Thursday, March 22, 2012
Biggest shoes to fill: California
By Ted Miller
Starters in, starters out. That's college football. Players' eligibility expires and they leave for the rest of their lives, whether that includes the NFL or not.
And they leave behind shoes of various sizes that need to be filled.
Our concern with this series? The biggest shoes -- in some cases Shaq-like size 23s.
Big shoes: Linebacker Mychal Kendricks
The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Kendricks piled up 258 career tackles, including a team-high 107 his senior season. His 14.5 tackles for a loss were tied for second in the conference. He also had three sacks, two interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries. But it's not just a production void: Kendricks was the centerpiece of the Bears 3-4 defense. He had 25 more tackles than anyone else on the team. He knew the scheme and he knew where everyone was supposed to line up.
Stepping in: J.P, Hurrell, Robert Mullins, Dave Wilkerson, Nick Forbes, Jason Gibson, Steven Fanua
Considering both inside linebackers -- Kendricks and the solid D.J. Holt -- need to be replaced, it's difficult to handicap this one exclusively for Kendricks. Mullins and Hurrell, both juniors, were the backups inside last year, with Hurrell listed behind Kendricks. Wilkerson started three games on the outside, and the sophomore is an intriguing talent who may be more natural inside. But he needs to stay healthy. Forbes, a sophomore, and Gibson, a redshirt freshman, are talented youngsters who could be poised to break through. It's possible that there might be a rotation of three or four guys here getting regular playing time early in the season.
The rest of the "Big Shoes" series can be found here.