What a long, strange trip it's been. Clearly, this wasn't your normal recruiting cycle, and these last two weeks have felt like two years. Cal lost five recruits to decommitment, fell out of favor with probably five to ten top targets, and all signs point toward one man committing downright sabotage to cause all that chaos.
And despite all that we ended up with a top 25-quality recruiting class, and with one or two more good signings it can stick around the top 20. Doesn't sound too bad now, does it? Could've been better, but in the end we'll probably only truly miss not getting one or two of these guys.
We can get to that in due time. Today is about the guys who are here.
Now that the dust has settled, let's say hello and welcome to the newest members of the Cal Football team, many of whom are student-athletes in the purest sense of the word. We've always wanted players that conform to the Cal tradition of being great at athletics and great academics, and this is a class that's carrying this tradition.
The crown jewel. Kline brings to Cal a pure set of skills, fundamentals and mentality that should hopefully match perfectly with Tedford's offense. He's going to have a real good shot to make an impact once he totally develops his body into college football shape.
Kline is already on campus absorbing the Cal atmosphere as an early entrant, and will participate in spring camp. I'm sure none of you will be so premature as to think Tedford is holding Kline back if he doesn't name him the starter after April. If Kline can make the travel team (normally the three deep), then he's done his job as a true frosh. And then he's got a strong shot at having a productive three-four years at Cal right after that.
PS: Zach's blue and gold bike got stolen. Students, could you try and spread the word on Facebook and help him find it?
Raymond Ford was originally a UCLA commit before Rick Neuheisel got the axe, then started looking around when Ishmael Adams committed to the Bruins.
Ford is an interesting prospect who definitely has a good list of legit offers from other schools like Nebraska, Washington State, Utah, Colorado and the Arizonas. He's on the shorter side at 5'11", 174 pounds, but has long arms that should help him try and drape receivers in man coverage. Looking forward to see him down the line.
Drew was considered the best all-around athlete in the EBAL, but didn't receive major attention due to the lack of success of his high school. Drew WAS Livermore football this past year, and his production spoke for itself. Drew looked around between Oregon and Washington (with our BFF Tosh making a last-day push) before making a decision to stick with his original Bear verbal.
With Cal losing their top two safety targets, the Bears will be happy to have an athlete like Drew manning the backfield to shore up much-needed depth.
This was the big goal since the beginning, and Cal landed two big targets along with two potential stars. This is the most talented patch of O-line players the Bears have ever had, and Coach M should be able to work his rigid tactics into the Golden Line.
Meet the 6'8", 312 pound giant that could end up being an instant impact player at one of the most critical positions on the football field. With Mitchell Schwartz coming in, the Bears needed at least one more tackle. It'll be important for Tagaloa to take off a few pounds to preserve his agility against the best Pac-12 pass rushers, but otherwise he has the perfect frame and all the physical potential to be Cal's best tackle since Ryan O'Callaghan.
Cochran is just as important as Tagaloa. If you watched the two at the Semper-Fi All-American Game, both of them looked very impressive. These two signings seem to be the first of many steps to rebuilding the great offensive lines of old. Cal landing a true center with plenty of experience manning down the line was absolutely critical, as center play has been inconsistent ever since Alex Mack departed. Cochran might not need to play this year, but it should give him time to grow and learn the line calls and understand how to be the field general at the line.
And as a bonus, let's not forget he has a big little brother that might be very interested in the Bears a year from now ...
Steven Moore, OT Elk Grove (Elk Grove, CA).
Moore is one of those guys you hope blooms at the next level. At 6'7", 270 pounds, he's the type of player who could do very special things given the chance. Whether he sticks at tackle or plays at guard remains to be seen, but there's no doubt Moore is versatile enough to play at both positions. He's also got a nice meanstreak, which is always fun to see in large human beings.
Moore has a great frame to grow into and become another beast in the trenches. Coach M loves him, and really...what's NOT to like? He was a leader and an integral part of a successful high school team (Elk Grove went 12-1 last year). We beat out UCLA and Bosie State for his services, and he'll be a great addition to our line.
Our other early entry with Kline, Okafor has the chance to compete for early playing time given our rather limited depth at the tackle spot. At 6'6", 301, Okafor has an imposing frame that was originally destined for Texas Tech, but Okafor decided to take a look around and liked what he saw at Cal. I generally have an affinity for Texas players, but especially ones that like to get down and hit. They have to be pretty tough, and that's the perfect fit for Coach M.
Coprich has stayed out of the spotlight, which kept him from garnering more attention and perhaps a higher rating from the recruiting services. At 5'9", 182, Coprich is around that Justin Forsett frame coming into Cal; if he can replicate even half of Forsett's production in his Cal career, we'd all be plenty satisfied. He's fast, tough and versatile.
Coprich is another great student-athlete who earned the Watkins State of California Scholar Athlete of the Year award for his excellent academic performance and community service.
Cal has struggled getting versatile tight ends and fullbacks. Some could pass-catch, others could block, but it's been tough for them recently to get someone who could do both. Espitia seems to be that H-back/fullback type of player that Tedford really would love to have more of (Chris Manderino anyone?), and also has that mean streak to go out and block. I like this kid. He's big, but athletic; playing WR, QB nd RB at different times for his high school team.
With Espitia, academics come first, as he sports a 3.8 GPA and wouldn't be allowed to play with anything below a 3.5 GPA.
Second biggest need of this class was wideouts, and other than a few shuffles, we came out with only a few surface bruises.
