L.A. Combine Preview: Cal Defensive Prospects

The Scout.com/Fox Sports Regional Combine comes to Golden State this weekend with a stop in Los Angeles. Cal has offered over 70 of the top players in the country, and a number of them will be on hand Saturday in L.A. Cal Sports Digest previews the top defensive prospects with Cal offers that will compete this weekend…


DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

California has a verbal commitment from defensive tackle Jay Guy. However, Guy has made it clear that he is still exploring his options and plans to take his official visits. Furthermore, strong side defensive end recruit Cassius Marsh recently decommitted from Cal. His move creates a hole on the Bears' defensive line recruiting board.


Ricky Heimuli
Heimuli Photo
Ricky Heimuli, Salt Lake City (UT) Brighton – The 6-foot-4, 285-pound tackle currently holds 21 offers. He is rated four-stars and the No. 12 defensive tackle in the country, according to Scout.com. Every Pac-10 program has offered Heimuli and he holds offers from every in-state program and others from the Big 10 and SEC. Cal was the fifth Pac-10 school to offer him and his 12th overall.

Finding quality interior lineman at any level is one of the most difficult tasks for coaches. Heimuli possesses the size, strength, and quickness coaches covet in a defensive tackle. Above all, he has the ability to get to the quarterback. In Cal's 3-4 defensive front, Heimuli could play strong side defensive end as well.

He has yet to name any favorites, but he is looking for three factors in his college choice, education, family atmosphere, and coach-team unity. Heimuli is LDS and plans to take his two-year mission after his freshman season and return to finish his eligibility.


Ronald Powell
Photo by Kevin Carden
Ronald Powell, Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde – The 6-foot-4, 250-pound defensive end also holds 20+ offers from some of the best programs in the nation. He is rated 4-stars and the No. 7 defensive end in the country, according to Scout.com. The SEC and Pac-10 dominate his early offer list.

Powell is one of the most versatile recruits in the 2010 class. He scored six touchdowns offensively in 2008, and he can play tight end, wide receiver, and even running back. Defensively, he can step back and play linebacker.

Most schools are recruiting him as an on-the-line defensive end, but he has the speed to be an effective pass rusher from the outside backer spot. In Cal's 3-4, Powell has the ability to play the hybrid spot Zack Follett occupied last season. If he continues to bulk up, he will be most effective at defensive end.

He has named no real favorites but last month declared USC and Florida as two schools that stood out. Prior, he mentioned Cal, LSU, Nebraska, Tennessee, and UCLA as other schools of interest. The two main factors in his recruitment are the coaching staff and academics. He desires a coach that will get him to the next level.

Powell carries a 3.3 GPA, and he focused on finding an institution that will secure his future without depending on football. "I want to be able to not have to depend on football," said Powell. "I want to be able to have a career that I can support my family with."

He has mentioned majoring in criminal justice or broadcast journalism.


George Uko
Photo by Scout.com
George Uko, Chino (Calif.) Don Lugo – The 6-foot-4, 285-pound standout's latest offer came from Cal early last week. It was his ninth offer joining Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado Oklahoma, Oregon, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Washington. He is rated four-stars and the No. 8 defensive tackle in the country, according to Scout.com.

Uko is a "tweener" per se. Most schools are recruiting him to play inside, but he can play – and prefers – to play outside. Despite pushing close to 300 pounds, his stated goal is to get under 270 before his senior year. Therefore, he can improve his quickness and his ability to get to the quarterback. In Cal's 3-4, he fits the mold of an ideal strong side defensive end.

He claims no favorites and remains wide open. Distance and location are not factors in his decision. He plans to go through the recruiting process and take all five of his official visits.


LINEBACKERS

Since the Golden Bears switched to the 3-4 scheme, linebackers are at a premium. Cal has already secured verbal commits from two of the best prep linebackers in the country in Dave Wilkerson and Cecil Whiteside. Wilkerson is an inside backer, but Whiteside has the ability to play all four spots. He is being recruited to play the hybrid weak side linebacker spot.


