Welcome back, friends. After reviewing Cal's recruiting targets for the offensive position groups, it's time to turn to the defensive side of the ball. We'll start with a group where we've seen a lot of recent success, both in recruiting and on-field performance...the defensive line.
Obviously this year's defensive line recruiting will be especially interesting after the departure of the Tursh. Just weeks from National Signing Day 2012, we were poised to bring in a defensive line class composed of the best three DL on the West Coast in Arik Armstead, Aziz Shittu, and Ellis McCarthy. Then Toshageddon happened. McCarthy immediately flipped his commitment to UCLA (this may have happened regardless of Tursh leaving, to be fair). Armstead committed to Oregon. Shittu re-committed to Stanford. Thanks to a pre-exisiting relationship with new Cal DL coach Todd Howard from his time at Washington State, we secured the signature of 3-star defensive tackle Maurice Bennett out of Mississippi...a pretty incredible addition at such a late time in the recruiting year. Still, that stung.
So what are our defensive line needs for the 2013 class? Well, we'll be losing our two most seasoned nose tackles in redshirt seniors Kendrick Payne and Aaron Tipoti at the conclusion of the season. The only other potential threat to move on would likely be redshirt sophomore and behemoth Deandre Coleman...who could head to the NFL if he has a monster year. Other than that, we are young and talented on the defensive line. But after bringing in just one defensive lineman in 2012, we'll need to take at least three in 2013 to maintain adequate and quality depth.
Below we'll look at the uncommitted prospects who have been offered by Cal, as well as some that are being recruited but have not yet been offered. Highlights are linked in the names. Read on, and enjoy the supreme ownage in some of these highlights!
Eddie Vanderdoes DL, Placer (Placer, CA). This right here, this is the guy. Eddie dominated the Nike NFTC Camp up in Eugene this last weekend, abusing quality o-linemen like Evan Voeller and Scott Quessenberry on his was to earning an invite to The Opening. At 6'4/285, Vanderdoes is capable of playing tackle or end...but looks like a strongside defensive end in our 3-4 defense to me. He has the strength, aggression and agility to be something special. With an offer list consisting of just about anyone who matters in college football, his recruitment will be interesting to follow further. I still feel that we have a good shot, but Oregon will be worth watching too. Too early to tell, but he's a major prospect.
Joe Mathis, DE Upland (Upland, CA). Mathis recently pared down a list of 40+ offers to ten schools....and Cal is not one of them. Sad trombone. Unfortunate, because he's a beast. He dropped about 20 pounds and is now down to 245, but he's lost none of the strength that has made him a dominant prospect. He's faster now, capable of running past or over most high school linemen. There's a long way to go, but Mathis currently holds a top 10 of Michigan, Nebraska, UW, Alabama, SC, Miami, Texas A&M, ASU, Tennessee and UCLA. Worth keeping in mind that Mathis is tight with Kenny Lawler. Until we hear different though, consider this a long shot. As I've stated before, Mathis may have some qualifying issues to contend with as well. But the talent cannot be overstated.
Scott Pagano, DT Moanalua (Honolulu, HI). Pagano has like 50 offers, which is pretty ridiculous unto itself. Most of the buzz around Pagano's preferred schools seems to center around Big 12 and SEC country, though every Pac-12 school has its hat in the ring. Why is he so coveted? Well at 6'4/280, he has the strength and quickness to dominate in the trenches, and is also versatile enough to line up as either an end or tackle. He's physical and aggressive and most high school linemen just don't really stand a chance because he's REALLY frigging strong. While he's a bit raw in his technique, that's a coachable aspect of his game. The slew of offers stem from what teams can see already; he's a very unique athlete. He's shown well on the camp circuit as well, which has seen his stock rise even more. Like Mathis, this also looks like a longshot for Cal. Pagano seems to currently favor LSU, Clemson and Florida.
Vita Vea DE, Milpitas (Milpitas, CA). There's a solid defensive line talent right in Cal's backyard when you consider Milpitas' versatile beast Vita Vea. There's not much film or news available on Vea (these highlights are from his sophomore season), but at 6'4/270 with a serious motor (140 tackles last season as a nose tackle), Vea is an athletic and powerful prospect. With the size and strength to play just about anywhere on our defensive line, it would be nice to hear a little more news about Cal's pursuit of Vea. As it stands now, Oregon appears to be the leader. There was actually a quote from Vea saying he'd commit on the spot if the Ducks offered, which is both unfortunate and nauseating. I have a feeling the fall should see a lot more offers come in for him though. I would hope that our close proximity would make it convenient to get Vea up for a camp or a visit, but I haven't heard anything about that happening as of yet.
