Hey gang. After our regional recruit previews (Northern California, Southern California, and out of state recruits to know), I thought it would be nice to review Cal's 2013 recruiting needs by position group. We're going to start with running backs.
Though our cup may runneth over right now, the conclusion of the 2012 season will see us in need of help at the running back position. Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson and now Trajuan Briggs are transferring, and the graduation of Isi Sofele, CJ Anderson, and Mike Manuel will leave us with three scholarship running backs on the roster in Daniel Lasco, Brendan Bigelow, and Darren Ervin (to my knowledge, 2012 commit Jeffrey Coprich has been tabbed as a slot WR). While expectations are high for this trio, we're going to need to add at least two more in the 2013 class to ensure we have sufficient depth at the position.
We've got one class of 2013 running back committed already in Stockdale beast DJ Martin, but we've extended offers to several other talented guys, and there's even a couple more without offers that are being recruited. Below we're going to get to know DJ and some other 2013 running backs that Cal is recruiting a little better. Note that each recruit's name will link to their highlights. So please, read on.
DJ Martin, RB (Cal) Stockdale (Bakersfield, CA). One of the most complete backs in the West, Martin committed to Coach Gould and Cal back on March 19. Capable of running with serious power between the tackles and enough speed to turn the corner outside, there is a LOT to like about DJ's game. He performed very well at the SoCal NFTC camp a month ago, showing strong pass-blocking and receiving skills as well. I've already given a hefty assessment on DJ in his commitment post, but I'm really excited to see how he performs in his senior season considering how good he looked as a sophomore. Going out on a limb, I expect him to be even stronger and faster. Of course, holding onto his commitment will be a challenge as well if he performs how I expect him to. He does plan to take other visits, so you never know. If we can keep him, I see DJ being a guy who could compete for playing time sooner than later. He's a three down back.
These are running backs that Cal has supposedly offered and are currently uncommitted.
Justin Davis RB, Lincoln (Stockton, CA). Widely considered to be the best back in the state and in contention for tops in the West, we've discussed Davis plenty here in the past. Like Martin, Davis is a big, complete back, capable of running with speed and power. He has nice burst and agility and runs hard between the tackles. His height causes him to run a bit upright...but so does Adrian Peterson. Not sayin, just sayin. For a really nice scouting report on Davis, check out this post on SB Nation by Derrell Warren. He knows his stuff. Davis will be announcing his commitment on May 17, and we are amongst the finalists along with SC, Washington, Notre Dame, and Stanford. This certainly looks to be all SC. We'll know soon enough.
Taquan Mizzell, RB Bayside (Virginia Beach, VA). Mizzell is an explosive playmaker who can run and catch. He'll play some slot wide receiver in addition to running back for bayside this coming Fall. He has the look and skills of a scat-back , but demonstrates the ability to run with power as well. He's dangerous once he finds some space too, as his nickname , "Smoke", might indicate. Cal offered Mizzell back on March 3. He's now up to over 20 offers. The 5'10/180 speedster is planning to narrow his list to seven or eight schools some time before the summer. It certainly looks as though the in-state schools (Virginia and Virginia Tech) along with West Virginia will be tough to beat. Frankly, I'd be surprised if we make Mizzell's first cut. There's been little indication that he's been in steady communication with the staff since he was offered, or that Cal has been in the forefront of his thoughts recently in the process. Our pursuit of a couple West Coast backs with similar skill sets could support this as well. Still, if Mizzell does take a West Coast visit as he's indicated he might, you never know. He's really good.
Elijah Qualls, RB/FB Casa Grande (Petaluma, CA). One of my favorite recruits in this class. I like to watch Qualls' highlights while cranking some Mastodon. It just works, kinda like Dark Side of the Moon and Wizard of Oz. While he's being recruited by some schools as a defensive tackle, Cal is recruiting Mr. Qualls as a short yardage back/fullback. That's where I really like him. He's got great agility and moves for a guy who's 280 pounds. He can move a pile, but he can also flash some wiggle in space. He offers so much versatility; he can be your bruiser, but he could succeed in the occasional single back set as well. Most of the Pac-12 has offered, along with Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma and others. Qualls currently favors Washington (sigh), Oregon State and Arizona, but has stated he'd like offers from SC and Oregon as well. His college position doesn't appear to make much of a difference, as UW likes him as a defensive tackle, while OSU and Arizona like him as a running back. I expect Cal to remain a significant factor in his recruitment, although there may be some qualifying issues for him to overcome. A running back class of Martin, Qualls, and a quicker guy like Newby or Muhammad would be sweet.
