With training camp set to open in less than three weeks, Cal's one-time dream team of an incoming linebacker class is not shaping up to look anything like the star-studded group the Bears signed in February.
Cal's football program was rocked hard Tuesday with the announcement that five-star recruit Chris Martin will transfer without ever taking a snap for the Bears. Martin, the No. 1 outside linebacker prospect in the country according to scout.com, said personal reasons motivated his move out of Berkeley.
Martin, an Oakland native who played at Bishop O'Dowd High before transferring to Grandview High in Aurora, Colo., for his senior year, said in a statement released by the school that he needed to leave the Bay Area to rid himself of "distractions."
"My decision to transfer definitely does not reflect on the football program or the academics at Cal," he said in the statement. "Rather, I feel like for me to focus and truly reach my potential I need to leave many of the distractions I have here at home in the Bay Area. I need to venture away from home and start my college career somewhere else where I don't have those distractions."
Martin declined further comment when reached by phone by Bay Area News Group. He did say he had already committed to another school but refused to reveal his new home. He said he would be on the campus of his new school by the end of the week.
Martin initially orally committed to Notre Dame but changed his mind after the Fighting Irish fired coach Charlie Weis. Ironically, when he ultimately chose Cal, Martin said he did so to be close to home and allow his family to watch him play.
"This is a decision that Chris and his family have made to do what they feel is in the best interest of Chris," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said in a statement. "We wish Chris the best as he pursues his college football career. It is always important for young men to make the correct decisions to be able to reach their full potential. I understand his concern with the continued outside distractions he's facing, and I support Chris and his decision to transfer. I wish him and his family all the best."
Tedford declined any further comment.
Cal released Martin from his scholarship, but he had enrolled in summer classes. His eligibility for the upcoming season is uncertain.
Along with wide receiver/defensive back Keenan Allen, who was widely considered the best defensive back prospect in the nation, Martin was one of the jewels of Cal's 2010 recruiting class that was ranked No. 11 nationally by rivals.com. It was believed Martin had a strong chance to play extensively as a true freshman.
Martin seemed to be one of Cal's more enthusiastic recruits. After he orally committed, he turned into a pseudo-recruiting assistant, trying to convince other top recruits to join him in Berkeley.
Martin was part of a five-player linebacker class that was ranked No. 3 in the country by rivals.com. The Bears now could be without two of those players this season, and arguably the best two. Cecil Whiteside, the No. 4 outside linebacker in the country according to rivals.com, has yet to report for the incoming freshmen's summer activities because of academic eligibility concerns. He may not be eligible in time to play in 2010.
The Bears still have heralded inside linebacker prospects Nick Forbes and David Wilkerson in their freshman class, and each could make a push to play alongside returning All-Pac-10 first team selection Mike Mohamed this season. Both were considered consensus top-10 prospects at middle linebacker.
A fifth incoming linebacker, Chris McCain, is expected to grayshirt, meaning he won't enroll until the spring semester and his athletic eligibility won't begin until the 2011 season. McCain was the 13th-ranked outside linebacker in the country according to rivals.com.