Hi gang. We're wrapping up our position group recruiting preview series this week with the defensive backs. There's a lot of quality cornerbacks and safeties out West and across the country this year, and we need a few.
Despite losing some Sacramento kid to Washington just a few days before National Signing Day, Cal still did okay with defensive back commits in 2012. We bring in cornerback Raymond Ford from SoCal powerhouse Junipero Serra, safety Damariay Drew from Livermore (an all-EBAL first teamer and tremendous athlete), and unheralded cornerback Willie Fletcher from Orange Lutheran. Ford has the speed and coverage ability to be a really nice defender, and Drew has the size, speed and athleticism to do some nice things in the secondary. Fletcher is the only guy that was a questionable take in my opinion, but I suppose 6'3" raw defensive backs are worth a roll of the dice. That could look brilliant in three years, or provide at a minimum provide some depth going forward.
After the 2012 season, we'll lose cornerback Marc Anthony and safeties Josh Hill and Tyre Ellison to graduation. In 2013, we will lose our other starting cornerback, Steve Williams, and a potential starting safety in Alex Logan. Assuming no other attrition (always a shakey proposition), that's 5 defensive backs over the next two seasons. The rub is, we don't have sufficient depth at corner or safety right now on the roster.
2013 is a year where we will likely take 5 defensive backs commits. We currently have two in the fold with Georgia commits Shon Akins and Trey Cheek. That leaves 3 more spots to fill. As you will see below, DB Coach Ashley Ambrose has been busy. Below, we'll check in on our aforementioned Georgia commits, and also look at the uncommitted prospects that Cal currently has offers out to, as well as a couple we are recruiting but have yet to offer. Fair warning, there's a couple dudes that we have no shot at. But there are plenty we do have a very good shot at.
So read on, and enjoy.
Shon Akins, CB Norcross (Norcross, GA). Akins committed to Cal sight unseen a few months back. Since then, he's been busy on the camp and 7-on-7 circuits, showing off his quickness, good hips, and competitive nature. While on the smaller side, standing just 5'9/170, Akins plays with a tenacity that is fun to watch. He also closes hard. He will camp at Florida State, having visited unofficially. I don't quite know how I feel about the fact that Akins is getting more attention from a few east coast programs now that he's shown himself well on the camp circuit. It's validating on one hand, but the threat of a program poaching him looms large in my head. Sorry, just a Cal fan thing. I'm looking forward to seeing how Shon and his Norcross team pefrom this fall. And I'm hoping we hold onto him.
Trey Cheek, CB Archer (Lawrenceville, GA). Like his buddy and fellow Georgia DB Shon Akins, Trey Cheek pulled the trigger for Cal before visiting the campus back in April. Also like Akins, Cheek has been putting a lot of time and energy into camps and 7-on-7 tourneys in the last couple months. He's also shown well, and has been receiving interest from a few notable programs in SEC country...namely Florida. Rather than being swayed by these schools, Trey has been ramping up the recruiting efforts for Cal, efforting to get Archer teammate Antonio Riles (DE) out to Cal for a visit along with a few other Georgia and Florida prospects. I dig that. Like Akins, I'm really looking forward to seeing how Trey performs this fall.
LJ Moore, DB Central East (Fresno, CA). Widely discussed here, LJ Moore was in Atlanta last week for the Rivals 5-Star Challenge camp. Despite some flight issues that saw him arrive late to the camp, he showed well, displaying the physical coverage skills that have made him a highly desired cornerback recruit. Moore currently lists a top 5 of Cal, UCLA, Georgia, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma. He'll be visiting Washington this weekend, however. I have a feeling this could come down to a Cal/UCLA battle in the end. Moore would be a very nice get, having the size, length and athleticism to play either corner or safety. I like him more as a tall corner though.