Khalfani Muhammad, RB Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, CA). We discussed Muhammad in last week's look at the top SoCal targets. If Qualls is Thunder, Muhammad is LIGHTNING. He has elite speed, as indicated by him likely claiming the state title in the 100 and 200 meter dashes this spring after finishing second in both events last year. He clocked a 10.55 in the 100 meters at the Mt. SAC Relays three weeks ago, one hundredth of a second off his personal best. That's the eighth-fastest time by a high schooler in the country this year. On the gridiron, Muhammad also has the agility to allow that speed to shine. It's over when he hits daylight, and he runs pretty well inside for a smaller back. Currently holding nine offers but garnering a lot more interest, Cal offered Muhammad two weeks ago. Coach Gould had been in communication with him for much longer, and it seems they have a good relationship. Muhammad is aware of Cal's running back tradition, and has indicated he will visit this summer. Other Pac-12 programs like UCLA and Washington may have gotten a head start, but we're closing the gap now that the offer is there. Worth mentioning that Muhammad's dad is an SC alum, and that an offer from the Trojans could end this recruitment. Still, their numbers are tight and they'll likely be limited to taking two running backs this year. Muhammad could end up being one of them, but likely not until later in the process.
Terrell Newby, RB Chaminade (West Hills, CA). Just last week, I speculated on the timeframe of Chaminade's Terrell Newby getting a Cal offer. Well, he got it about 48 hours later. Newby had already stated that Cal was firmly entrenched in his top four schools, along with Nebraska, Oregon, and SC (who has yet to offer). He's visited Cal a couple times, and has a very good relationship with Coach Gould. He's got a compact, muscular frame that allows him to run effectively between the tackles, but also possesses the burst to turn a corner and find space. He has good lower body strength that allows him to shed any half-assed tackle attempts, and he doesn't run away from contact. He also possesses the kind of explosiveness and decisive running style that compensates for not having the straight-line speed of a guy like Muhammad. As I mentioned last week, he's also extremely productive; running for over 2100 yards and 34 touchdowns as a junior. Newby is a a back I really like, and I expect us to be in strong contention for his commitment. Don't sleep on Nebraska; he's visiting them in the next couple weeks. Also expect strong competition from Oregon (for obvious reasons), and possibly SC if an offer comes Newby's way.
Craig Lee, RB Redlands (Redlands, CA). Lee is a guy that hadn't really been on my radar, but it wasn't due to any lack of talent. I simply wasn't aware of any communication between him and the Cal staff, or of any real interest on his part. Then we offered him on Saturday. I'm glad. Lee is a complete back with nice size (6'0/190) and really good speed. He's now been offered by 9 of the Pac-12 programs, with only Stanford, Oregon, and SC yet to offer. Lee rushed for 1534 yards and 15 touchdowns last year for Redlands, and is unique in that he can serve as an every down back that still presents a threat to house it every time he touches the ball. He has great balance and the size to absorb contact, making him effective inside. Once in the open, he hits his top gear quickly and can run away from people, or make them miss. A very complete back. Lee recently gave a top 5 of UCLA, Washington, Houston, Arizona and SC. UCLA and Washington are probably the favorites as of now, unless SC offers. There's ground for us to make up here, but I'm glad the offer came. Lee is worth the effort. I'd also guess this offer may be indicative of how the staff views their chances of landing Justin Davis at this point. Doom, bitter, etc.
TJ Logan, RB Northern Guilford (Greensboro, NC). I don't know for sure if Cal has actually offered Logan. One site listed that we offered him in the fall of 2010...highly suspect. But this post is a little thin on substance, so I included him for fluff. We're also not really on the radar of the shifty all-purpose back from the high school alma mater of Keenan Allen and Co. He's stated he has a current top 2 of South Carolina and North Carolina. Safe to say this one isn't going to happen. He's a great prospect though; rushing for almost 2500 yards and 38 touchdowns last year for Northern Guilford. Good luck to him, far from the Pac-12.
ON THE RADAR
These are a few running backs who are being recruited by Cal but have not yet been offered.
Olito Thompson RB, Concord (Concord, CA). Thompson is a guy I've openly pined for here. And why not? This is the guy that broke Jahvid Best's NorCal rushing record last year. 3488 yards on 408 carries and 34 touchdowns. That's no joke. And the guy is a workhorse; he had 54 carries in one game. FIFTY-FOUR CARRIES!Concord doesn't run some absurd misdirection offense either, these yards came out of a standard spread. Thompson is solidly built (5'10/210) with good vision and burst. He's power back, but he can also catch out of the backfield well. He can take a beating, and is happy to give it back to would-be tacklers. He seldom goes down at first contact. He doesn't possess elite speed, which is the only reason I can think of that he doesn't seem to be highly thought of by the recruiting services. Regardless, legit programs have taken notice. He received his first offer from Arizona last week, And Pac-12 programs like Cal, SC, Oregon, Utah and Colorado are also showing a lot of interest. I think an offer from Cal would be hard for Thompson to turn down, but I can't climb inside the heads of Coach Gould and the staff. The fact that a few other running backs have received offers ahead of Olito is a tad disheartening. But each of those guys possess a slightly different skill set from him. Justin Davis' decision may be the catalyst for his offer, so we'll have to stay tuned. I'd be sad to see a great local talent slip away in a year where we should really be locking up the Bay Area. But Thompson is planning to attend both of Cal's camps this summer; he clearly wants to show the staff what he can do. And I love that. I hope it pays off.
