Today I thought it would be helpful to get to know some of Cal's surefire and possible 2013 targets located in Northern California. There's some quality talent in the region, and this will be an important year to keep as many of these guys close to home as possible. In the coming weeks we'll also look at the key recruits both in SoCal and out of state. Stay tuned for those too.
But for now, learn yourselves something about these NorCal guys. They range from the nationally heralded to completely and utterly under the radar. They all can play though. Whether Cal has interest, or they're interested in Cal, is not always clear. But they are names worth knowing.
Aaron Cochran OT, Buhach Colony (Atwater, CA). I think we're all pretty familiar with Aaron at this point. Matt's little/bigger brother has been busy checking out schools and garnering attention. A midwest tour two weeks ago took the Cochran gang to Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Purdue. Aaron has been adamant that he will wait to make his college decision until late in the process. He's rumored to be attending Cal's second Junior Day, which coincides with our spring "game" this weekend though. I still think we're in great position for his services. He's the kind of massive, athletic offensive tackle that any team would be fortunate to have.
Eddie Vanderdoes DL, Placer (Placer, CA). Eddie's stock has really blown up in the last several weeks, and with good reason. The 285 pound monster has pulled in offers from all over the country, including Alabama, Penn State, Georgia, Michigan and Oklahoma. With so much interest, Eddie will also take his time making a final decision. Oregon is rumored to be a favorite, but it's hard to say at this point. I wouldn't count us out. He may be at the Junior Day on April 21 as well. He's quick, strong, and explosive. A truly disruptive force.
Michael Hutchings LB, De La Salle (Concord, CA). Yet another truly elite recruit hailing out of Northern California, Hutchings has an offer list almost on the level of Vanderdoes'. He recently named a top 5 of USC, Oregon, Washington, Notre Dame and Miami...which was a bit suprising and disappointing considering we're local and his good buddy Mike Barton will be enrolling at Cal this summer. We may not be completely out of it, but all signs point to Hutchings being a serious SC lean at this point. A commitment to the Trojans sooner than later would not shock me. If so, bummer. Still, he'll be at Cal this weekend. Hutch has great lateral mobility and long arms, allowing him to shed blocks and take out ballcarriers with ease. He can lay the wood and cover as well.
Justin Davis RB, Lincoln (Stockton, CA). The consensus top-5 running back in the country resides in nearby Stockton. Justin Davis runs a bit high, but he runs HARD. Davis has seen his recruitment really pick up as well, getting offers from almost the entire Pac-12 as well as national programs like Michigan, Oklahoma, Florida State, Notre Dame, and Nebraska. The offer that Davis appeared to especially covet came from SC, though. After a visit two weeks ago, Davis has stated that the Trojans currently lead for his services. Despite us already garnering a commitment from Bakersfield RB DJ Martin, the impending graduation of current Cal running backs Isi Sofele, CJ Anderson, Mike Manuel, and the transfer of Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson leave us in a spot where we need to take at least two running backs in 2013. A pairing of Martin and Davis would be ridiculous. Davis will visit this weekend and a commitment to his school of choice will likely be announced some time next Month. He rushed for over 2600 yards and 39 (!!!) touchdowns last year for Lincoln. Crikey.
LJ Moore DB, Central East (Fresno, CA). There's a trio of stud defensive backs in Fresno this year, and they all play for the same school! Moore is one of said three. He can play both safety and cornerback. He has great size and range for a DB. He tweeted a current top 6 schools of Cal, UCLA, UW, Houston, Notre Dame, and Georgia two weeks ago. It will be interesting to see whether he stays in state or not. My gut tells me this could come down to us and UCLA with the Bruins in a good spot right now. Long way to go though.
Hatari Byrd S, Central East (Fresno, CA). Byrd is built more powerfully than Moore but isn't quite as fluid. He looks like a safety all the way to me, but he has suprisingly good cover skills as well. He and Moore sport nearly identical offer sheets as of now, with both Cal and UCLA also being listed amongst Byrd's favrotes. Ole Miss, Georgia and Oklahoma may also be real players for Byrd though.