Hatari Byrd, S Central East (Fresno, CA). Hatari Byrd joined his Central East battery mate Moore in Atlanta at the 5-Star Challenge. He also performed well, but was not quite as fluid in coverage as Moore. This, along with his impressive size, lead many to project Byrd at safety...where I think he could be special. A physical and intimidating presence, he moves very well and has good ball skills. Like Moore, Byrd also favors both Cal and UCLA, with Ole Miss, Oklahoma and Notre Dame comprising the remainder of his top choices, and also being the main factors in his recruitment. He will also be visiting Washington this weekend. I expect his recruitment to be drawn out and a battle. Another guy I'd love to see at Cal.
Johnny Johnson, CB Central East (Fresno, CA). Johnson has been keeping things close to the vest in his recruitment, but there's nothing secretive about his skills. One of the top shutdown corners in the West this year, he's got a handful of big-time offers and is taking his time in the process. Despite his smaller stature (5'10/180), Johnson is very strong, physical and aggressive in coverage. He plays tougher and bigger than his size. I really like both his attitude and his skills. While Johnson is keeping an open mind, he has said that Cal, SC and Stanford will be factors in his recruitment and likely final decision. That decision won't come any time soon, so we'll need to wait this one out. Like his Central East teammates, Johnson is a big-time talent that would be a huge pickup for the staff.
Kevin King, CB Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland, CA). A local kid from nearby Bishop O'Dowd, King blew up after an MVP showing at the Oakland NFTC back in May. He's a long and lanky cornerback at 6'2/175, but has the kind of hip flexibility and closing speed to really stick with receivers and disrupt their rhythm. Cal offered King shortly after his impressive performance at the Oakland camp, joining West Virginia (?!) on King's offer list. Since then, King has already gotten offers from Colorado, Wazzu, Utah and UNLV. He's a very intriguing prospect and I like where we sit with him due to our proximity, the Cal connections provided by Team Nickerson at O'Dowd, and him liking Cal as a kid. King earned an invitation to The Opening next month in Oregon, so it will be fun to watch him compete against some of the nation's best. This is the kind of guy I want Cal to get after. Local talents should be our bread and butter.
Max Redfield, S Mission Viejo (Mission Viejo, CA). One of the top safety prospects in the country, Redfield recently shared an unofficial top 6 that included Cal. That's nice and all, but there seems to be a very large delta between Redfield's top 3-4 schools (SC, Oregon, Notre Dame and LSU) and the two others that snuck onto his list (Cal, UW). Personally, I'd be surprised if he eneded up anywhere besides SC. I really like Redfield though, he's a big safety who is extremely athletic. He has good speed and does a great job closing on the ball. The offensive skills he shows confirm that he's a straight-up football player too. Not worth getting your hopes up though.
Tahaan Goodman, S Rancho Cucamonga (Rancho Cucamonga, CA). Goodman's stock has been on the rise thanks to a very impressive series of showings on the camp circuit this Spring. Like Moore and Byrd, Goodman made the trek to Atlanta to compete in the Rivals 5-Star Challenge as well. He saw some reps at linebacker, which makes some sense given his build and size (6'2/195). Like Byrd, Goodman looks college-ready right now. He's also athletic enough to play just about anywhere in the secondary though. There's a reason Goodman has 20+ offers from all over the country. Unfortunately, I don't think Cal will be a factor here.
Dashon Hunt, CB Westlake (Westlake Village, CA). After committing to UCLA back in the fall of his junior year, Dashon Hunt recently decommiitted from the Bruins and is opening his recruitment back up. The Cal staff wasted little time in extending an offer to the now-open Hunt, who now holds 12 offers. Hunt has said that he's looking closely at Cal, Nebraska, Oregon State and Washington. Despite his smaller stature (5'10/175), Hunt is very physical and aggressive in coverage. He shows nice instincts and closes quickly on the ball. He also is fearless in contact, demonstrating good tackling against the run. Hunt also rushed for over 1000 yards last season for Westlake, a testament to his athleticism. Pay attention to Hunt's recruitment. I like him a lot.
