Let's play a game that I like to call "Look at a random tweet that I, in no way, selected ahead of time."
Sonny noted that Treggs & Harper started practicing at DB this week for emergency depth— GoldenBlogs (@GoldenBlogs) October 6, 2013
This means that wide receivers Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper may have to play at Defensive Back, because of massive injury problems and a lack of depth.
Two way players? What is this, the 1920s? Two way players seem about as antiquated as the Bournonville ballet style (RELEVANT REFERENCE ALERT!!!). But, here we are, in 2013 talking about playing two of our best WRs as DBs. Hashtag Oy!
How did we end up in this unfortunate position? It is a combination of injuries and unfortunate recruiting misteps. To get a better idea, we have to look back several years and comb through recruiting to see who came onto the team.
2009 RECRUITING CLASS
First, let's look at the 2009 recruiting commits. These players will be redshirt seniors, if they are still on the team. They should be the veteran leaders of the team. The players listed in there at DB (i.e. safety and cornerback) are:
None of these players are currently contributing to the Cal team in the secondary. To be fair, Steve Williams left early for the NFL, Chris Moncrease was a community college transfer, so he only had 2 years, and Alex Logan just retired after medical troubles. That leaves Lucas King, Vachel Samuels, and Tyler York.
King is listed as a junior and a linebacker. He is contributing as a linebacker, but not a DB, so that contribution is somewhat irrelevant to our discussion here. Samuels is apparently not with the team anymore. It is unclear exactly why he is no longer with the team, but there are some medical issues listed there, so that may be it.
As for Tyler York, it does not appear he is with the team anymore. I am not sure why that is. Rumor is a medical retirement. So, of the 2009 recruiting class, we are looking at a fat zero senior leaders currently playing for the team. That is due to a range of reasons, including NFL, medical retirements, community college limitations, and mysterious disappearances. The bottom line is nobody still around in the secondary.
2010 RECRUITING CLASS
Let's move on to 2010 recruiting. These guys would be either redshirt juniors or seniors. There are only 3 DBs listed here:
Although Allen is listed as a DB, we all know he never played DB. So, essentially in 2010, there were only 2 DBs recruited for the team. Now, then-Coach Tedford and his staff may have felt since they recruited 6 DBs the year before (and may have had many great DBs on the team at that time), they did not need to recruit more. That may be a reasonable argument, but another aspect to recruiting is class balance. Many, many, many players wash out. It is the way of things. Obtaining only 2 DBs in one year is going to create a potential problem down the line.
As for the two DBs we did recruit in 2010, Adrian Lee is still with the team. He is contributing with several tackles on the year and 1 pass break up. Michael Coley (now known as Michael Lowe) is also with the team. He has been a starter for some time and has been a solid contributor. So, both of the 2 DBs here are still on the team and contributing. Lowe is in the news right now for getting penalized on a TD that never existed! Lowe is actually having a solid season so far, with 25 tackles and a smattering of other stats, including the pick referenced above.
However, 2 DBs does not a team make. It is not sufficient to make up for the problems stemming from the 2009 DB class.
2011 RECRUITING CLASS
So, let's look at the 2011 recruiting class. It should be noted that after the 2010 season, Coach Tedford fired the then DB coach Al Simmons and brought in a young gun, Ashley Ambrose as coach. Simmons was there from 2008-2010, while Ambrose was there from 2011-2012.
This group would be juniors or redshirt sophomores. The DBs listed here are:
Avery Walls aka Avery Sebastian
Another safety, junior Jordan Morgan, left the team following fall camp per Dykes. He didn't elaborate on the circumstances.
However, the other three names on this list are ones that should be well known to any Cal fans. Jackson, McClure, and Sebastian are three talented players. Unfortunately, they have been hampered by injuries throughout their careers.
Jackson has played this year, so far netting 5 tackles on the year to go along with 1 pass break up and 1 interception. Sebastian has 10 tackles on the year and an int. However, he suffered a serious ACL injury and is out for the year. He will apparently redshirt and could be productive in the future, though. McClure has 30 tackles on theyear with 5 pass break ups, which are great numbers. However, he was injured during Cal's game against WSU and was seen on crutches. He may be out for a long time. He has had some major leg problems before.
I'll also note that Joel Willis is listed there as an ATH (meaning he didn't really have a specified position). He's played some WR, but has been pressed into service as a DB. He has 11 tackles, 1 pass break up, and 1 forced fumble.
So, the 2011 class got some quality players that unfortunately have had to deal with major injury problems. Even if the were fully healthy this year, the time lost due to prior injuries would have hampered growth. However, it may give us extra time in future years!
The 2009, 2010, and 2011 recruiting classes should be the veteran leaders of the teams here. The players there would be juniors and seniors who could lead the Blue and Gold to success, while helping the 2012 and 2013 classes how to play at the collegiate level. On most teams, the two most recent classes (at best sophomores, but in some cases, redshirt freshmen not even playing) would not play much outside of exceptional talents. The situation here is not normal. Let's look at the numbers again:
Michael Coley aka Michael Lowe
Avery Walls aka Avery Sebastian
There are 13 players listed there, although it is really just 12, because Keenan Allen was never going to play DB seriously. Further, one of those (King) was more of a linebacker when he got here. Another was a community college transfer, meaning he only had 2 years. So, of the 13 names listed, only about 10 could be anticipated to contribute down the line. Of those 10, only Mike Lowe, Adrian Lee, and Kam Jackson are contributing and healthy. There's been a run of bad luck about other talented players, such as McClure and Sebastian. But, basically, out of 10-13 names, it's 2-4 players at best who can contribute. Injuries has hampered that list even more.
This has forced more 2012 and even 2013 recruits into service. Those players are young and just growing into their own. A quick glance at the 2012 class shows that only 2 out of the 4 players there are contributing. Damariay Drew, and Cedric Dozer (technically listed as Athletes) are contributors, but the two listed DBs there (Raymond Ford and Willie Fletcher) do not appear to be on the team anymore. Not great.
There are many factors as to why the Cal secondary seems to be extremely poor right now. Some amount of blame falls onto the coaching staff. Steve Williams leaving early was his own personal decision and I respect that, but in regards to the Cal secondary situation, it hurt it significantly.
JTLight of AddictedToQuack had this comment to say about Oregon's DB recruiting during that time:
For comparison sake, here is what Oregon had during the same time frame.
2009: Cliff Harris (kicked off team), Brian Jackson (starter), Avery Patterson (starter)
2010: Erick Dargan (backup that gets a lot of time), Eric Dungy (moved to WR), Troy Hill (backup, sees a lot of time), Derrick Malone (now starting LB), Dior Mathis (backup CB), Terrance Mitchell (starting CB, all-conference caliber), James Scales (part of the infamous North Carolina group, dismissed from team)
2011: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (All-American)
There, we have 11 recruits of which 5 are apparently starters (with some elite level talent) and 3 more are backups with large roles to play. So, out of the 11 players, 8 are contributing. Compared to Cal's numbers, that seems significantly better to me.
Finally, let's end on a positive note! There is a lot of youth on the team. I'm reminded when Syd'Quan Thompson was thrown in the fire at the 2006 Tennessee game. That was a disaster for him. He learned and worked hard and developed into a great NFL caliber player.
I'm hopeful that all the young players who have been thrown into the fire this year will do the same. GO BEARS!