Hey gang. With the team's bowl preparation just getting underway, the staff has been grinding hard on the recruiting circuit. Lots of in-home visits the last two weeks, and Cal hosted a nice group of recruits last weekend. We even got a new commitment out of it!
As recruiting weekends go, this weekend will be even bigger for Cal. There will be a ton of talent in the house. Most of our committed guys will be in attendance to help do their part to make this class one of the best, if not THE BEST, Cal has ever had. Last week, we caught up with our current class of commits. This week we'll be previewing the list of likely visitors that are either uncommitted or committed elsewhere. These visitor lists are fluid, as they are based on the whims of 17/18 year-old boys, so things can change. Worth keeping in mind. Still...Tosh 'em, Kline 'em, let the dominoes fall!
Reminder: Check out the CGB Recruiting Board for recruit site rankings and highlight vids of these dudes. Lots of the info you might want on these guys will be there, especially since I inlcuded very little of it below. It's really handy! This is more of a brief look at who is coming, and whether or not I think we have a shot. Scant on facts, long on wind.
THE TARGETS -
Shaq Thompson, ATH Grant Union (Sacramento, CA). Probably our biggest and most important recruit. He's an other-worldly talent. Shaq seems to have narrowed his focus down to four schools: Cal, Washington, Notre Dame and...SC? Hmm. He may take one additional official visit to Utah. Don't expect an announcement until the US Army All-American Bowl in January, but I feel really good about where we stand with him.
Ellis McCarthy, DT, Monrovia (Monrovia, CA). Despite McCarthy saying he has SC and Oregon on top, I think we're still in pretty good with the big guy. Tosh is relentless, but so is Ed Orgeron. McCarthy is a tremendous talent and I'd put him right up there with Eddie Goldman in terms of the top DT in the country. Ultimately, I think the proximity to SC is the deciding factor here, but it wouldn't shock me to see him be a Bear come Signing Day. That would be a huge addition too.
Aziz Shittu, DT, Buhach (Atwater, CA). The 5-star defensive tackle has thoroughly enjoyed the recruiting process since his de-commitment from the Furd. Every school has led at some point, according to Aziz. He was recently named the Central California Conference Defensive Player of the Year...nice! He'd be a defensive end in our 3-4, and his pass-rushing ability and power would be a great fit. He moves extremely well for a guy his size. I'd guess that his favorites are Cal, Stanford (again), Washington and SC. I think we can get him, but an announcement won't be made until the US Army All-American Bowl in January.
Ishmael Adams, CB Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, CA). Adams is one of our top cornerback recruits. He was close to committing to Cal back in August, but chose to slow down his recruitment and take some visits first. He also will not announce a decision until the USAAA Bowl. His current top 4 schools are Cal, UCLA, ASU, and Notre Dame. Adams is a great athlete and has a very strong build. I think he ends up a Bear.
Matt Cochran, OL, Buhach (Atwater, CA). Cochran is Shittu's teammate at Buhach Colony in Atwater. He was the MVP of the Central California Conference, which is pretty amazing when you consider linemen typically aren't recognized for such an honor. Matt is huge, but has great feet and really is a mauler on the offensive line. He took a visit to Tennessee last weekend, but as far as I know his top 5 remains Cal, Stanford, Utah, Washington and Auburn. There was a lot of interest in Alabama, but their lack of an offer at this point has probably put them out of contention. I see UW as our main competition, but I think Cochran is a Bear. He would be an awesome add too. Just love his powere and ability.
Aaron Cochran, 2013 OT, Buhach (Atwater, CA). Holy gene pool, Batman! Aaron is Matt's "little" brother, but he's 6'8, 340 lbs. He is going to be a hot commodity. Cal verbally offered during an in-home visit to the Cochran household last week. Sounds like Aaron will be making the trip to Berkeley with Matt and their folks. Hopefully a favorable impression is made on the entire Cochran clan.
Chris Harper, WR, Crespi (Encino, CA). A favorite of many Cal fans, Harper verbally committed to SMU during his offical visit last week. He's been under the radar, but saw his stock jump after helping out at the Elite 11 QB camp in Malibu over the summer. He's highly spoken of by the QB's who were there, as well as the coaches who ran the camp. A strong season at Crespi certainly helped. Despite the SMU commitment, he's still making the trip to Berkeley this weekend. There is a good chance that if Cal offers, we can get him. It would be nice to see Harper get that Cal offer, but it seems the staff has chosen to pursue some WR recruits above him and then see how it shakes out with them before Chris gets the offer.
Jordan Payton, WR Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, CA). An SC de-commit, we're in Payton's top 3 along with Michigan and Notre Dame, but we seemed to have lost a lot of ground over the Fall. A great visit to Michigan has led many to believe that's where he ends up. I'm of that mind as well. Payton is a big, strong receiver who could play safety as well. He'd be a great addition with some of the smaller guys we already have in the fold. I just don't think we'll get him though.