Victor Burnett
Photo by Scout.com
Victor Burnett, Culver City (Calif.) – The 6-foot, 225-pound linebacker is rated three-stars and the No. 17 middle linebacker in the country, according to Scout.com. Cal was the eighth school to offer him. He is up to nine offers now after receiving his latest from Okalahoma earlier this week.

He is an extremely versatile linebacker. Culver City uses the 3-4 scheme and uses Burnett inside and outside depending on defensive packages. He is a penetrating linebacker from the inside. As well, he has the ability to drop back into coverage and stay with receivers. As Cal fans saw last season, linebacker Mike Mohamed played all four spots, Burnett is definitely in the same mold.

Burnett has claimed no favorites, but he said earlier this week that the Sooner offer has pushed them high atop his list. Prior, he listed Arizona, UCLA, Oregon, USC, Cal and Arizona State as his top schools.


Josh Shirley
Photo by Scout.com
Josh Shirley, Fontana (Calif.) Kaiser – The 6-foot-2, 225-pound rising prospect has seen his offer rise to nearly 20 after holding just two in early March. He currently holds 16 offers. He is rated four-stars and the No. 10 outside linebacker in the country, according to Scout.com. Cal was the ninth school to offer him. Every school in the Pac-10, save Arizona State, and the Oregon schools, has offered.

Despite earning multiple honors in 2008, Shirley was considered an undersized defensive lineman. However, due to an outstanding highlight tape and a breakthrough performance at linebacker at the Scout.com/Badger Sports 7-on-7 passing tournament, his stock has soared as a linebacker/end. Shirley is fast enough (4.53 forty) to play outside backer but strong enough to play on the line. He plans to get to 240-245 pound mark; most schools are recruiting him as both a linebacker and defensive end. In Cal's 3-4, he is better suited as an outside backer.

Shirley named UCLA has one of his favorites from the get-go, however, after garnering attention from the schools from the ACC and SEC, his recruitment remains wide open. He has no timeline to make a decision and plans to go through the recruiting process.


DEFENSIVE BACKS

Cal has offers out to 10 known defensive backs – six safeties and four cornerbacks. With no verbal commits from the secondary, two of the Bears' top targets will be competing this weekend in L.A.


Sean Parker
Photo by Scout.com
Sean Parker, Los Angeles (Calif.) Narbonne – The 5-foot-10, 175-pound safety is arguably the most decorated recruit on Cal's radar set to compete this weekend. With nearly 30 offers (28), Scout.com rates him five-stars and the fourth best safety in the country. Cal was the ninth school to offer him. His last three offers came from the ACC – Georgia Tech, Miami and North Carolina.

Parker is a natural ball-hawking safety. He is extremely quick and is know as a hard hitter. But his football smarts may be his greatest asset. He is very smart player that can play on both sides of the ball. Cal struggled at safety last season. A player of Parker's caliber would greatly boost the secondary in years to come.

While he claims no favorites, Parker has expressed interest in continuing his career outside of California. He has not taken – or plans to take – any unofficial visits. He looks to name five favorites during his senior season and visit each of those schools before deciding. He plans to major in business.


Demetrius Wright
Photo by Corona HS
Demetrius Wright, Corona (Calif.) – The 6-foot-1, 195-pound corner holds 15 offers. Scout.com rates the U.S. Army All-American selection as the ninth best cornerback in the country. Cal was the 10th school to offer him.

Wright is true lockdown corner, but he can also hit. Teams do not attempt to throw to his side of the field often because of his great ball awareness. Cal loses one of the best cornerbacks – Syd'Quan Thompson – in the nation after 2009. The Bears are looking for a player to come in and immediately compete for the job.

However, Cal is nowhere on Wright's list of top schools. He favored USC solidly over his other favorites – Arizona, Tennessee, and Washington – until Florida offered at the end of April. He almost committed to the Trojans last month, but has named the Gators along with the Huskies as his most recent top three. He plans to take some unofficial visits to this summer, but he has not declared a timeline for his decision. Wright and teammate Jordon James, who also holds a Cal offer, have expressed interest in attending the same school.

Stay with CalSportsDigest.com for highlights and updates from players listed above following this weekend's combine.


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