Wednesday, February 03, 2010

SF Chronicle: A-list players could upgrade 'D'


Cal fans, weary of watching Washington and Utah players prance into the end zone in the final two games last season, might find solace in this: The Bears landed several potentially dynamic defensive players in their 2010 recruiting class, which they will announce today. The Bears are expected to sign one of the top linebacker groups in the country, highlighted by Chris Martin, who went to Bishop O'Dowd-Oakland before spending his senior season at Grandview High in Aurora, Colo. Martin counts as the most decorated of Cal's 17 recruits, though he could have company.

Gabe King, a highly regarded defensive end from Eugene, Ore., is "99.9 percent" certain to sign with Cal today, according to one source. If Keenan Allen joins King - Allen, the No. 1-ranked safety in the country, apparently is considering Cal after earlier committing to Alabama - then the Bears' class would rise into another realm.  "That would be huge," said Brandon Huffman, West regional manager for "Then it may be one of the best defensive classes in the country, outside of Florida."

King and Allen would lift the Bears into the top 20 nationally. It's an annual exercise in guesswork, of course, but ranks Cal's class at No. 22 in the country. puts the Bears at No. 23 and has them at No. 38.  Part of the ranking is a function of how many scholarships schools have to offer, and Cal will have a smaller class than usual. But the linebackers on their way to Berkeley - namely, Martin, Cecil Whiteside of Newport Beach (Orange County) and David Wilkerson of Monte Vista-Danville - should give the Bears a needed boost.

They struggled to replace pass-rushing linebacker Zack Follett last season, and that's a role Martin could fill quickly. ranked him as the No. 1 prep linebacker in the nation.  "I would expect him to make an immediate impact at any school," Huffman said. "He's been college-ready for two years."

Martin and Whiteside are projected as outside linebackers. Wilkerson is pegged to play inside.  Cal also nabbed a coveted running back in Trajuan Briggs, who originally seemed headed for USC. Briggs had a big junior season at Birmingham High in Lake Balboa (Los Angeles County), then missed most of his senior season because of a foot injury. He enrolled at Cal this semester and will participate in spring practice.  Other notable players expected to sign with the Bears today include quarterback Austin Hinder of Steamboat Springs, Colo., and offensive tackle Alex Crosthwaite of San Diego.

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