BERKELEY — Funny thing about the 3-4 defense: You might employ it because you have a deep corps of linebackers, but you might not realize just how many linebackers you need.
The Bears have made the switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 to take advantage of a set of linebackers rated among the best in the country. But putting an extra linebacker on the field suddenly means you need more bodies to shore up your depth.
Cal appears to be doing that, and one of the reasons is the presence of freshman Mychal Kendricks, who has had as good a camp as anyone on the team. Coach Jeff Tedford said Kendricks will contribute as a true freshman.
"It would be hard to redshirt Mychal Kendricks," defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said. "He's done a really good job and is making plays. We're going to need him."
The Bears feature two Butkus Award candidates in outside linebacker Zack Follett and inside linebacker Worrell Williams. Senior Anthony Felder potentially could be just as good as his more-publicized teammates but has been slowed by injuries in recent years after being named a freshman All-American in 2005.
Junior Eddie Young appears to have won the outside spot opposite Follett, and Devin Bishop and Mike Mohamed figure to see a lot of playing time, as well.
All that being said, the Bears are eager to see Kendricks make a contribution immediately.
"Even though we have some good linebackers, we probably don't have as much depth there because we've made this switch," Gregory said. "He's a good player. He'll help us."
Kendricks was rated as a top-50 linebacker prospect by multiple recruiting publications coming out of Hoover High School-Fresno. He and nose guard Kendrick Payne are freshmen who should play immediately on defense.
"The depth really didn't matter to me," Kendricks said. "I knew coming into it that there was competition no matter what. You have to compete no matter what the depth is."
Kicking things around
Tedford and the staff were scheduled to hold personnel meetings Wednesday to hammer out a depth chart. The Bears begin game planning for their Aug. 30 season opener against Michigan State today.
That doesn't mean the quarterback position necessarily will be resolved by today. But other position battles could come into clearer focus.
One intriguing battle has been the kicking competition between incumbent Jordan Kay and walk-on freshman David Seawright. It appears Seawright is stating a pretty strong case to win the job.
"Seawright has really risen to the occasion," Tedford said. "He's been very solid. He's really improved since Day 1, with his strength and accuracy."
Tedford said it's "highly doubtful" that projected starting left tackle Mike Tepper will play a significant role against Michigan State. Tepper hasn't practiced as he recovers from pectoral muscle surgery and a hamstring pull. ... Starting right guard Noris Malele sat out Wednesday's practice with a bruised knee.
— Jonathan Okanes