BERKELEY, Calif. – Going through the recruiting process once was enough for linebacker Khairi Fortt, when he chose Penn State over California.
But when NCAA sanctions allowed the junior to transfer without penalty, it was a free-for-all as 36 schools re-recruited him with a barrage of phone calls and messages on Facebook and Twitter.
“It was a little weird,” a tired Fortt admitted after arriving on campus at 2 a.m. Sunday morning. “I actually didn’t like it. It was too much. I’m glad it’s over and I’m a Cal Bear.”
The Stamford, Conn. native nearly picked Cal coming out of high school but decided it was too far away for a self-described “immature” 17-year-old, so he enrolled early at Penn State.
In two seasons there, Fortt was a key back-up for the Nittany Lions, recording 50 tackles in 23 career games. However, he was considering a move before the Jerry Sandusky scandal erupted, which played no part in his decision to leave.
“It has nothing to do with the current coaches that are there right now,” Fortt said. “They did a wonderful job of improving the program these past seven months they have been there. But I just had to make a change for myself.”
This time around, Fortt was more receptive to the idea of coming west.
“Cal contacted me,” he said. “There’s been a couple times I was thinking about leaving and they’ve always put in our ears that I was welcome here.
“Me and my family came to a consensus that this was the best fit.”
Fortt spent the day introducing himself to his coaches and teammates, filling out paperwork, and moving into a dorm for fall camp. He will meet with team doctors Monday to evaluate his recovery from a late April surgery to repair a lingering patella injury.
“I had a torn MPFL, which is a ligament in my knee. It just basically keeps it stable, keeps it from coming out. It’s been torn since ninth grade, and I just played with it through high school and everything,” Fortt said.
If cleared, Fortt could be in the mix to start at inside linebacker this season. First, he has to get back into shape – Fortt hasn’t been able to do any cardio in nearly five months – and prove he is healthy enough to compete.
With more than two years of major college football under his belt, Cal head coach Jeff Tedford is confident Fortt won’t rush back too quickly.
“He is confident enough in his abilities that he doesn’t feel like he needs to do something before he is ready,” Tedford said.
Fortt did not answer questions regarding former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, but did say he felt he “left Penn State with a good vibe with the players.”
Clark To Miss One Month
Defensive lineman Austin Clark will miss three to four weeks after breaking a bone in his right foot during a pre-camp testing drill.
Clark, a redshirt junior from Tampa (Fla.) Plant, was expected to have a significant situation role after a strong performance in spring practice.
“He was a guy we were depending on to do some things, and we still are,” Tedford said. “He’s a tenacious player. We’ll be excited when he gets back.”
With Clark sidelined, redshirt junior Keni Kaufusi and redshirt sophomore Gabe King will be moved inside to nose guard.
Cautious Approach With McClure
Sophomore cornerback Stefan McClure could miss the 2012 season as he recovers from microfracture knee surgery.
McClure was injured in the regular-season finale against Arizona State and is unlikely to participate in fall camp.
“It’s possible he could redshirt,” Tedford said. “We’re not going to push it. That’s an injury you don’t want to mess with because that’s bone-on-bone and you could do some damage if it doesn’t heal properly. We will definitely error on the side of caution with him.”
McClure appeared in 11 games last season as a true freshman, limiting USC All-America wide receiver Robert Woods to 36 yards on five receptions in his first career start.
“He’s a big-time player,” Tedford said. “He has got a future playing at the next level, so we really got to make sure that thing heals properly.”
Outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett injured his ankle in a scooter accident last week, but has been able to practice. … The Bears will practice in shoulder pads the next two days, then go to full pads Wednesday afternoon.
Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and covers the Pac-12 for Fox Sports/Scout.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.