Kenneth Clark, DT Wilmer Carter (Rialto, CA). Clark is a SoCal defensive tackle who has seen his stock really rise in the last month. Sitting at almost 20 offers, Cal pulled the trigger on offering Clark last month. He's a strong, high-motor guy. At 6'2/285, he may need to add some bulk to remain a defensive tackle at the next level, but he already has the aggression and attitude you'd want. He totaled 31 tackles last season for Carter, with 17 of those behind the line of scrimmage. He added 8.5 sacks as well. Clark's letting the recruiting process play out, but has indicated he currently has interest in Nebraska, Washington, UCLA, Cal, and ASU. Worth noting that he's "waiting on SC to offer". We pretty much know how that goes. But if the Trojans don't offer Clark, he'll likely take his official visits and make a late decision. Until we get a visit from Clark, I can't feel too good about where we stand. There's plenty of time, and Clark would fill a need for us. I really like the way he plays.
Jay Woods, DT Jackson (Jakcson, GA). Cal offered the 6'2/275 pound Woods a month ago, joining about 25 other programs. Similar to Clark, Woods is a high intensity, powerful guy who can penetrate in passing situations or use his strength to be disruptive in the run game. He led Jackson with 99 tackles last year, including 15 for loss and 7 sacks. Given the number of offers Woods has gotten, its hard to know where Cal factors into his plans. It is worth noting that he's visited no school further west than Missouri and his visit plans for this month center around schools located in the Carolinas. If Woods were to trim his list at the end of this month, I doubt we would make the cut. Still, he claims to value education and chemistry with his prospective coach a lot, so maybe Coach Howard will be able to develop a relationship without Woods seeing the campus. Longshot IMO.
Josh Augusta, DE Peoria (Peoria, IL). Cal offered big Josh Augusta a few weeks ago, and at 6'5/275 he certainly looks the part. He also acts the part; being one of the more jumbo athletes you'll find as he plays football, basketball, and throws the shot put. Of the 11 schools who have offered, most see Josh as a DE/DT while a couple are recruiting him as a tight end. Last year for Peoria, he totaled 25 catches for 282 yards and 4 touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, he compiled 153 tackles and 10 sacks. He's extremely athletic for such a big dude, and would be a tremendous DE in our 3-4. Augusta has been offered by the majority of the Big 10 schools, along with Notre Dame, Missouri and Oklahoma. He's planning a visit to Cal this summer, but no date has been determined yet. Should that visit materialize, we'll get a better sense of where Cal factors into Augusta's recruitment. His size and athleticism are very intriguing.
Greg Gilmore, DE/DT South View (Hope Mills, NC). Gilmore was an early offer from the Tosh days. He's a versatile guy who could project as an athletic and mobile DT or a bullrushing D at 6'4/270. That said, there's been no indication that Cal factors into his recruitment at all. Look for Gilmore to stay in SEC country. No point discussing further.
ON THE RADAR
Below are some prospects that Cal has yet to offer but is showing interest in:
Antonio Riles, DE Archer (Lawrenceville, GA). Riles is a friend and teammate of Cal commit Trey Cheek. He's also a legit prospect at a powerful 6'4/265, holding offers from most of the SEC and a smattering of other national programs. He's a versatile guy, but I see him as a DE for us. He totaled 53 tackles and 6 sacks last season for Archer. To my knowledge, Cal has yet to offer Riles. That's kind of crazy, because he's really good. Hopefully Trey will get him to come out and visit and an offer will come then. Riles currently favors Georgia and Florida, so there's plenty of ground to make up should Cal continue to pursue him. But we have an in-road through Cheek...so we should use it.
Sam Smith DL, Cosumnes Oaks (Elk Grove, CA). We've discussed Smith before, and Cal is still showing interest in the 6'4/285 pound DL from Elk Grove. Currently holding offers from Fresno State, Colorado State, Nevada, Wazzu and UNLV, schools like Cal, Oregon and UCLA have also been by Cosumnes Oaks this Spring to check out Smith. Apparently some academic hurdles are the main thing holding back the aforementioned three schools from offering Smith as of now. It's certainly not a talent question, as Smith is strong at the point of attack and shows some great things in his film. He reportedly showed some nice flashes at the Oakland NFTC, but may need to shed some bad weight to become a little bit more consistent. Smith could project as either a DT or DE, depending on whether he added 20+ pounds of good weight or shed 10+ pounds of bad weight. Either way works, frankly. He does need to improve his upper body strength in my opinion, but he has a great base and is explosive off the line. Cal and UCLA should be the schools to watch should either one offer. Smith's former teammate, CB Marcus Rios, committed to UCLA in 2012 and their staff has been in communication with him.