Byron Marshall, RBValley Christian (San Jose, CA). Marshall surprised (and disappointed) many when he committed to Oregon last month. He's the best running back in the Bay Area, and in my opinion the best one on the West Coast. He has great speed and strength, and he's an every-down kind of back...whereas Keivarae Russell would be more of a dynamic change-of-pace kind of guy. I would love to flip Marshall, and I know the staff is still on him, but it's hard to say what our chances really are. He plays things very close to the vest, but his quotes after his commitment to the Ducks seemed pretty definitive. Glad he's coming, but I don't see a flip here.
Christo Kourtzidis, TE Lutheran (Orange, CA). Crrently committed to Florida State, Kourtzidis is one of two committed stud tight end recruits we're courting, the other being Taylor McNamara (committed to Arizona)...who just visited last week. Kourtzidis is the better blocker, while McNamara may be a shade better in the passing game. Either guy would be a great addition, and would make an immediate impact. There were early rumors that Kourtzidis' commitment to FSU may not stick, and we would be the clear benefactor if that were the case. I'm not sure though. I've heard that we would gladly take both guys, but I don't know that either Kourtzidis or McNamara would flip if the other did. Of the two, I think McNamara is the likelier get.
Luke Kaumatule, DE Punahou (Honolulu, HI. Kaumatule committed to Stanford back in early September, picking the Tree over just about all the other P-12 schools, along with BYU. He tore his ACL during the season unfortunately. He's making the trip out, but this seems like a visit for the sake of visiting to me. Still, he's 6'7 and his weight is listed anywhere between 268 and 230. Rangy and athletic, he'd be a fine DE and possibly able to make the switch to OT at some point. Not a guy you turn away. Still, I think a flip is unlikely.
DeForest Buckner, DE Punahou (Honolulu, HI). Kaumatule's high school teammate and twin tower, the (also) 6'7 Buckner has taken his recruitment slow. His favorites are believed to be UCLA, Washington, Oregon and Cal. A couple of his Punahou teammates are committed to UCLA, which is where I expected Buckner to end up prior to Neuheisel getting canned. No idea now. Hard to get much of a read on these two big boys from the Aloha State. I will say that Buckner is lighter and quicker than Kaumatule, so DE may be where he stays.
Arik Armstead, DE Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove, CA). One of the most coveted recruits in the country, Armstead's de-commitment from SC resulted in a slough of programs throwing offers at him and trying to get their collective feet in the door. Its looking like Cal, Oregon, and Notre Dame may be the finalists, and since Arik is an early-enrollee...the decision should be made in the next two weeks. He'll play hoops at his school of choice as well, and we could certainly use the big feller in the post. I like where we're at here, and he would be a tremendous addition. For all the folks bitching about him playing DE instead of OT...just watch his film on defense. It's ridiculous.
Darius Powe, WR Lakewood (Lakewood, CA). We've gone after Powe pretty hard in the last month and are now among his top 5 schools, along with Oregon State, UCLA, Utah and Michigan. His Lakewood teammate Malik Gilmore committed to Oregon State early in the recruiting cycle while Powe has played it slowly. Its encouraging that we're being considered, but I doubt Powe ends up a Bear in the end. It's hard to get a read on WR recruiting because we're seemingly still in it with so many guys.
Pio Vatuvei, DE Patterson (Patterson, CA). He chose SC over Cal when offered by the Trojans. Word is he could be looking around though. Vatuvei has the size, strength and speed to be a great rush linebacker in our 3-4 defense. Wouldn't rule us out just yet...especially with SC's scholarship restrictions. The fact that he's coming and really liked us prior to his commitment speaks volumes.
Chad Wheeler, OT Santa Monica (Santa Monica, CA). Wheeler originally committed to ASU, but flipped to SC when offered by his "dream school". He's a wrestler and a great athlete, but still light at just 260 pounds. We've remained in the picture with the athletic offensive tackle, but I still think SC will win out in the end. As always , a visit is encouraging and there is hope all the way till Signing Day. Wheeler has likely been made well aware of our need for OL, so a visit means he's at least listening.
Bryce McNeal, WR Clemson by way of Breck HS (Minneapolis, MN). McNeal is a bit of a surprise visitor. He was granted his release from Clemson and will be able to transfer without sitting out a year due since he will have graduated and would be considered a graduate student (think Russell Wilson to Wisconsin). Rumor is that McNeal would actually have 2 years to play 2, which is sweet. He's a great athlete and was a top 10 WR recruit back in 2009. For whatever reason, it didn't work out at Clemson. He would be a very welcome addition at Cal, especially with us losing Marvin Jones and Mike Calvin. Some experience at the college level would be nice with the glut of younger dudes who will be vying for playing time.
Pretty nice group of visitors, huh? Lots of talent in the house. A positive end to our regular season, new facilities coming along nicely, and a bit of buzz around the program can go a long way in generating excitement and momentum. We have a pretty good shot at getting a commitment from a large percantage of these recruits too. Considering the average star rating, that says a lot. Could be a banner class. Seriously.
So which of the above recruits do you covet the most? Who do you think will be our next commitment? Let's discussersize. Go Bears, go Dominoes!