One of the interesting things to look at when the Cal football roster is released (you can scroll through it by clicking here) is where we slot the incoming freshmen and junior college players. Unsurprisingly, every athlete available to us this time around has ended up a defensive back of some sort.
Incoming 2015 recruiting class
Jaylinn Hawkins, cornerback: The most likely of our athletes to see time this year, Hawkins is starting his Cal career as a cornerback. Plenty of good reason for Hawkins to start there. There's a lot of opportunity at cornerback, where you could literally grab two names from a hat and be just as likely as any official beat writer to know who the two starting Cal corners will be this season.
As for the other side of the ball, it would have been tough for Jaylinn to get onto the field this season. Hawkins might want to switch to wide receiver when there's more opportunity available, but this is a bad year to try and crack that two deep.
Russell Ude, defensive tackle: Here's a bit of a surprise: Ude is starting out at defensive tackle. I thought it'd be more in the air with such uncertainty surrounding the defensive end spots--I don't have a clue as to who our starters will be at this point..
But perhaps they see Russell's future in clogging up the interior and they feel comfortable with the hodge podge of Kyle Kragen, Puka Lopa and company that they'll be throwing out on that side this fall. Ude is still the smallest scholarship defensive tackle at 260 pounds (fellow frosh Luc Bequette is coming in at 280, which is about the size of James Looney). Unless he's needed outside, this could be a redshirt season to develop him into a three technique.
Zeandae Johnson & Cameron Saffle, defensive end: Johnson is not a huge surprise since he played both tight end and defensive end in college, and it's clear where the needs are. Saffle is a slight surprise, but linebackers are not a big issue for the Bears; they have a rotation of six which they are fairly confident in relying on. Defensive end is a bigger problem. Johnson and Saffle are already coming in around the standard 240-250 pounds, where most of our Cal defensive end depth chart is weighing.
Billy McCrary, Evan Rambo, & Trey Turner, safeties: So many safeties. It's not enough. Can we just give every one of our backup offensive players and walk-ons a chance to play safety? It's like when a TV show runs out of idea after the sixth season, so everyone gets a turn to be chief detective or head doctor or teaching Defense against the Dark Arts.
Dominic Granado, offensive lineman & longsnapper: Granado is a potential candidate to be one of our offensive tackles, but he's also competing to be our starting longsnapper.
A.J. Greathouse, safety: Greathouse was originally recruited as a cornerback but has moved toward the wide open safety competition that's opened up to pretty much everyone. It's going to be a free for all for that two deep at safety.
Luke Rubenzer, quarterback & safety: Sonny was pretty firm in saying Rubenzer will be a safety first and foremost. I expect him to stay on the defensive side of the football this season with Chase Forrest primarily locked in as the number two quarterback.
Maximo Espitia, linebacker: He's back on the roster after not really playing much last season due to suspension and recovery from said suspension.
Redshirt players from last year: Quarterback Chase Forrest, defensive end Kennedy Emesibe, wide receiver Erik Brown, offensive linemen Dominic Granado and Michael Trani. I believe the rest of the freshmen from last year's class saw playing time.