Freshman linebacker Chris McCain hadn't been on Cal campus very long when a familiar looking face visited his dorm room.
"You look kind of familiar. What's your name?," McCain said to the 6-foot-2, 232-pound apparent stranger.
When the visitor identified himself as fellow incoming freshman linebacker Cecil Whiteside, it turned a relationship from abstract to real, from two football players on a recruiting list to a pair of impact-makers who shot up Cal's depth chart in a hurry.
It hasn't taken long for McCain and Whiteside to become integral members of the Bears' defense. Although neither is listed a starter, their playing time has increased every week and they received the most snaps of any of Cal's outside linebackers during the Sept. 24 loss at Washington. Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast expects them to play a lot during Thursday's game at No. 9 Oregon.
McCain and Whiteside were part of Cal's five-player 2010 linebacker class that was rated among the best in the country. But the two players didn't come to Berkeley last fall. They both grayshirted, meaning they worked to get their academics in order before joining the program for the spring semester in January.
"Chris and I have come a long way," Whiteside said. "Since day one, Chris and I have been like brothers. When we're out there, I trust him to do his job and he trusts me to do my job."
McCain said he and Whiteside communicated through Facebook but had never met in person until they arrived on campus. They both started to impress the coaches during spring practice and continued on during training camp.
The fact that they have both made an impact so quickly has served to strengthen the bond between them.
"It's good because the bond that we have now is excellent," McCain said. "We're just freshmen. We're going to be here four years. We're going to get a degree together, we're going to play together."
The Bears are hopeful that last week's bye will once and for all get Wilkerson completely healthy. He entered the season as one of Cal's starting outside linebackers.
"Wilkerson will play more (against Oregon)," Pendergast said. "We just need to get him healthy, because I really like him as a player."
Wilkerson hasn't started since the season opener and has just five tackles on the season.