After an explosive start to the 2009-10 recruiting season, the Bears had petered off, suffering more than ever from the dreaded de-commitment bug.
Cast aside by many analysts as a mediocre class, Cal quickly had the rug slid out from underneath it, with all media focus resting squarely on the Gators, Longhorns and Trojans of the world.
The Bears weren’t a top-tier team. In fact, after losing a couple of marquee receivers down the road to WAC participant Fresno State, they were a national afterthought.
But at approximately 8:22 a.m. PT, Cal captured back some of the respect it had before consecutive blowout losses in the second quarter of its 2009 campaign.
Keenan Allen, Gabe King and Chris McCain are outstanding prospects that may one day contribute at Memorial Stadium. But on Wednesday morning, the impact the North Carolina trio made rang louder than the hourly chimes of the Campanile.
Berkeley has something to offer the big names, too. And Cal IS a national player (except to the powers that be at Scout.com, who still have the Bears ranked at No. 29 overall).
Bolstered by arguably the strongest core of prep linebackers in the country, Jeff Tedford and the Bears coaching staff ended up satisfying one of its largest needs in thunderous fashion.
Facing the loss of five backers from its 3-4 defense following the 2010 season, Cal will replenish its roster with three guys (Nick Forbes, Dave Wilkerson and Cecil Whiteside) who all ranked inside Scout’s top 15 at their respective position.
And with the departure of Charlie Weiss in South Bend and the subsequent addition of athletic starwort Chris Martin, Tedford must have had hourly callers seeking lottery advice (read: Cal Coach Hits Jackpot).
Finish the day adding King—who, heading into his senior year, was ranked as highly as the fifth best defensive end in the country—and Allen—who Tedford acknowledged will see some time in the defensive backfield—and the Bears defensive class is surely the gem of Cal’s commitment list.
I did write some months back of the fallacies of recruiting—of the inevitable underperformers and the grain of salt with which signing day should be taken.
That said, me simply gushing about the prospects that the Bears picked up Wednesday would not only be unfair to you, the reader, who (I assume) expects the truth. But it would also put me in the role of the rah-rah homer, a character that is all too often apparent in this web and one that I don’t act out too well.
While fans and staff alike should no doubt be excited with some of the talented hands that inked letters of intent to play for the Blue and Gold, be sure to stay cautiously optimistic.
The rather large hole on the left side of the offensive line, vacated by departing senior Mike Tepper, doesn’t look any different than it did three days ago.
Senior Donovan Edwards, who was the second option at both tackle spots last season, looks to be the likely candidate to protect presumed starter Kevin Riley’s backside next year.
But then what?
Chris Adcock is too small (Tedford said at his press conference Wednesday that he could see the Mesquite, TX native playing center) and Alex Crosthwaite and Geoff Gibson don’t have the footwork that made Tepper a decent left tackle.
In a year where Tedford and Co. made more strides in national recruiting than ever, they lost a Central Cali JUCO in Roszell Gayden, who appears to be a perfect fit on the blindside, to a team that’s over half way across the country. Not to mention, his twin brother, Rashad, signed to play his college ball at San Jose State.
But while Cal’s inability to fill arguably its most important spot on the offensive line is unsettling, the Bears’ difficulties in their recruiting of receivers were most peculiar.
What seemed like a promising group of wideouts to start (I don’t have to remind anyone that that’s been a weak spot for Cal over the last couple of years), turned downright ugly with the departure of prospects Josh Harper and Davon Dunn, both of whom left for “greener pastures” in the heart of some of the world’s most fertile grounds.
Yes, the Bears’ got a big lift with the late addition of Allen, but—with all due respect to Pat Hill and the Bulldogs—Cal should never (NEVER) lose recruits to Fresno State.
Not only was the Harper/Dunn saga embarrassing, but it put the Bears behind a pair of eight-balls as they attempted to scrounge up a couple of pass catchers.
And scrounge is what they did.