Luca Bruno, DE Oak Park (Oak Park, CA). We discussed Bruno after his Spring Game visit, and his stock has continued to rise since then. Now holidng offers from 9 programs, Bruno claims a top 4 of USC, TCU, Arizona and Oregon State...with both SC and TCU having yet to offer. This sounds familiar, yes? Cal is recruiting the 6'4/280 pound Bruno as a DT, and his 133 tackles last year attest to the fact that he's got a great motor for a guy his size. I envision a disruptive, quick presence in the middle of our d-line similar to an Aaron Tipoti when I think about how Bruno could project. He has stated that he plans to let his recruitment play out in the fall and take some visits, but has also mentioned that he would quickly shut things down and commit if an SC offer came his way. A familiar theme this year it appears.
Lowell Lotulelei, DT Bingham (South Jordan, UT). The younger brother of stud Utah DT (and likely first round 2013 NFL Draft pick) Star Lotulelei, Lowell Lotulelei has a lot of the same characteristics that have made his big bro so good; strength, a powerful and low base, and the ability to eat up blocks. At 6'2/285, he has a frame to add a few more pounds and grow into a beastly 3-tech in college. Cal has had some communication with Lowell, and he currently holds offers from Utah, BYU, Utah State, Oregon State, and UCLA. It would be stunning if he didn't end up a Ute, but don't sleep on UCLA either. Until Cal offers and/or ramps up their recruitment of Lotulelei, I don't expect us to factor into his recruitment much.
Misi Taifane, DT Grant (Sacramento, CA). Initially under the radar despite being a prominent player for powerhouse Grant High School, Taifane stormed onto the scene after he earned DL MVP honors at the Oakland NFTC three weeks ago. The four main schools that have been showing interest since Taifane's breakout performance are Cal, UCLA, and the Washington schools. The 6'2/310 Taifane plays both ways for Grant, just as Puka Lopa and Tiny Moala did in their Pacer days. But his future seems to be on the defensive side of the ball, after showing his strength, physicality and nasty streak at the Oakland NFTC. He has a good first step and the power to just overwhelm high school interior linemen. While no schools have offered yet, expect Taifane's recruitment to really pick up in his senior season. I'd consider UCLA and Cal as the favorites should offers come.
So there's your defensive line recruiting primer for this cycle. As always, expect more names to pop up once the fall season gets underway and some guys let their play do the talking.
You may have noticed a few notable defensive ends were not included on this list; guys like Tampa Hillsborough's Jordan Sherit, Alief Taylor's Torrodney Prevot (visiting Cal this weekend), Louisiana's Tim Williams and local hoss Austin Hooper. Well those guys are all being recruited as OLB/Rush Backers. Ergo, they'll be included next week in the linebackers post.
Honestly, I don't have a real good feel for where we're at right now in our defensive line recruiting. As indicated by the geographic scope of the guys we're after, Coach Howard has been doing some work across the country to evaluate and scout as many prospects as possible. We know he can coach, and we know he can recruit. The fact of the matter is most of these guys are coveted by many programs so the competition will be stiff. How it all unfolds will be very interesting. The question is...what qualifies as success? Say what you will, but we've enjoyed unprecedented success recruiting defensive linemen under Tursh. So do we expect the same success with Coach Howard? Should we? Obviously Vanderdoes is the ultimate prize, and while I wouldn't go so far as to say we're favored (we're not), I think we do have a good shot at him. Would I feel better about our chances if Toshageddon had never happened? Um, yep. Will I be disappointed if we don't land Eddie? Um, yep. He's a guy we need. A guy everyone needs. And while I believe that we can assemble a nice class of DL commits without him, it would feel like a consolation prize to me. Just the way it is. We've been spoiled recently. My ideal and not ridiculously far-fetched group would be Vanderdoes (SDE), Taifane (NT) and Augusta (WDE). For the hell of it, give me a fourth guy and I'll take Sam Smith or Luca Bruno. YAIS!
How do you feel about it? What's your ideal DL class look like? Comment below. Do it. Do it.