Cal Football Recruiting Event: Facing The Future

Construction Update (via D.H. Parks)

For the second straight year, dballisloose attended the SoCal Recruiting event (check out his posts from last year here and here), which allowed many of the most passionate Cal alumni a chance to interact with some of the most prominent leaders in Cal Athletics and Cal football.

Due to time constraints, he couldn't post these himself, but all credit for the content, the transcribing and the reporting goes to him. Send him kudos or buy him a beer next time you see him.

Once again, the Cal Athletic Department and our friends at Bear Insider gratiously hosted alums at the Mountaingate Country Club in Los Angeles. As in years past, our esteemed Athletic Director, Sandy Barbour, and Linebacker Coach Kenwick Thompson were joined by Jim McGill from BearInsider as they gave a review on the state of Cal athletics, a summary of this year’s incoming recruiting class, and brazenly answered our pointed questions…which were much more pointed than in years past.

This is part two of a two part post of the event. Part One addressed the overviews from Coach Thompson and Sandy Barbour. Part Two focuses on what we can expect to see in 2012, and which incoming recruits we can expect to see on the field next season.

The SAHPC is finally here, and both Coach Thompson and Barbour were visibly excited about that fact. Reflecting back on her first year as Athletic Director in 2004, Barbour recounted how the SAHPC seemed an achievable, near-term goal. Eight years later, its finally happening.

Coach Thompson shared the all-too-familiar story of how the coaching staff would sell the SAHPC and stadium renovation to recruits, and then had to stop talking about it when the project got delayed because it actually became an embarrassment that other Pac-10 recruiters would use against the Cal football program. Even for the 2012 recruiting class, many recruits wouldn’t even be allowed to see the weight room and facilities during construction. In recent weeks, all of that has changed and just in time to close out the recruiting season. Players and recruits are in the facilities now. Jim McGill shared with us two interviews with OT Christian Okafor and QB Zach Kline that were filmed in the weight room (each of them were wearing t-shirts that read "Team Matters"). So being able to be physically in the space will do wonders for selling the program.

The SAHPC wasn’t just built to sell the program, real results will actually be achieved by using it. Kline was asked what he thought of the new facilities, after having been able to use them for a few weeks now, and he commented on the uniqueness of the layout and technology that allows a player to get a complete, efficient workout done in half the time of a traditional workout. This sounds like a pretty good endorsement, and when combined with the genius of strength and conditioning coach Blasquez, bodes well for the future of our athletes.

Kline is perhaps one of the most heralded recruits in this class, not just because of his promising future or his rating, but he committed early and arrived early. Coach Thompson several times cited the importance of having players who commit early (Bryce Treggs was another he commented on) and serve as advocates for the program.

Kline and Treggs perhaps did as much to sell the program as any of the coaches, in fact. I was struck by how calm and collected Kline appeared during his interview, answering questions completely and with the fluidity and maturity of an ESPN analyst. He appears to be mentally and emotionally more mature than any other QB recruit I’ve seen at Cal. When asked how college was different than high school, he said something along the lines of "learning the playbook is hard work, but its good work. The good work makes it rewarding, helps you feel satisfied at the end of the day." Pretty astute answer for an 18 year old.

Along with Kline, Okafor is also on campus. Coach Thompson indicated that this would put him in the early hunt for playing time this season. Out of all of the OL recruits, 3 will likely see playing time. Okafor is one, Freddie Tagaloa is another, and the third is Matt Cochran who Thompson was really excited about as "perhaps even a more physically talented Center than Alex Mack". Pretty good endorsement. If Thompson’s endorsement is true, Cochran may end up the starter by the end of the 2012 season, with Galas moved to OG.

Of the other incoming recruits, at least 3 of the WR’s are expected to get playing time in 2012. The interesting thing about the incoming WR’s is that they’re all so different from one another, and yet they are all explosive and all capable of being kick returners. Given our lack of depth at the returner position, this is probably where at least 3-4 of them will be tested out. If they see time in the passing game, expect them to line up at the slot position, where we currently lack depth. Expect to see Treggs and Chris Harper compete for time immediately at the wideout positions.

At linebacker, the 2011 class created a lot of depth primarily at the OLB positions, and the departures of our seniors created some gaps at the ILB positions. Coach Thompson played around with various combinations of personnel during the Bowl Game preparations (yet another reason why its good to extend the season with a bowl) and really liked what he saw out of Jason Gibson at the ILB spot. Among this year’s recruits, expect to see Michael Barton press for time and maybe see the field at ILB in 2012.

Among the rest of the 2012 recruits, we’re adding much-needed depth across the lineup. Its difficult for anyone to say who from this class will emerge to see time in the defensive or offensive backfields. However, you can be sure that RB/FB Maximo Espitia will certainly get some solid reps and probably contribute. Thompson had a lot of good things to say about him and his football IQ. Like nearly all of the offensive recruits in this year’s class, Espitia is a multi-dimensional athlete who is smart, has good vision to go along with good instincts.

Additionally, Thompson said that we’ll see a lot more of Brendan Bigelow and Daniel Lasco at the RB spot in 2012. While Sofele is one of Thompson’s favorite players on the team (and not just because he likes to give his LB’s a fast-moving target), he said that Lasco made huge progress learning how to play the game at the D-I level, and will definitely carry the ball a few times in 2012. Lasco won’t be catching any passes as a WR however, something some fans had speculated. Combined with Sofele, CJA, CDJ, and Bigelow, Lasco will round out a solid stable of horses coming out of the backfield. Aside from Espitia, we probably shouldn’t see significant carries from the other RB’s on the roster in 2012 unless someone makes a big jump in spring and summer ball.

In all, Thompson and McGill feel great about this year’s class. Our biggest holes to fill were at OL and WR, and we more than filled them with top-quality recruits. We added significant depth at other positions that Thompson and McGill feel will push the players above them to play better, smarter, faster. Get ready to start pumping the sunshine for the season ahead!

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