BERKELEY -- With California inside linebacker David Wilkerson lost for the season due to an ankle injury, the need for Penn State transfer Khairi Fortt to get into the mix soon is perhaps greater than ever.
Fortt practiced for the first time this week, though he was still limited because of offseason surgery to repair chronic subluxation of his right kneecap.
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"He's working hard at it, getting better and better, and I'd imagine he's probably a couple weeks off. He's really trying to strengthen that leg," said Bears defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.
Head coach Jeff Tedford said that most of what Fortt has been doing is running and agility drills, without contact.
"He's just running a lot more right now. He had shoulder pads on, but no contact," Tedford said. "I think he responded pretty well, at least watching him run. He looked good running, but we have to see how he looks in contact drills."
While Fortt has not been able to mix it up just yet, he's been diligent in his work in the meeting room and in film study as he picks up the defense.
"He's been very good. He's very conscientious," Pendergast said. "He's very coachable and really we only have to tell him something once. He seems to get it. We've got to kind of wait and see how he is when the bullets start flying, but he does have experience at the Division I level, so I would anticipate that not to change."
In his last season for the Nittany Lions, Fortt played in every game off the bench as a 2011 sophomore, recording 33 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss (-22 yards) and 2.5 sacks (-16 yards).
"He's going to all of the meetings, obviously, and doing some of the non-contact walk-through-type things during the body of practice, just to get acclimated to the defense and continue to stay fresh," Pendergast said.
The third-year defensive coordinator expects Fortt to play at some point this season.
"He's an impressive athlete, and I wish we could see him get out there," Pendergast said. "We're going to put our best 11 guys on the field, so if we feel like he's one of those guys, then we'll find a spot for him. We'll go from there."