Cal has recruited five offensive linemen in this class. Who will contribute the earliest and has the most upside?
Hard to say which 2013 OL will contribute the earliest, as each guy has different areas that will require work. Mission Viejo's Erik Bunte is enormous at 6'7/315, but needs to increase his strength. Fountain Valley OL JD Hinnant needs to beef back up after losing over 30 pounds following injuries sustained in a near-fatal car accident. Buhach Colony's Aaron Cochran needs to lose weight and get stronger. Vinnie Johnson needs to add about 30 pounds to his lean 6'5/255 pound frame. That leaves Paramount OL Chris Borrayo, who at 6'5/290 may be the most ready to play physically. Borrayo is a mauler and ideally suited to play offensive guard. I don't expect any of the incoming linemen to play in 2013, but Borrayo would probably be most ready to do so if necessary.
With regard to which guy has the most upside, I love the athleticism of Vinnie Johnson and think he could be a terrific left tackle once he's added the necessary weight and strength. He has good feet and long arms to go along with a mean streak. His familiarity with Tony Franklin's offense also helps tremendously. In addition to Johnson, Aaron Cochran is a guy that we should all be excited about. Given time to transform his body and get his footwork down, Aaron has a tremendous upside. This is a good OL group and each guy is worth being excited about though.
How big is the loss of Cameron Hunt? Would he have managed to contribute immediately?
The Hunt loss would have hurt a lot more if we didn't sign 5 other OL in 2013. I do believe that Hunt could have contributed early, although I don't know about immediately. While technically sound, Hunt still needs to gain weight. He's a very good prospect though, and I was really impressed with the way he handled himself in the Under Armour All-American Bowl against some elite passrushers. It was disappointing to see him sign with Oregon, but not a surprise in the end.
Cal really loaded up on a lot of under the radar defensive tackles. How physical are they at the line of scrimmage?
All three guys are a little different. Westlake DT Tony Mekari possesses a great motor and plays much stronger than his listed weight of 260, but will still need time to gain the necessary weight to really hold his ground against college offensive linemen. Santa Monica College DT Marcus Manley is plenty physical, but plays a little high based on the limited amount of film I've seen on him. It sounds like he made some significant strides in his game over the last year though, so we'll see how ready he is to contribute when he arrives at Cal.
I really like Cy Falls' Jacobi Hunter. Unlike Mekari and Manley, Hunter could probably stand to lose a few pounds...but just watch the way he plays. He maintains a very low pad level and has the base to hold his ground against double teams. He can be a disruptive force in the middle. The way he plays the nose reminds me a bit of Brendan Mebane. I don't question Hunter's physicality as much as his motor. Some time in a college-level strength and conditioning program should address that though.
Is Takkarist McKinley he edge rusher Cal has desperately needed on the outside?
McKinley is certainly an athletic freak with his unique combination of size, length and speed. I think he can certainly become that dangerous edge rusher, but will need to be given time to really develop his technique to do so. When you factor in his upbringing and the path that has taken him here, Takk is a guy that you have to root for. It will be really exciting to see how he develops at Cal.
Which of the JuCo defensive ends are ready to join the rotation next season?
I've covered both Kragen and Sina a bit already, but I'm excited about both of them. The big question with Sina is whether he will be able to recover from his knee injury in time to contribute this upcoming season. He's a destructive force when healthy though. A very explosive guy who doesn't so much tackle as hit. Ridiculously athletic.
Kragen is a grinder. He doesn't have the kind of athletic upside that Sina does, but he'll never be outworked. Early reports are that he's already getting bigger and turned some heads during the first Spring practice session as well.
Simply because he's healthy, look for Kragen to make an immediate contribution in the DL rotation. I'm hopeful Sina can get in there too. Both guys can certainly help out this pass rush.
Chad Whitener seems like a natural fit at MLB. What stands out about him on tape?
Whitener amassed over 300 tackles in the last 2 seasons for Mansfield. That is absurd. It's also exactly what I like in a middle linebacker. But Chad is much more than just a tackler. He has great sideline to sideline speed and can cover a lot of ground. He hits and finishes his tackles. He's an intelligent and instinctive football player. Just really solid. He's also got really good size for the rigors of the middle already. Lot to like about Chad.
I've made no secret of my affinity for Tustin linebacker Edward Tandy. He's big, strong, athletic and versatile. The good news is... Johnny Ragin is the exact same kind of guy. They're very similar in the way they play and how they can each slot in at any of the three linebacker spots. Ragin and Tandy each played both ways for their high school teams. Both will play outside linebacker in Cal's defense, but I love the versatility and athleticism in their respective tapes. While Ragin's athleticism may jump out a bit more, Tandy looks to be the more violent of the two. Each guy has good size already and should be able to get up to 240 pounds without sacrificing any of their athleticism. I'm still giddy over the fact that Cal signed both of them, and it absolutely blows my mind that Tandy didn't receive more attention on the recruiting circuit. He was the best linebacker in Orange County and the MVP of his league. Ragin stuck with Cal after a late push from Oregon. Why the Ducks didn't offer him sooner, I can't say. But I'm glad they didn't. These two will make quite a duo in the future.
Do Darius Allensworth and Cameron Walker bring different or similar skillsets to the cornerback position?
I think Walker and Allensworth are similar in a few ways. Both guys were two-way players for their respective high school teams, and that shows in the way they find the ball from their cornerback spots. They're both aggressive and physical in coverage as well. Allensworth is more sturdily built while Walker is a little bit longer, but both guys show good hips and closing speed. I know the staff is high on both Darius and Cameron, with Walker having a possible opportunity to see some playing time immediately. Darius is still recovering from his ACL surgery, but is progressing nicely. I think these additions will look even better once each guy has had an opportunity to fully heal and adjust to college football.
Is there any upside to Cal not landing a single safety in this class?
Not in my opinion. Fortunately we have Koa Farmer already committed for 2014. The staff needs to hold onto him. Great kid and a great prospect at a real need position. That still doesn't really excuse no safety being signed in 2013 though. There was a need there and it was really the one real miss in 2013. That said, I do credit the staff with electing not to reach with any late offers once it became clear that they wouldn't be able to land any of the safeties higher on their board. Nothing really wrong with holding onto that scholarship and putting it to good use next year.
How quickly can Matt Anderson compete for the starting spot?
Chris Sailer raved about Anderson, so that's good enough for me. I confess that watcher kicker film isn't something I've willingly subjected myself to. But given how up and down our field goal kicking has been over the last few years, I believe Anderson has as good of a shot as anyone to compete going into 2013. It will be interesting to see what Cal Poly transfer and Foothill High product James Langford adds to the competition as well.