Pierre Cormier, RB Madison (San Diego, CA). Cormier has been hearing from Cal's staff a bit. He's a dynamic back who presents the kind of home run threat that a Muhammad or Newby would. He's very dangerous in space, and both his quickness and ability to cut is what really shines. He makes guys miss and then hits a burst that can make defenders look foolish. He's willing to put his head down and run between the tackles, but is best utilized when he has the ball the open field. He has good hands and catches the ball well out of the backfield too. He's similar to DeAnthony Thomas in that way. He's a weapon. As I stated last week, I think UCLA may be the team to beat. But more offers could change things in Cormier's recruitment. He's definitely a complimentary piece rather than an every-down back. And I don't mean that as a slight in any way. He's just a guy that is best used in multiple places in an offensive formation, rather than a guy who you want in an I-formation.
Davonte Young, RB St. John Bosco (Bellflower, CA). I look at Davone Young as a SoCal version of Olito Thompson. He's a tad smaller than Olito at 5'8/190, but runs with the same kind of anger, power, an fearlessness. He also has the same good vision and balance, combined with enough burst to find space. Davonte also isn't a true speedster, but he shows the patience and aggression that many naturally gifted runners don't possess. He runs hard every time he touches the ball, which I never get tired of seeing. He also has good hands, making him a legitimate receiving threat out of the backfield. Like Thompson, Young's sole offer came from Arizona. RichRod is doing his due diligence in trying to sell guys on the number of carries that his run-heavy spread offense can offer. He's getting looks from plenty of other programs too, so it's too early to really determine a favorite as of yet. I suspect that Cal may wait to throw its hat in the ring until we know where we stand with some of our other targets. The NorCal homer in me hopes Olito gets the nod first.
Gerard Wicks, RB Long beach Poly (Long beach, CA). Consider Wicks a bit of a sleeper as of now. He rushed for 772 yards and 11 touchdowns last year for Poly, averaging almost 8 yards per carry. He shows out well at the US Army All American Combine in San Antonio as well. He hasn't received any offers yet, but things may pick up once the season starts and he's given the opportunity to really showcase his skills. At 5'10/195, Wicks has a powerful build with good speed. He's tough to bring down and runs hard. He also has good hands. If Wicks blows up in the fall after a strong season, the offers will come. He's made little secret of the fact that he covets a UCLA offer. If the Bruins come calling, expect Wicks to answer quickly.
Warren Miles Long, RB James Logan (Union City, CA). Here's a guy that I neglected to include on our NorCal recruit post, and for that I apologize. Inexcusable, as he's from Union City. At 6'0/190, Long has nice size and power. He rushed for almost 1100 yards last season for James Logan, and totaled 16 touchdowns. He has offers from both Northwestern and Colorado. Interestingly, the Buffs are recruiting him as a safety. Oregon and Duke have been in communication with Long, and he attended the Cal Spring Game a couple weeks back as well. While in Berkeley, he had a good talk with Coach Tedford, so it sounds like there is some mutual interest there. Apparently Stanford is the school Long really wants to hear from, but they haven't been in touch lately. Elitist pricks if you ask me. There's not a ton of info out there on Long, but he averaged almost 10 yards per carry last year and certainly possesses some big play ability with a strong frame. Long striding runner.
Darrin Laufasa, FB Bothell (Bothell, WA). Laufasa rushed for 950 yards and 12 touchdowns last year...while dealing with a broken foot. Sounds like a badass fullback to me. At 6'1/225, he's a versatile guy who can also play linebacker. Laufasa only has one offer as of now (from Idaho), but he's getting interest from several Pac-12 programs including Cal. UCLA may lead despite the lack of an offer. I see Laufasa as a guy that we may ramp up our pursuit of depending on what happens with Qualls. We'll need some help at fullback with the impending departure of Eric Stevens and Dasarte Yarnway. Junior Espitia will fill more of an H-Back role, so a pure crusher at the fullback position will be important. Think Will Ta'ufo'ou and tell me we couldn't use a guy like that.
Consider this a starter kit for 2013 running back recruiting, as these things are fluid and constantly changing. What is known is that we'll need to take at least two backs this year with the impending attrition the position group will undergo. Personally, I'd favor taking 3 guys; a fullback, a scatback/APB guy, and a more traditional one. But if there's one group where I'm comfortable just letting a coach evaluate and do what he does, it's running backs. Do your thing, Coach Gould.
And should anyone feel disheartened by the way I presented some of these prospects and their incredibly early leanings to one school or another, don't be dismayed. There's a long way to go. This is not an area worth worrying about.
So who do you like from the above list? Who did I leave off? What would your recruiting strategy be for this position group? Let's hear your thoughts in the comments. You complete me.