National Signing Day 2014, Cal recruiting preview: Marcus Griffin, Nifae Lealao to decide

Cal Bears Online

The Golden Bears are likely to sign at least 20 players for their 2014 recruiting class.

Hey everybody, Nam here. Again. As you may already know, tomorrow is National Signing Day, and I'm filling in for JahvidKnowsBest to give you a little rundown of how the process works, what to expect, and what it'll be like, as part of a whole bunch of coverage we will have going.

What is National Signing Day?

Simply put, it is the first time in which players who have verbally committed to schools -- like Cal, or Washington, or wherever -- can sign binding Letters of Intent (LOIs) guaranteeing their scholarship and attendance. It is usually held the first Wednesday in February, which, this year, falls on February 5th.

What do I do?

Absolutely nothing! Just sit back and relax. Starting early Wednesday morning, the faxes -- yes, they're sent in via fax, still -- will start rolling in, and shortly after that, so too, will the official announcements from the @CalFootball and @CalCoachDykes Twitter feeds, as well as at CalBears.com/signingday. If you'd like to be kept abreast of any late developments, you should supplement that with a follow to @GoldenBlogs, @CalRivals, @RGBearTerritory.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Follow that @AGuyNamedNam too. I hear he's obsessed about Cal things.)

At 1PM on Wednesday, Sonny Dykes will hold a press conference -- streamable here, I believe -- to discuss the class and go over some highlights of all the players.

Alright, this sounds nice and easy so far. What do I need to know about the class?

As is, the Bears have 20 total commitments in the 2014 class. Projecting what they will actually play on campus at this point is tricky, but here's what we have so far, assuming no last minute changes:

For simplicity's sake, I went with the listed positions they have on Rivals.

  • Quarterbacks: Luke Rubenzer, Chase Forrest

    Breakdown: Rubenzer was the main target early on for Tony Franklin and crew. Forrest provides the Bears with added depth after the loss of Zach Kline to transfer.
  • Running backs: Vic Enwere, Tre Watson

    Breakdown: Enwere and Watson seem poised to be one of the top one-two running back recruited combos in the nation. Enwere provides the big back power that Cal has lacked for years, and Watson provides the deadly shifty effective production. We'll have to see if Watson sticks [more on that later], but if he does it will be a solid effort by Pierre Ingram to land both of these guys.
  • Wide receivers: Erik Brown

    Breakdown: Cal has stacked up on wide receivers in recent classes, so this wasn't the biggest area of need. The Bears tried to make a few stabs at names like Shay Fields, but Cal is pretty deep at this position and was better off addressing needs at other spots. Hard to go wrong with Brown though, a bonafide top receiving talent.

  • Offensive linemen: Michael Trani, Kamryn Bennett, Dominic Granado

    Breakdown: Cal has had some deep offensive line classes the past two years, so the Bears didn't need a host of new players. But Trani, Bennett and Granado all figure to be important depth additions down the road.

  • Defensive ends: Kennedy Emesibe, Noah Westerfield, Jonathan Johnson, probably not Nifae Lealao

    Breakdown: This is a big area of need after the subpar performance off the edge last season. Cal landed one quality JUCO talent who will be asked to contribute immediately. The big fish on the table is Lealao, but it would be surprising if he did come here. More on that below.

  • Defensive tackles: David Davis, Trevor Kelly, maybe Marcus Griffin

    Breakdown: With both starting defensive tackles gone, Cal will need big bodies in the middle. Luckily they have two JUCO players ready to go. Obviously the big question is whether Griffin will sign on with the rest of the class. Scroll down for more on Griffin.

  • Linebackers: Chandler Leniu, Aisea Tongilava, John Porchivina

    Breakdown: Leniu was a much needed addition to provide the Bears quality depth at the position. Cal has three linebackers who are all necessary at this point. The more linebackers the better!
  • Defensive backs: Darius White, Sam Atoe, Quentin Tartabull

    Breakdown: Koa Farmer's defection at the eleventh hour was a painful one. Cal will again be low on safety depth for what seems like the eighth straight year. The good news is they have two early impact players in White and Atoe who could see the field early and play early.

  • Athlete: Devante Downs

    Breakdown: Downs played running back and linebacker in high school, but he was recruited to play defense and I imagine that's where he'll stick. Downs and Leniu could definitely be called upon to play early if needed, and there is plenty of need.
What's this business with early enrollees?

Five of those aforementioned 20 are already here and taking classes -- they started in January because they were able to graduate from their respective community colleges and high schools early. This means that they will be able to participate in spring ball and begin strength and conditioning much earlier than everyone else.

Their names: Devante Downs, Sam Atoe, Trevor Kelly, David Davis, and Jonathan Johnson. Four are JUCO transfers and could see immediate playing time.

Is there anyone who might decommit?

Not as far as we know. Usually, you can tell when a guy is wavering in the final moments before National Signing Day, but at least publicly, there's no reason to believe any of the current commitments will end up elsewhere. The only name that might be worrisome is Tre Watson, but despite the full-court press from Washington, he has yet to budge from his recruitment.

Still, crazier things have happened...

Are there any surprises in store?

The Bears are hoping for a commitment from Bellevue (Wa.) defensive tackle Marcus Griffin, who will be choosing between Cal, Arizona, Washington State, and Mississippi State on Wednesday, but other than that, it doesn't look like there will be any last minute gifts to the class or anything like that. Cal has a fighting shot, but it's Arizona with all the late momentum, according to the 247Sports Crystal Ball.

One other recruit is in store. Nifae Lealao is expected to announce between Cal, Stanfurd and Vanderbilt.

All signs are pointing to Vandy though. Don't expect a commitment here.

Again, crazier things have happened, but that's just the way it's shaking out right now. It could end up being a quiet National Signing Day.


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