Johnny Johnson CB, Central East (Fresno, CA). Despite being on the shorter side (5'9 or 5'10), Johnson is a real lock-down cornerback prospect. He plays physically and isn't afraid to mix it up and take some risks against bigger wideouts. He plays with attitude, which I like. This looks like a Pac-12 battle, but Notre Dame and Oklahoma have offered as well. I would have considered SC the favorite for Johnson, but with the commitment of Rancho Cucamonga CB Chris Hawkins and SC supposedly leading for several other DB's, Cal may find itself in a very good spot for Johnson. This would be a great get.
Elijah Qualls ATH, Casa Grande (Petaluma, CA). Qualls is the definition of a JUMBO athlete at 6'2 and roughly 275 pounds. He's been offered as a running back, a fullback, or a defensive tackle by various schools. Cal is looking at Qualls as a fullback, and what a battering ram he would be. He has tremendous balance, athleticism and moves for a bigger guy, and would be devastating as a pass blocker or short yardage back. Frankly, he has the ability to be a feature back if needed. This looks like a PAC-12 battle between Cal, Oregon State, Arizona, UW and UCLA, but schools like Michigan, Iowa State, Nebraska, and Oklahoma have offered as well. Oregon and SC could factor in if they choose to offer. Because of his unique size and skills, Qualls is one of my favorite recruits in this class.
Darrell Daniels WR, Freedom (Oakley, CA). Daniels came onto the scene after a great performance at the US Army All-American Junior Combine. He holds numerous offers...but Cal has yet to extend one to Daniels. That's a major headscratcher to me. Daniels has the kind of size and length that we could definitely use. He's a force on the outside. Only thing I can assume is that the staff is waiting to get Daniels on campus so they can offer in person. I'd hope he'll be attending the Junior Day this weekend and that the offer comes then. In a year where we'll likely only be taking 1 or 2 WR's, Daniels seems like a surefire offer if nothing else. As of now, it doesn't sound like there is a clear-cut leader in his recruitment, so we will hopefully be able to make up some ground soon.
Vita Vea DL, Milpitas (Milpitas, CA). Vea and Eddie Vanderdoes are two of the best DL prospects in Northern California this year, but Vea hasn't gotten nearly the same amount of attention that Eddie has. At 6'4 and about 280 pounds, Vea can play inside or outside. He also has played fullback for his Milpitas squad. He's fast for a big guy, and is starting to get a lot more attention. Cal has offered, but Vea's recruitment has been pretty quiet thus far. He's yet another guy I'd like to see make it to campus for Junior Day. After last year's meltdown in DL recruiting, Cal needs to get some big bodies in the fold this year. A local, talented guy like Vea would be a nice addition. Definitely one to watch.
Sam Smith DL, Cosumnes Oaks (Elk Grove, CA). The other guy who could lay claim to being the best defensive lineman in the region? Big Sam Smith. Smith is a big dude and an intriguing DL prospect. He's 6'3/280, with a frame to add more good weight and the versatility to play as a Nose Tackle or a 3-4 SDE. He's quick, strong, instinctive, and plays mean. So why does he currently only hold offers from UNLV and Wazzu? Smith's academics are a mess. He's working to recrifty the issue though. Cal has been in contact with Smith and his recruitment will really take off once he's demonstrated that he'll be in shape to qualify academically...not only with Cal but numerous other programs as well.
Austin Hooper OLB, De La Salle (Concord, CA). Hooper is yet another personal favorite of mine. Michael Hutchings' Spartan teammate is sitting on ten offers as of now, and isn't rushing anything. Hooper plans to take his offical visits and make an informed college decision in the fall. Although many services list Hooper as a WDE, Cal offered him as a rush backer. I like how he projects there. Similar to Chris McCain, Hooper is long and athletic. He also has a knack for rushing the passer. His 6'4 frame could easily carry 250 pounds, making him an imposing force on the outside. Washington and the Torsh will be a factor here, and Stanford could be as well if they choose to offer. I do think we're in a good spot for Hooper as of now.
Olito Thompson RB, Concord (Concord, CA). The East Bay running back who broke Jahvid Best's single season rushing record is another guy I really like...and Concord's Olito Thompson really likes Cal! He's visited campus twice and will be back this weekend. Thompson isn't a burner, but he has great vision, balance, power and toughness. I mean, he rushed for 3488 yards and 34 touchdowns as a junior. Numbers don't lie...that's absurd. Olito is willing to prove to the Cal staff that he deserves an offer; he's planning to attend both of Cal's camps this summer so they can see what he can do. Personally, I'd love to see him get that offer.
