So what's been in the works for a bit is now official:
A couple weeks ago, the fine gentlemen at GoldenBearReport aka Cal Rivals dropped some hot information:
...making it possible for this post to be prepped in advance, so thanks again to Grant, Marc, and John for their hard work.
First, a quick rundown of the situation: the 6'3, 220 pound Kearney should step right in to add a little more depth, but how much he might play this fall is still a little unclear. For starters, he'll be looking for playing time in a position group that already has an assumed first string in place with Hardy Nickerson, Michael Barton, and Jalen Jefferson. Then behind those three are a couple guys who broke out in spring with Ray Davison and Maximo Espitia, plus the hopefully returning Nathan Broussard and the freshmen arriving in fall. Certainly the opportunity to compete will be there, but the competition looks quite fierce.
Still, a nice surprise to have, especially when he comes with a little more seasoning and experience than the usual. Welcome Jake, and Go Bears!
A few last things, before we move on:
- I would speculate that the staff's focus on continuing to add bodies at this time -- Chris Palmer, James Looney, and now Kearney -- is indicative of an understandable discomfort with the roster situation, but also of their willingness to pull from overlooked pools of talent. This could come in handy down the line. Plus, it's not like they didn't have the schollies available, given all the departures.
This also signals what we could say is a clear pipeline into College of San Mateo, as Kearney becomes the fourth player to make the Bulldog-to-Bear transition. He'll join safety/linebacker Sam Atoe and defensive tackle Trevor Kelly who signed for Berkeley this year, and Sione Sina last year.
- Being a true freshman last year at CSM, I believe that makes Kearney eligible with four to play three years at Cal, although I could be wrong.
- Kearney also has no rankings of note anywhere. So we'll just go ahead and get to...
In today's game, when players are asked to cover in space more than ever, a play like the first one here from Kearney is, at the very least, promising. Here, you'll see Kearney responsible for the slot receiver running the 10-yard dig, and even though the guy gets a little separation, our new linebacker still is able to undercut the route for the interception, with a bit of last second burst. I actually thought the ball was underthrown at first, but the second angle makes it more clear that Kearney -- with a reported 4.6 40 time -- forced the interception.
It's true that he doesn't look all that fast at first, and then you see him make plays like at 1:05, on the read-option. Those are the kinds of moments that make you think, hey, maybe he is quick enough, in spurts. And maybe that's enough. Hey, when you are being read off for the read-option, then still make the play on the quarterback, it's hard not to be impressed.
Now, last season's defense was filled with guys who, whether by poor gameplanning or poor instinct, were almost always caught off-guard and out of position, but as far as Kearney goes, this highlight reel at least shows off some things to like in terms of his recognition.
At 0:46, you'll see Kearney on the edge in what I believe is a Bear front, and at the snap, Kearney is unblocked by the offense's play design. It would be very, very easy for him to play himself out of position here -- he could easily overrun it, he could rush too aggressively and lose his edge contain...but instead, you'll see him shuffle down to make sure of where the ball is before attacking. This serves him well, because the running back doesn't have the ball. It's an end-around.
The result is a loss, and a solid hit, mind you.
Further evidence of his recognition: he's optioned off a couple times in the video but always seems to play it well and with discipline, staying in his gap and keeping contain [2:30]. When he's tested in the screen game at 2:06, he's patient, waits for it to develop, then blows it up.
With what's shown here and his pretty solid quickness, my guess is that Kearney projects more for the WILL linebacker spot than the SAM -- there isn't much evidence of him as a pass-rusher, and I think even at his reported 220 pounds, he's a bit small to play the SAM and hold his own against those bigger tight-end type guys. Wouldn't surprise me to see him on special teams this fall, either.