Tyler Foreman, S Crespi (Encino, CA). Cal offered the hard-hitting Foreman back in mid-May, joining a dozen other schools including notables like UCLA and Oklahoma. At 6'2/190, Foreman has the frame and range to be a big-time safety in college. He's stated that he's been hearing from Cal, UCLA and Minnesota the most out of his list of suitors. I'm glad that Cal has been working on Foreman; he plays with the kind of nastiness and attitude that you want to see in a defender. Foreman's physicality is on ready display in his film, but it's been on the camp circuit this Spring that he's had an opportunity to also showcase his speed, coverage ability and ball skills. Foreman is one of the more well-rounded DB prospects in the West this year and a guy I'd love to see at Cal. He has previously stated that he'll wait to make a decision until after his senior season though, so we'll have to wait this one out.
Brandon Arnold, S Crespi (Encino, CA). Crespi might have a pretty good secondary. Cal offered Foreman's Celts teammate Brandon Arnold last week. The 6'0/185 pound Arnold has 11 total offers as of now, and is hearing from additional schools after a good spring on the camp and 7-on-7 circuits. He has stated that Oregon is his favorite however, and an offer from the Ducks could change his recruitment (read: end it). Arnold is a nice player, but I haven't really seen enough of him to draw many conclusions about what he brings to the table. I think Foreman is the better prospect personally, but Arnold does show some very good ball skills and is fluid and smooth in coverage. He has nice size as well, though he's a shade smaller than Foreman. Good prospect who I really want to see more off this fall. LATE EDIT: Apparently Cal is in Arnold's top 3 along with Oregon and Michigan State. Well waddaya know? Still think Oregon is favored.
Daquawn Brown, CB Dorsey (Los Angeles, CA). Cal apparently offered Dorsey CB Daquawn Brown back at the beginning of March, but I'm not 100% positive that's accurate. If we have, we join 6 other schools in Brown's recruitment, including UCLA and Washington. Based on previous comments, UCLA looks like the team to beat for the 6'0/180 Brown, who has good size for a cornerback, plus speed, and good instincts in coverage. Washington just offered in the last couple weeks, and the fact that they brought in former Dorsey teammate Jayden Mickens last year may help the Huskies in Brown's recruitment. Also worth monitoring some chatter that Brown and teammate Jayme Otomewo (below) may want to play together at the next level. We'll see.
Cameron Walker, CB Loyola (Los Angeles, CA). Cal offered Loyola cornerback Cameron Walker last week, becoming the 12th program to do so. Walker, a 5'10/180 pounder, tripped to Stanford last weekend and seemed to enjoy it. While an offer hasn't materialized yet, the Furd could be a factor since former Loyola teammate WR Kodi Whitfield has been pumping up the Cardinal to Walker. Prior to Cal's offer, Walker indicated that Wisconsin, ASU, Boise State and Washington were standing out to him. I believe he was planning to take an unofficial visit to Berkeley after his Palo Alto trip, but I have yet to hear if that actually took place and whether it left any sort of impression. As you can tell, not much info here. Walker is good though. He's a ballhawk with good speed and nice hips. Stay tuned.
Sean Barton, S Woods Cross (Woods Cross, UT). Hard to say where athlete Sean Barton best projects, as the 6'3/220 pounder has the size of a linebacker with the athleticism of a safety. His dozen or so offers seem split by position as well. I confess I don't know which position Cal is recruiting barton for, but I may have been remiss in not including him in last week's linebacker post. Oh well. Until a visit to Cal happens, I won't consider us a serious player for him. Washington looks to be in a good spot, which sucks.
Cole Luke, CB Hamilton (Chandler, AZ). Luke is one of the top pure cornerback prospects in the country, and Cal made his recent list of top 5 schools along with Texas, Nebraska, Michigan and Notre Dame. An offer from SC has been extended since that list was made public, so I don't know eher the Trojans would factor in. Luke has cited his relationship with the staff at his top 5 schools as being the primary reason he's considering them. That's nice. Luke is very good too; a smooth athlete with fluid hips, nice speed, and great ball instincts. He had 6 picks last year for Hamilton, which is a testament to his ability to make plays and fin the ball. Hopefully Cal can get Luke out on a visit. I think Texas leads right now, but visits can make things happen. WANT.
