Even without a defensive coordinator -- much less a defensive line coach -- the California football team made a big impression on College of San Mateo defensive lineman Sione Sina, giving the 6-foot-4, 245-pound weak side defensive end a lot to think about as he goes into the final stages of making his college decision tonight.
"I got to feel out the program itself," Sina said. "I went out there before, and I already knew about the academic side, that they're the best of the best out there at Cal-Berkeley, so I was going out there to feel out their coaching staff -- the new coaching staff, mainly. I felt pretty good coming out of it. Coach [Sonny] Dykes is a good man, and he seems very confident in everything that he's doing. The assistant coaches that he's bringing with him, they seem like they're on the right track."
The three-star defender had a bevy of suitors from which to decide, including BYU, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, Oregon State, UCLA, Utah and Washington State, but said that BYU and Wazzu are his other two finalists, along with the Bears.
Sina made an official visit last weekend up to Pullman and tripped to Eugene in October. He made his official trip out to Cal this weekend along with 6-foot-7, 310-pound Mission Viejo (Calif.) offensive tackle Erik Bunte, and Diablo Valley College strong side defensive end Kyle Kragen, who committed to Illinois on Nov. 30. Kragen stands at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds.
"They seem like they're going to change up some things from this past year that were bad," Sina said. "Things weren't perfect, and they want to change. They're on the right track to do that, and it seems like it's a pretty good place to play football. I got to feel them out, and I liked it a lot. I got a lot of good vibes. I was just feeling them out, and feeling out inside, not so much about who's the best or what rankings or records. It was more about it feeling right. They've got a good vibe."
By all accounts, the weekend visit went very well for all three official visitors, and for Sina, it may mean he makes his decision sooner, rather than later.
"I'll sit back today, and do some soul-searching tonight, and then I'll commit tonight or tomorrow, or by tomorrow," Sina said. "I love everything about Cal. It's great."
All in all, Sina had just one complaint, and that was the fact that he wasn't able to be around many current players, because of the beginning of winter recess. The players he was around, though, are some of the Bears' ace young recruiters in Avery Sebastian, Michael Barton, Hardy Nickerson, Jr., and Antione Davis -- another former junior college defensive end.
"I have to base my judgement off of the vibe that I got from the players, but those guys did a pretty good job," Sina said. "They told me everything about the other players, about the program, about the school, academics, athletics and they were telling me good things. I believed them. I have great trust in them. They're a great group of kids -- freshmen and sophomores -- and they're doing well at Cal, so I'll take their word."
Sina went to Sunday night's Cal basketball game along with Nickerson and Sebastian, as well as Davis.
Sina wants to challenge himself academically, and says there's no better place to do that than Cal.
"I want to come here," he said. "I want to challenge myself, and do something that nobody expected me to do."
It certainly sounds for all the world as if he's got his decision made, but there are still those other two finalists hanging on.
"Tonight, I'm going to lay everything out, and I'm going to sit there and decide, but Cal-Berkeley is a really good place," Sina said. "Washington State and BYU, those two programs are really great programs, as well. I love BYU, and I love Washington State. At Washington State, I felt right at home, and BYU has a bunch of great guys and great coaches. It's going to be a really tough decision. I love all three schools, and I like all the opportunities that they provide me with."