Cal Football: Bears Say Farewell to 3 Key Players on Defense, Starting with Evan Weaver

Cal must also replace starting safeties Ashtyn Davis & Jaylinn Hawkins
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While every offensive player who started in the Redbox Bowl is scheduled to return next season, three players who anchored Cal's superb defense the past several years are exiting as seniors.

Linebacker Evan Weaver, a consensus All-American, and safeties Ashtyn Davis and Jaylinn Hawkins have completed their eligibility. 

They will be tough to replace, but Cal's defense won't merely crumble.

Still uncertain is the status of junior cornerback Cam Bynum, a second-team All-Pac-12 pick who is mulling whether to enter the NFL draft. Bynum, who has started every game of his three-year career, is not currently projected to be drafted and if he returns to Cal could be moved to safety, which might boost his long-term pro prospects.

Otherwise, the Bears expect much of their defense to return.

(Click here for a story and videos about Cal's high hopes for its offense in 2020.)

Defensive ends Luc Bequette (52 tackles) and Zeandae Johnson (29 tackles, 5 TFL, 5 QB hurries) both are listed as seniors, but are expected to be granted sixth seasons of eligibility based on their injury history. 

Johnson, an honorable mention All-Pac-12 pick who was named Defensive MVP of the Redbox Bowl after collecting two tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and one pass breakup in the 35-20 win over Illinois, talks in the video below about what he expects moving forward.

Cornerback Elijah Hicks (38 career starts), who saw action at safety against Illinois, also returns, as do cornerbacks Chigozie Anusiem and Josh Drayden (who played just four games to preserve his final year of eligibility). Sophomore Daniel Scott, who started at safety on Monday, also comes back.

Linebackers Kuony Deng (119 tackles, 7.5 TFL) and Cam Goode (57 tackles, 14 TFL, 9.5 sacks, 6 QB hurries) will return after each being named All-Pac-12 honorable mention. Another key returnee is nose guard Brett Johnson (26 tackles), who was named the team's Freshman Defensive MVP.

The losses are significant. Besides Weaver, Davis and Jaylinn Hawkins, the Bears also say goodbye to defensive back Traveon Beck, who was terrific as a junior but was injured most of this season, and graduate transfer linebacker Ben Hawk Schrider.

Coach Justin Wilcox talks in the video below about the contributions of the departing seniors. His remarks are in response to a question specifically about Davis, who did not play Monday after undergoing minor surgery earlier in the month.

The impact of Weaver can't easily be measured. A three-star prospect out of Spokane, Wash., he exceeded all expectations and became Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. He finished this season with a school-record and FBS-leading total of 182 tackles, just 11 shy of the all-time FBS record.

Weaver finished his Cal career with 412 tackles.

Davis, a former All-American hurdler for the Cal track team, was originally a walk-on football player, who as Wilcox said in the video above, virtually "begged" for a spot on the roster. He wound up playing 49 games and compiling 171 tackles and 7 interceptions in his career, and earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors this fall.

Hawkins finished this season with 56 tackles and a team-best 3 interceptions, including one against Illinois. He played 50 games in his career, totaling 157 tackles and 10 interceptions, four of them in bowl games the past two seasons. Hawkins was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection this season.