BERKELEY -- California head coach Sonny Dykes confirmed on Thursday what BearTerritory reported on Tuesday: Linebacker Maximo Espitia is back.
After being suspended for a year at the start of fall camp, Espitia has practiced with the second-team linebacking unit for this past week, and “is going to play on Saturday,” against Washington, Dykes said.
“Max is cleared and ready to go,” Dykes said. “Basically, it was for a year, and then it was going to be based on some conditions for him to get it released, and quite frankly, we didn’t know if it was going to work. He did everything they asked him to do, and then some, so they reduced the suspension.”
Espitia is in “good” shape, and has been conditioning and in the weight room for “a while.”
“The last thing in the world we would do is play him if he wasn’t ready to play,” Dykes said. “He’s been in the weight room for a month, getting in shape. He’s not quite in as good a shape as he needs to be quite yet, and I don’t know how big of a role he’s going to have on Saturday, but he’s going to have a role on special teams, for sure.”
Espitia has been working on both punt coverage and punt blocking teams this week, and continued that work after practice on Thursday.
Dykes said that Espitia’s suspension was not due to legal or academic reasons, and that it is “behind him,” now.
While Espitia will be back in the fold, linebacker Edward Tandy is still on the shelf due to a concussion.
The abused and youthful secondary will get a boost on Saturday, with Avery Sebastian making his return after missing last week.
“Avery will play, he’s been good to go, practiced all week,” Dykes said. “He’s actually looked the best, probably today, that he’s looked maybe since last year.”
Will he start?
“I don’t know yet,” Dykes said. “We’ll see. We’ll kind of see how the meetings go this week, but he’ll play.”
Running back Khalfani Muhammad practiced on Thursday with a cast on his surgically-repaired thumb, and is probable for Saturday, though it’s not tough to imagine that Trevor Davis will serve as the primary kick returner instead of Muhammad this week, with good reason.
“Casted and practiced, and is going to be effective,” Dykes said of Muhammad. “I think you’re kidding yourself if you think him having a cast on his hand isn’t going to affect him, but he’ll learn how to handle it and we’ll work through it.”
Inside receiver Darius Powe looked very effective early this week in practice, and though he was in a red jersey, still went one-on-one with defensive backs in very physical reps. He will be ready to go on Saturday.
“Don’t know how big of a role he’ll have quiet yet, but he’s going to play Saturday,” Dykes said.
While Powe has been out, the preseason favorite to start at Y-receiver -- Stephen Anderson -- has caught 14 balls for 274 yards.
Stefan McClure, on the other hand, “will probably be a game-time deal,” Dykes said.
The junior safety’s injured calf has now kept him out since the Arizona game – three weeks.
“We’re kind of wait-and-see on him,” Dykes said. “It’s lingered longer than I thought it would. You’ve got to be really careful with it. If you bring him back too quickly, you could set him back. We’ll see. It’s all going to depend on how he does over the next 48 hours, 40 hours, whatever it is before we play. We’d like to have him.”