Many of you are familiar with Jim McGill's work at Bear Insider. He is the primary recruiting reporter and the man you will often hear writing up the big stories on Cal football commits. He has been busy on the trail for the past few months covering the big recruiting events and breaking huge stories, and he has always done a commendable job in his coverage of the team while respecting the wishes of the prospective Cal athletes he covers.
We took some time to talk with Jim about the state of recruiting for the Bears, as we discussed last year.
USC and Oregon had better recruiting classes according to most of the recruiting services. Assuage Cal fans that believe they will never be able to catch up to the two dominant Pac-10 powers in terms of getting quality players.
USC and Oregon edged out Cal in the recruiting rankings because SC signed 29 and Oregon 24 with Cal signing 22. Each team earns a certain number of points up to 25 signings so not getting the additional points for two and three extra recruits cost Cal some.
Both Oregon and SC have a great top end to the class, just like Cal. The equalizer, to me, is that Cal's bottom half of the class is stronger and deeper.
SC signed a bunch of players that were early-entrants so they could be backdated to 2010, allowing them to help recover from the large number of transfers they had after the sanctions. A number of those players would've never had offers in the past, including a trio of 2 star jc's. In all, they signed a very un-Trojan-like 10 players rated the 50th or less player at their position, if you include the 2 star jc's. The same is true of eight of Oregon's 24 signees, including the 114th, 137th and 138th rated players at their positions and another unrated recruit.
In contrast, Cal only had seven outside the top 50 at their position and only one outside the top 100. One who didn't make the top 50 at his position on one service was rated the 16th-best receiver by ESPN.
Cal beat Oregon in head-to-head recruiting battles for five straight days in December, with the commitments of Matt Williams, Brendon Bigelow, Todd Barr, Jason Gibson and Avery Walls, not to mention Brennan Scarlett, Stefan McClure and Vei Moala.
So while it can be argued that the flash of the top end of SC and Oregon's classes may give them claim to comparable or slightly better classes, it could just as easily be argued that the top-to-bottom quality of Cal's class, which included seven U.S. Army All-Americans is every bit as good and deeper than both their rivals.
In terms of addressing immediate needs, who do you think had the best recruiting class in the Pac-12? Which team is in crisis mode?
The Pac 10 is largely a 3-tier phenomina this year, with Cal, USC and Oregon clearly on top, Stanford and Washington at the next level and UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State and Washington State really struggling to add talent in '11.
Washington added some very nice top-end local talent in receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins but a lot of mid-level, 3 star players to fill out their class. Stanford was pushing to get into the top group before losing linebacker Anthony Sarao and running back Anthony Carlisle to USC. They still did well, landing players like safety Wayne Lyons and linebacker James Vaughters.
UCLA typically recruits well, largely due to their favorable location but quarterback Brett Hundley is one of the few headliners in their tiny, 15-man class. Washington State had only three players in the top 50 at their positions. Oregon State had a single 4 star player in undersized DE Dylan Wynn. Arizona had no 4 stars and only three in the top 50 at their positions. ASU had only one 4 star commit in QB Michael Eubank, while signing five 2 star athletes.
Cal has a strong defensive line class and a strong core of running backs. From what you're hearing, who do you think is most ready to play now, and who will probably be redshirting or waiting their turn?
I think this class will likely produce the most true frosh that see playing time since Tedford arrived at Cal. In this class, my favorites to play are DT Vei Moala, DE Todd Barr, OLB Cecil Whiteside and CB's Stefan McClure and either Kameron Jackson or Joel Willis on defense and WR Maurice Harris and one of frosh RB's Brendon Bigelow or Daniel Lasco, depending on health. Also look for both JC OL Matt Williams and RB C.J. Anderson to play right away, as well.
Many fret over "burning" redshirt years, but with two straight top recruiting classes on the way and a third seeming to be developing now, the Cal staff sees little need to hold players who can contribute now in reserve for coming years when more top talent is on the way.
However, defensive line and running backs have never been our problem. Tell us a little bit about how we've shored up the other positions.
Actually, with Shane Vereen leaving early and injury problems with Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson, Trajuan Briggs and Desarte Yarnway, the Bears needed to recruit both depth and experience at RB, which they accomplished with All-American JC RB C.J. Anderson and two top 20 caliber running backs in Brendon Bigelow and Daniel Lasco along with RB/Slot athlete Darren Ervin, who may surprise people in coming years.
On the DL, Cal only took one recruit last year in Gabe King. They were in need of depth there and got it in a big way with two Army All-Americans in Vei Moala and Brennan Scarlett, along with UnderArmor All-American Todd Barr, not to mention DE Puka Lopa and DT Moose Jalil.
As for other positions, Cal badly needed cornerbacks and shored up the need well with Stefan McClure, Kameron Jackson and Brandon Willis -the latter two whom Cal stole from UW after early commitments to the Huskies. They also needed linebacker depth and with the addition of 2010 carryovers Cecil Whiteside and Chris McCain, joined by Army All-American Jason Gibson along with Jalen Jefferson and Nathan Broussard, they shored up depth nicely in the middle.
From this recruiting class, did Cal meet all of their essential needs? If not, what kind of players will the Bears be looking for in 2012?
For the most part, Cal did a very good job shoring up their needs. The only area you could point to that could've used a little more depth is offensive line, but with only center Chris Guarnero and offensive tackle Donovan Edwards departing on the line along with former walk-on Richard Fisher, the Bears only targeted two slots for the position, with an eye on the 2012 class, which is much deeper and more talented. They got an early jump on the talented '12 OL class, with DL coach Tosh Lupoi making a strong move on many of the top junior OL, especially at OT.
Based on what you've been hearing about the redshirts, which players are going to make an immediate and important impact?
For Cal fans, Cal's 2011 class was largely a case of delayed gratification. After linebackers Dave Wilkerson and Nick Forbes along with tight end Jacob Wark played early, only to see their seasons shut down quickly due to injury (all of whom are expected to be awarded medical redshirts in the near future), only receiver Keenan Allen played in 2010. Expect to see redshirt frosh OL Alex Crosthwaite, Chris Adcock and Geoff Gibson move into the OL rotation, receivers Tevin Carter and Kaelin Clay add speed and skill at receiver, Gabe King now fully-healthy at WDE, safety Michael Coley, along with aforementioned Wark, Wilkerson and Forbes.
Looking ahead to next season, what are the type of players we are looking to recruit the most next season?
Offensive line and receiver are at the top of the 2012 recruiting wishlist and the quality depth at each position gives Cal a lot of good options. With the early commitment of quarterback Zach Kline, who's doing an excellent job recruiting top athletes to join him at Cal, the Bears hosted a monster group of future stars on their Elite Junior Day, many of whom play at their position of need. Expect to see Cal take 5 or 6 OL and three receivers in this class, with a special focus on OT's.
Who are the biggest targets for Cal? Do you have a good feeling about anyone becoming a Golden Bear in the next few months?
Several of Cal's biggest targets have Cal at the top or high on their lists, including WR Bryce Treggs, RB Byron Marshall, TE Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, OT's Kyle Murphy and Freddie Tagaloa and CB Shaq Thompson. Many of their other top targets will likely take visits and decide later, as might a couple I've listed. If offered, TE Ian Taubler could join that list, as well.