirely different player. Whereas Walker possessed lots of lateral quickness, leaping ability, and great hand eye coordination, Trey Cheek has great straight line speed and is a ferocious tackler. He could probably line up at safety and do well in run game support if he added a few pounds. He is a much more physical player, and looks to intimidate his cover assignment through extremely aggressive play.
Although I believe Cheek could develop into a very good corner, I don't know if he's ready to play right away like Walker, especially at cornerback. I think Cheeks would make an excellent special teams option, particularly at punt team gunner, and kickoff coverage. Both of these positions would allow him to utilize his speed and aggressive mentality to make an impact on the game, while all the while giving him real in game experience. I would like to see Cheek not redshirted, as I believe he can have an impact right away, but I would not be surprised if he was.
Darius Allensworth is another guy that could make a potential impact. He was recruited as an athlete, so there's really no telling which side of the ball he could end up on once we get into Fall camp. My bets on defense though. Allensworth is a strong all around athlete. He's not exceptional at any one thing, but is instead good at everything; a very well rounded player. A football coach I once had said the best compliment you can give a football player is that he's just that, a player; you can line him up at any position and he'll still be able to compete. Allensworth strikes me as a player of that nature. Although I expect to see him thrown into the corner rotation eventually, I do think he would also be a great addition to any special teams unit, and could also fill vacancies on the offensive side of the ball if need be.
These are just some of my thoughts. There are also several other notables DBs who are not part of the 2013 class, and who will potentially see the field this year. Damariay Drew has been impressive, Cedric Dozier, and Isaac Lapite have also played decently well. These guys will all likely see the field in one form of another; probably a lot of them will be on special teams.