Here’s a quote from Tedford’s presser, when he was asked as to how accurate he felt recruiting sites were in ranking players like Kaelin Clay and Terrance Montgomery (two receivers that Scout has as two-star prospects):
“Some of these receivers, like Kaelin Clay and Terrance Montgomery, I don’t know if anybody ever watched them on tape,” Tedford said. “Because if you watch them on tape I don’t see how in the world you could say that they were a two-star at some point.”
Two things immediately come to mind when reading this excerpt.
First off, tape is different than seeing an athlete in person.
Clay is from Long Beach Poly, a big-name school in the realm of high school football. He’s been in the spotlight, people have SEEN him play, yet he had just a few other offers (from the likes of Portland State, Northern Arizona and Utah State).
Secondly, if the tapes were so grandiose, how did no one else see them, not just the recruiting guys?
Did Paul Wulff, Mike Riley, Steve Sarkisian (insert EVERY other Pac-10 coach’s name here) completely neglect such wide receiving talent? Or is this simply a case of the Bears reaching for a couple of guys that nobody else believed to be Pac-10 talents?
Very few people are pulling for these two kids as much as I am. After the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Justin Forsett over the years, I love the under-the-radar recruit more than anything.
But if Forsett, who drew interest from Notre Dame and Texas Tech, and offers from UConn and Utah, was a diamond in the rough, then Montgomery and Clay are diamonds well outside the out-of-bounds markers at TPC Sawgrass.
Imagine, had Harper and Dunn stayed, and then you look at Cal getting the No. 1 safety prospect in the country in Allen, instead of being forced to utilize him as a receiver out of necessity.
My last qualm with the class of 2010 isn’t as much of a qualm as it is a question:
What’s going on with these quarterbacks?
Last year, I wondered if Allan Bridgford was the right option for the Bears.
With first-year starters/contributors Derek Carr, Tate Forcier, Jeff Tuel, Richard Brehaut and even Jordan Wynn (you may remember him from his carving up of Cal in the Poinsettia Bowl) all in the Golden State, the Bears went with Bridgford who, unfortunately, may never see the field.
In 2010, it’s déjà vu all over again.
At Berkeley’s regional Elite 11 quarterback camp, I fell in love with two athletes; neither was Austin Hinder and, interestingly enough, neither would ever have Cal offers.
The Bears passed on Stockton product Marcus McDade, a late-bloomer whose arm strength is unparalleled amongst 18-year-olds in America, and Brett Nottingham, a UCLA decommit and Stanford signee who had more of a total package than any other QB in the West, BYU’s Jake Heaps and USC’s Jesse Scroggins included.
Instead, Cal took Hinder, a 6-foot-5, 180-lb project, who has fallen from as high as the No. 2 rated passer in the class to Scout’s No. 34.
While he is the nicest kid I’ve come across in a while, it was overwhelming to me that, at one of the more prestigious camps for some of the most elite quarterbacks in the country, Hinder had to be taught a five-step drop.
He’d never done that before.
His mobility and accuracy are admirable, but I’m afraid that Hinder, who has run out of the shotgun mostly, may be a bit out of his comfort zone.
And even if he’s not, even if he’s on point, when is he going to play?
Another interesting Tedford quote came in response to a question asked about the acquisition of Zach Maynard, a quarterback transfer from Buffalo and the brother of Keenan Allen.
As long as the late-developing saga of Maynard and Allen has been on the radar of Cal’s coaching staff, it’s always been a story of a package deal. But here’s what Tedford had to say:
“(Maynard) looked into what our quarterback situation was and contacted us,” Tedford said. “And once he got his release, he said he’d be interested in transferring here.”
In all honesty, the story doesn’t add up. I mean, really, who looks at a team with potentially SIX quarterbacks and thinks that’s a great opportunity. Such a great opportunity, in fact, that he’d encourage his prep star brother to follow suit.
Give credit to Tedford and staff for getting that deal through, but now the QB guru has filled a ton of scholarship spots with less than spectacular signal callers.
I know I am.
Look, take this class for its strengths and enjoy it. I could be completely wrong…after all, remember, this is one big crapshoot anyway.
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