"Is that a Cal... bear... man?"
"No stupid, it's ManBearCal."
I have to be honest. Life isn't quite the same without ManBearCal in our lives at CGB. So we brought our former recruiting guru and current Cal Rivals scouting expert Marc Tausend out to discuss the 2013 recruiting class (Follow him on Twitter at @ManBearCal). This is Part I of this interview.
1. What did Cal really need to accomplish with this recruiting class? Did Cal accomplish that?
Coach Dykes stated shortly after his hiring that shoring up depth on the offensive and defensive lines would be a focal point of this class. Considering a couple lackluster years of offensive line recruiting and the transition to new DC Andy Buh's 4-3 defensive front, this seemed like obvious need areas. With 5 offensive linemen and 8 defensive linemen signed in 2013, I'd say the staff carried through on that. While it would have been nice to have held onto a 6th OL commit in Centennial's Cameron Hunt, the 5 guys we brought in will add much needed depth to the position, even though I don't expect any of them to contribute right away. On the defensive side, we may see a more immediate contribution from the three JuCo defenders that were signed; DE's Sione Sina and Kyle Kragen, along with DT Marcus Manley.
2. Who is the most important recruit in this class and why?
I'll go with the safe answer and say Marin Catholic QB Jared Goff. The credibility of Dykes and his staff could have taken a major hit if Goff, a local guy and Cal legacy, had wavered in his commitment. He didn't, and has a real chance to do great things in this offense. Coming off of a poor season and with the staff in flux, Goff played a big role in keeping the class together as best he could. He's a leader and a great talent, not to mention one of the most highly rated prospects in the class.
3. Is there somebody we missed out on that Cal really needed?
We really needed a safety in this class, and that was a blatant miss. There were a number of really quality options in-state, but Cal wasn't able to land any of them. Central East's LJ Moore, a versatile guy that could play CB or Safety, would have been a nice pickup late in the cycle. Things were supposedly looking promising with him thanks to a late push by the new staff, but he ended up signing with Oklahoma. Thankfully Cal's lone commit of the 2014 class is Koa Farmer; a big, fast safety prospect from Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks. That lessens the sting a bit.
I also was disappointed that Cal wasn't able to bring in more than 1 running back. While Khalfani Muhammad is a terrific pickup who has a real chance to shine in Tony Franklin's offense, the lack of depth at the running back position really demanded that more than 1 back be brought in. We really lost ground with Chaminade RB Terrell Newby after the previous staff, and specifically RB Coach Ron Gould, were let go. Despite the best efforts of Pierre Ingram to repair that relationship, Newby moved on and signed with Nebraska. That hurt.
Expect Cal to bring in a minimum of two running backs in 2014, and possibly 3.
4. Who do you see making an impact in 2013?
I think both of the JuCo defensive ends, Kyle Kragen and Sione Sina, will help our pass rush immediately once they get into the rotation. Sina is an athletic freak who's recovering from a serious knee injury. He can be a demon off the edge if he's able to make a full recovery by the fall...something that seems to be in question. Kragen was extremely productive in 2 seasons at DVC, and he's a guy who is absolutely relentless even if he's doesn't possess the athletic talent that a guy like Sina has. They're different players, but I think both will help a lot.
Running back Khalfani Muhammad is another guy who should see time right away, and that's also out of necessity thanks to our lack of depth at running back. With his speed, he can help.
5. This was Dykes' first recruiting class with Cal and one sort of frankensteined with the effort of the Tedford regime. What do you think about Dykes and his staff as recruiters going forward?
I think the staff is bringing good energy to the recruiting trail for the most part. Most of them were considered good recruiters at their previous schools, albeit not in major conferences. It will be interesting to see how they stack up against some of college football's best recruiters here in the Pac-12. I do believe that their ability to recruit at Cal will depend greatly on what level of progress is demonstrated on the field.
6. How do you feel Cal did, considering the turnover and their 3-9 season?
I think Cal did okay. This is a solid, if unspectacular, class. Needs were addressed, save for at least one safety, an additional running back, and a speedy slot WR...though Caleb Coleman may end up being that guy. But the staff hustled to shore up the offensive and defensive lines while also bringing in a trio of linebackers that I really like to go along with 2 (hopefully 3) cornerbacks who will add much-needed depth.
Obviously it would have been nice to have seen some commitments from higher-rated kids to bolster the class, but recruits seem to be taking a bit of a wait-and-see approach with Cal right now. I think the new staff, given a full year and a season that demonstrates progress in the right direction, should be able to recruit very effectively given their energy and the appeal that Cal should hold given its location, academics, and upgraded facilities. Winning will determine just what the ceiling can be in terms of recruiting.
7. How does Jared Goff stack up against Zach Kline? Does Goff seem like more of an ideal fit for the Bear Raid than our other quarterbacks?
Goff has the accuracy, mobility and arm strength to be a very successful quarterback in the Bear Raid, but I do think he needs a year in a college strength program to add some more beef to his bones in preparation for college football. That said, he's already enrolled at Cal and will have the benefit of learning the new playbook at the same time as the other quarterbacks in the program. If he impresses enough, he'll play. The fact that Marin Catholic ran a wide-open offense works in Goff's favor as well.
With regard to how Goff compares to Kline, that's hard to say. Kline came out of high school as one of the most highly praised quarterback prospects in the country, possessing a huge arm and good pocket awareness. After a redshirt year at Cal under Tedford, much will depend on how well Kline adapts to the new offense.
8. Khalfani Muhammad is a bit on the small side but seems extremely tough. What qualities really make him stand out on tape?
Um, he's really fast. Like, REALLY fast. But he also runs really hard and doesn't shy away from contact. Despite his small stature, Muhammad is strong. He can be a home-run back, but he brings his hardhat and lunchpail to work too. I really like that about him. But it's really his speed that sets him apart, and one of the things that could allow him to see playing time immediately.
9. The wide receivers we recruited might need to spend a year getting ready. Of the three we recruited which one looks the most ready to produce?
I know the staff absolutely loves Jack Austin. They think he'll contribute right away thanks to his size and route-running. Don't sleep on Drake Whitehurst though. He'll have the benefit of Spring Ball under his belt and at 6'6" should present some serious matchup problems. What he lacks in speed he makes up for in largeness.
10. Ray Hudson seems to possess excellent versatility. Which skill does he possess that'll put him on the field the earliest?
The great thing about Hudson is that even though he was recruited by the former staff as a tight end, he only ever played wide receiver at Foothill. He's very comfortable lining up out wide and using his size to outmuscle smaller defensive backs. The new staff will use him in multiple fashions: as an inside receiver, a traditional tight end, or as an H-Back in diamond formations. Hudson is a very good route-runner with soft hands. Couple those traits up with his 6'4", 235-pound frame and you've got a guy that can do some damage in the Bear Raid offense.
So in answer to your question...I think it IS his versatility that will get him on the field early.