Chris Seisay ATH, American Canyon (American Canyon, CA). Capable of playing wide receiver or defensive back, American Canyon's Chris Seisay is getting attention from several schools in the West. He already claims offers from Wazzu, SDSU, Utah State and Hawaii, and is pushing for an offer from Boise Sate...who seems to be a heavy favorite for him should they offer. Cal is one of a few Pac12 schools that are interested as well. Seisay projects as a defensive back in college, and has the speed, agility and length at 6'2 to be a really unique player. He attended Cal's first Junior Day, but no word as of yet if he'll be attending this weekend.
Ray Hudson ATH, Foothill (Pleasanton, CA). Capable of playing linebacker, tight end, or even wide receiver, Ray Hudson is another super-sized Bay Area athlete at 6'3/215 pounds. He was a second-team All-EBAL selection as a WR last year, and is poised for a nice senior season. He projects as aeither a TE or linebacker in college I think. Hudson is favoring Vanderbilt as of now, but an offer from Cal or even Stanford may change things a bit. He's a big, strong guy who moves surprisingly well. Lots of versatility in the Bay Area this year, and Hudson is a prime example.
Griffith Gates DE/LB, Foothill (Pleasanton, CA). Hudson's teammate at Foothill, Gates is a guy who's under the radar when it comes to recruit scouting services...but he probably shouldn't be. A first-team All-EBAL selection last year, Gates was also selected to the second-team All-East Bay and second team All-State for the class of 2013. The only reason I could see him going unnoticed is that he's a bit if a tweener. He's a tremendous DE at the high school level, but may be too small for the same position in college. He could certainly project as a linebacker, but is he a step slow? Maybe. Still, the kid can grind and is a good football player. Another one to watch in the upcoming season.
Ryan Dunn LB, San Ramon Valley (San Ramon, CA). Zach Kline's former SRV teammate Ryan Dunn is getting some attention, as he should. Arizona has offered, and several other Pac-12 schools are showing interest...along with TCU. It's not hard to see why, as Dunn recorded over 100 tackles, 4 interceptions, and three blocked kicks in his first year starting for the Wolves. He's already got a good frame at 6'3/210 pounds, and can easily add good weight. He's also capable of playing inside or outside. He could be poised for a nice season this year. I believe the staff is aware of Dunn through Kline, so I hope they give him a good look.
David Moffitt LB/S, De La Salle (Concord, CA). Evidently, the linebacker corps at De La Salle are absolutely loaded. After producing 2012 Cal commit Mike Barton, all three of DLS' starting linebackers for the 2013 class are getting interest from FBS programs (I'm counting Austin Hooper as a DE...his current position). David Moffitt got his first offer from Colorado last month, but has been making the rounds and hearing from several other P12 schools...namely Oregon, Oregon State and Washington. Cal may be in the picture too. After recording over 50 tackles and three interceptions as a junior last season, Moffitt could project as a Safety at the next level; he's fast enough.
Victor Egu LB, De La Salle (Concord, CA). Victor Egu is a little raw, but he's an athlete...playing linebacker, defensive end and tight end for the Spartans last season. Several Pac-12 schools have already taken notice of Egu's talent too; as Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon and UW have all offered him. Egu took a visit over to Cal last week and then took a visit up to Seattle to see UW over the weekend, where he was offered by the Huskies. He'll be back at Berkeley this weekend for Junior Day, and I wouldn't be suprised if an offer followed. Egu is a physical freak, with speed, range and length that would make him a savage rush backer. Definitely keep an eye on De La Salle's defense this fall!
Tanner Vallejo LB, Nevada Union (Grass Valley, CA). In case it wasn't obvious, there's a lot of good linebacker prospects in Northern California this year. Count Tanner Vallejo among them. The 6'3/225 pound middle backer for powerhouse Nevada Union is drawing some interest from schools around the West. Arizona, Colorado, Fresno State and Nevada have offered, and UCLA is taking a close look as well. I'd like to see Cal get in on him too. He totaled 158 tackles last year and has the look of a guy who could be a beast inside, especially in a 3-4 defense.
So who on this list are Cal's must-gets? Who will we not recruit and later see burn us at another school? Are there a few guys that I left off this list that we should know about? Let's have your thoughts in the comments section.