Rolling the Dice…

Lead Writer
Posted Aug 22, 2009


You see them every year and are willing to debate them till the cows come home. They’re those recruiting stories that make you scratch your head, rack your brain and maybe even pull your hair out…

You would like to think that your coach signing a lower-profile prep athlete means that he knows something that nobody else does.

But the reality of the matter is this: recruiting is truly an annual crapshoot, the likes of which not even Las Vegas could comprehend.

For what it’s worth, there does appear to be a method to the madness that is the Scout.com star system.

Cal’s graduating class of 2005 was the first class that Scout had tracked (and archived) from their high school days to the culmination of their collegiate careers.

Since that year, the Bears have had 10 different players named to the Pac-10’s first team for a total of 15 times (accounting for players who have nabbed the honor on multiple occasions). A whopping 70% of them were four or five star recruits.

But while highly touted guys like DeSean Jackson, Marshawn Lynch and Jahvid Best have panned out though, former nobodies like J.J. Arrington, Alex Mack and Justin Forsett (all of which Scout had rated as two-stars) have come up to bite teams that passed on them.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of Cal’s newcomers in 2009.

Few, if any, around Golden Bear football doubt that four-star standout Dasarte Yarnway will be a powerhouse.

In a fall camp that has been largely Best-less, Yarnway has gotten more carries than perhaps he even thought possible; and the San Francisco native has taken full advantage.

Just two weeks into his career at Cal and Yarnway is already the third best back in blue and gold, and if Best bolts for the NFL after a Heismann-contending season, then Yarnway will likely share the load with Shane Vereen in just his second year on campus.

Likewise, Isi Sofele, a guy that was “shocked” when he received a Cal offer late in the recruiting process, has impressed and should be a big-play threat early on.

But some of the Bears’ other highly sought after youngsters haven’t transitioned to the college game as easily as the big, strong tailback and the beefy little slot receiver.

Months ago some wondered if Chris Guarnero would be able to move back to guard, one of the more uncertain spots on the offensive line this year, if Mark Brazinski could come in and challenge for the center job immediately.

Rated as highly as the No. 2 high school center in the country though, Brazinski has looked overmatched in his short time at Memorial Stadium. His foot speed simply is not there yet, and the Somerville, New Jersey product is not nearly strong enough to see any playing time this season.

Recognizing that the offensive line, with all its assignments and schemes, is one of the tougher positions to adjust to at the next level (remember, Mitchell Schwartz spent a year redshirting before his impressive 2008 performance), I’ll give Brazinski a pass.

But what I can’t overlook is effort.

Brazinski’s tools may not be completely sharpened yet, but I’ve seen nothing out of the kid to make me think that he won’t eventually get where he needs to be.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about Deandre Coleman.

When Coleman, who was at one time believed by many to be the premier defensive player on the West Coast, decommitted from Washington and committed to Cal, the Bears appeared to get a steal.

But so far, Coleman has been slow, literally, in his transition to the college game.

At 6-foot-4 and weighing in around 290 pounds, Coleman’s speed thus far has looked very suspect, as has his technique.

What is most startling about Coleman, however, is that he doesn’t seem to care.

Day in and day out, defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi is on the freshman, not because he can’t hold his own against the rest of the lot, but because he never seems to be paying attention.

Hopefully Coleman will take Cameron Jordan’s advice and pay attention to Tyson Alualu’s every move because, unlike Jordan whose talent can often cover up his questionable maturity issues (until late), Coleman doesn’t appear to have the innate ability of some of the other guys.

The most intriguing watch though, at least for me, is under center.

Allan Bridgford was everything that Jeff Tedford has looked for in a quarterback starlet. He was an Elite 11 guy.

Sure, his size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and intelligence are huge pluses, but just in breaking down what we’ve seen from him in camp thus far, and Bridgford raises some questions.

His release might have been fine against high school corners, but Bridgford is going to need to get the football out much sooner if he wants to complete eight-yard stop routes in the Pac-10.

Aside from that, I really have nothing bad to write about Bridgford. His arm strength could be better, but that will no doubt change in Cal’s weight room.

Where I have the toughest time grasping the Bridgford situation though, is in looking at a guy three hours down the road.

I look at Derek Carr (David’s younger brother) and wonder what could have been.

Carr, who ascended to No. 16 on Scout’s QB rankings after signing with Fresno State following a senior year that saw him throw for over 4,000 yards and 46 touchdowns, is challenging for the Bulldog’s starting gig as a baby, just six months into his career – he enrolled in January and participated in spring practice.

And in person, the kid looks just as spectacular. He completed 85% of his passes during the spring game and 67% of them in the first fall camp scrimmage.

Now, you can look at it as Fresno State getting a guy who wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps, or you can see it as Cal passing on a sure thing.

The Carr family loves Tedford, dating back to his days as the offensive coordinator in Fresno, and sources close to the family say that Carr was holding out for the Cal offer that never arrived.

Only time will tell what kinds of careers these respective signal callers (or Coleman, Brazinski, Yarnway and Sofele, for that matter) will have.

After all, remember, it is a crapshoot.

Cal Sports Digest is the new home of lead writer Jon Doss’ award winning Daily Cal column “Who’s the Doss”. Jon will weigh in on hot topics pertaining to Cal and the Pac-10 conference throughout the season.

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C Mark Brazinski (profile)
QB Allan Bridgford (profile)
QB Derek Carr (profile)
DL Deandre Coleman (profile)
RB Isi Sofele (profile)
C Jeff Tedford (profile)
TB Dasarte Yarnway (profile)
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