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April 4, 2012

Young defenders making noise on Tuesday

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BERKELEY -- With so many veteran leaders departing the California football program after last season -- Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Mychal Kendricks, starting defensive ends Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu, and senior linebackers Ryan Davis and D.J. Holt -- one of the primary tasks for Jeff Tedford's staff this spring has been to find able replacements.

So far, the past two recruiting classes are proving to be as good as advertised.

There are, of course, the known quantities. Mustafa Jalil emerged as a force last year as a true freshman, while fellow 2011 defensive lineman Viliami Moala also saw significant time. Both Cecil Whiteside and Chris McCain also made their fair share of big plays. This spring, some of their classmates are catching up.

Redshirt freshman defensive back Kameron Jackson, for one, has been keeping starting quarterback Zach Maynard up at night.

"Kameron Jackson has been doing a good job. He's a young guy, really stepping up for the defense in nickel and as far as a DB all-around," Maynard said. "He's doing a really good job. He's real quick to the ball, so I'm sure he's going to do a lot this year."

Tedford also cited several other youngsters as standouts after the Bears returned to practice on Tuesday, following spring recess.

"I'm really pleased with the D-line," Tedford said. The D-line is playing really well ... Some of the young linebackers -- Jason Gibson had a good day today. Avery Sebastian is finally healthy. He's been hampered a little bit with a hamstring, but he's moving around well, now, and making plays, so that's nice to see."

With last year's starting pair of inside linebackers -- Kendricks and Holt -- gone, Cal has played musical chairs to find their replacements, but some favorites have emerged, including junior David Wilkerson, who saw action in 10 games last season, starting three, recording 17 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks.

"It's a group in there, right now," Tedford said. "Some guys who have stood out so far would be Nick Forbes, Gibson's in there -- he's doing a nice job -- and we moved Wilkerson back inside, but Wilkerson's been hurt and hasn't really been here, much. Just odds and ends. Nothing serious, but just not here, so it would be nice to get him back in there. Hopefully, he's back soon. It's just one thing or another. Whether he's sick or so on and so forth, nothing major. I expect that he'll be back on Thursday."

The Bears practiced in shells on Tuesday, and will go in full pads on both Thursday and Saturday. Saturday's practice will be open to the media in its entirety.

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