What more can be said about Bryce? Great athlete, catches everything, amazing route-runner. Most importantly, a man of his word.
At 5'11, 171, Treggs's fundamentals are some of the best I've seen out of any high school wideout. He can find his way into open space with his ability, but also thanks to his outstanding technique. I don't know if he'll start immediately, but I'd be shocked if he didn't contribute meaningfully next year opposite the athletic Allen.
Powe (with a 3.3 GPA) is the next sure bet to see playing time. Whereas Treggs is always getting open with his excellent skills, Powe is more of a physical receiver who can go up and contest for footballs in traffic against overmatched foes. Those skills will come in handy on fade routes, jump balls or any sort of pressured throws which result in a football not ending up where the receiver wants it to be.
If you want to guess who plays next year, Treggs and Powe are probably the favorites.
Dozier is a kid with a big heart and all the potential in the world. His recommitment to Cal proved that he'd be bleeding blue and gold regardless of who ended up signing with the Bears. His speech at his announcement was EPIC.
Beyond a great attitude, Cedric is a tremendous athlete; playing the spread QB role for his Lakes team as a junior before moving to WR his senior year. He can catch, run, throw, and cover on defense if it came to that. Before folks continue clamoring for Dozier to play cornerback, let me just say that this is a guy who is at his best with the ball in his hands. He'll be terrific in the slot for starters, and can be a weapon in multiple aspects of the offense. Wild Bear, anyone?
From the time that he committed till Signing Day, Chris Harper was as solid as a rock for Cal. Lucky for us, too. Harper runs good routes and is a deceptive deep threat because of his long strides. He hauled in an impressive 14 TD's this year, leading the Serra League, and was named All-Region as well.
Chris began his recruitment under the radar, until he started turning heads whil catching passes at the Elite 11 QB camp over the summer. He caught Zach Kline's eye, and the staff began a deliberate courting of him. An offer didn't come for quite a while, so he committed to SMU while on an official visit . The next week, he took a visit to Cal and received his offer. He accepted, and has been a solid class representative ever since. Excited to have Chris in the fold!
Lawler's commitment gives Cal a wild-card, as he's probably one of the most talented players at the position. He's a youngster too, just turning 17 a few months ago. He's already 6'3, and should be able to pack some good weight and muscle onto his frame with the help of Coach Blasquez. He's a good route-runner with nice hands and a good ability to find the ball. He showed out really well in last season's playoffs and his recruitment really heated up.
Kenny provided a much-needed good surprise when he picked Cal yesterday over Oregon State and Washington State, two schools that had been pursuing him steadily for months. Cal made a heavy push late and was able to seal the deal. Don't think of Lawler as a consolation prize either due to Jordan Payton and Kenny Walker heading elsewhere; he's a consensus 4 star player and a guy that could do some really special things at Cal. Great get.
Michael Barton is a stud. Behind Zach Kline, he's also our second-longest tenured commit, pulling the trigger for Cal back on May 6 of 2011. Despite the coaching chaos and pleas of fellow DLS alum and current turncoat Tosh Lupoi, Mike stuck with the Bears and worked hard to keep this class together. We're very lucky to have him.
He's got a tremendous nose for the ball and is a tackling machine, racking up 103 total tackles last season. He'll be a beast in the middle of the defense in coming years, once he's had a chance to pack some more weight on. Accolades? Got you covered. Courtesy of calbears.com:
2011 - All-American (MaxPreps First-Team, Prepstar, SuperPrep), California State Division I Player of the Year (MaxPreps), All-State (MaxPreps First-Team, ESPN High School California First-Team), All-East Bay Player of the Year (San Francisco Chronicle), All-East Bay Defensive MVP (Bay Area New Group), California Mr. Football Finalist (ESPN High School California)
Hardy Jr will partner with The Barton in coming years to anchor the interior of Cal's linebacker corps. Maybe its the easy way out, but I see a lot of DJ Holt (Hardy) and Mychal Kendricks (Barton) in the pairing. UPSIDE TO THE MAX! He gets to the ball quickly and makes the ball-carrier know he's arrived. He's got a sturdy build and I can see him playing around 240 pounds, maybe more.
Despite not being heavily recruited nationally, Hardy Jr put together quite a high school career at Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd, notching an amazing 269 total tackles between his junior and senior seasons. Run-stuffer extraordinaire! For his efforts, Hardy Jr was named to the All-League, All-Metro, All-Region, All-Area AND All-State teams by various news organizations. The legacy of his father is nice, but Hardy Jr is a guy we would want to have regardless of his name.
The Bears needed a punter to replace ANGER SMASH, and Leininger was the guy they liked from the beginning. It's clear from his athletic tape that his leg looks solid.
Cal hasn't had a bad punter in forever. I'm going to presume this tautology holds.
All things considered, this is a really good class. We addressed a lot of need areas with quality players who happen to also be quality human beings. Most importantly, these guys WANT to be at Cal. That means a lot to me. It will be really fun to see these kids grow and flourish in the program. When we look back on this 2012 class, I'm optimistic that we'll to be able to say "That's the year we got insert Cal commit here!", rather than "That's the year we lost insert Cal decommit here". Time will tell if that's realistic or not. Feeling sorry for ourselves won't accomplish anything though.
Also, worth keeping in mind that this class may still grow a bit more in the next few days. If that happens, we'll keep you all in the know.
Welcome to Cal, gents. We're very excited to have you. GO BEARS!