The California Golden Bears suffered a rash of injuries last year that ultimately crippled their defense well beyond the point of return. If some of the players can return from injury this season, they could make up for the losses of last year in a big way.
Four defensive starters from 2012 will definitely be players to watch out for a potential return during the spring. Some are in better shape to return than others.
Defensive end Brennan Scarlett. Scarlett had some weird hand infection thing that just did not heal in time for the season and kept him out for the entirety of 2013. Sonny Dykes announced in his press conference that Scarlett has been fully cleared to practice and should be ready for spring ball.
He immediately becomes Cal's best defensive end by default and would have two years of eligibilty remaining.
Safety Avery Sebastian: Sebastian appears to be another Bear who is approaching full health. Sebastian tore his Achilles opening game and redshirted 2013, but it looks like he'll be joining Scarlett for spring practice if he stays on schedule. Sebastian should have two years of eligibility remaining.
If Sebastian returns to full health, he will probably join Michael Lowe at safety in the starting lineup, allowing Cameron Walker to slate back to his natural cornerback position.
Cornerback Stefan McClure: This is where it gets dicey. McClure is recovering from a second ACL injury that ended his 2013 season after five games. It doesn't look like he'll be cleared for full-contact activity by the time spring practice rolls around and might just be participating in drills. McClure just passed the redshirt line for last season so he probably has two years of eligibility left, although I can't confirm that.
McClure could be moved to safety due to our dire depth issues at the position. He'll be battling with Sebastian, Lowe and Damariay Drew for starting time.
Defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil: Jalil has been out for one season with a knee injury and like several players on this list also missed the entire 2013 season. Jalil seems to be the furthest back and is a bit questionable for spring practice.
Jalil should be eligible for a medical redshirt from last year, so he should have two years of eligibility left if he wants them. Jalil would probably immediately find himself back in a starting role along with Jacobi Hunter, with the two JUCO defensive tackles Trevor Kelly and David Davis backing them up.
Linebacker Nathan Broussard: I sometimes forget about Broussard because it seems like he's never seen the field, but we could sure use him to shore up linebacker depth. Unfortunately he's still not 100% and will be "limited" in spring practice.
Linebacker Hardy Nickerson: Nickerson was lost in the final weeks of the season, and he's still in a walking boot. He will be very limited for spring ball.
Defensive end Sione Sina: Sina redshirted due to injury last season. But he's all set to go for spring ball. He is an immediate contender to start this year.
Cornerback Trey Cheek: Cheek collided with a teammate in early November, but should be ready to go in the spring.
Sonny believes all of these players are expected to be ready by fall camp.
Thanks to @CalRivals & @RGBearTerritory for the updates.
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