Priest Willis, DB Marcos De Niza (Tempe, AZ). Willis has a bevvy of offers from national powers, and it seemed at one time that he'd plan to give Cal a look. That was months ago, with nary a mention of Cal from Willis since. We're seemingly no longer a factor in his recruitment. Unfortunate, as Willis has the size and strength to play safety, but also possesses the athleticism and speed to play cornerback at the next level. This is one of several elite-type guys that we've offered but don't have any shot at. Prepare fo a few more very short writeups in that same vein.
Vernon Hargreaves III, CB Wharton (Tampa, FL). We offered, so he's on here. But...no. If he takes a West Coast tour (he may), we can revisit this.
Leon McQuay III, CB Armwood (Seffner, FL). Offer? Yes. Any chance for us? LOLNO.
Kendall Fuller, CB Our Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, MD). It took me longer to type Fuller's high school than it did to type...NOT HAPPENING. This looked possible prior to Toshageddon. No longer.
Jalen Ramsey, CB Brentwood Academy (Brentwood, TN). Tore it up at the Rivals 5-Star Challenge last weekend. SC might have a legit shot at Ramsey, but Cal does not. Hell of an athlete, but he looks best as a defensive back.
ON THE RADAR
Jayme Otomewo, S Dorsey (Los Angeles, CA). Daquawn Brown's Dorsey teammate Jayme Otomewo is a hard-hitting, downhill kind of safety that Cal has been in contact with. We have yet to offer, but Otomewo does have offers from ASU, Colorado, San Jose State and Ohio. He's stated that SC and Oregon are the schools he'd love offers from, but that probably won't happen in such a rich DB year on the West Coast. I like the way Otomewo plays. We'll see if the Cal staff extendes an offer and what interest there is between both sides.
Chidobe Awuzie, CB Oak Grove (San Jose,CA). Awuzie is a local kid from San Jose who has shown out very well on the camp circuit this Spring. His recruitment is starting to really pick up as a result. Just two weeks ago he garnered DB MVP honors at the Eugene NFTC Camp, and he's gotten offers from San Jose State, San Diego State, Utah, Utah State and Wazzu as a result. Cal has been showing interest in the 6'0/180 pounder as well. Awuzie has very good speed, nice size, and very fluid hips in coverage. His active hands and physicality are plusses as well. His athleticism is evident in that his offers are for both wide receiver and defensive back too. I wouldn't mind seeing Cal become more of a player for Awuzie, but it is likley contingent upon where we sit with several of the cornerbacks that we've already extended offers to. I like him, but I like Dashon Hunt, Kevin King, and co just a little more.
This concludes our DB primer for 2013. Lots of offers, lots of targets...lots of talent. Will more emerge? Highly likely. Some of these guys we have a very real shot at and some we do not. I hope I made that clear enough above. These are the realities of a recruiting landscape for a program that needs to generate some positive momentum at this point. Basically...we need to win. Simple enough. But there's months to go before actual on-the-field stuff can be discussed and results can be measured. Hopefully we get there.
In a year where we will take 5 or so defensive backs, I'm glad to have a couple in the fold already. Especially considering the likelihood that many of our targets will not end their recruitments any time soon and the competition will be fierce. Good to see Coach Ambrose is working hard on the recruiting trail too. We need him to deliver up some good DB's this year. Give me our two Georgia commits, Dashon Hunt, Tyler Foreman (and Arnold?) and one of the Fresno three. Or all of them. I can roll with that.
FYI, we'll be reverting back to the more standard weekly GRW format in two weeks now that we've covered the position group previews. I'll be taking a much-needed vacation next week and will be off the grid. So do me a solid and make sure nobody commits and no other crazy recruiting shit happens while I'm gone...mkay? When I get back, we'll also unveil the sparkling new 2013 CGB Recruiting Board for your enjoyment. So...stay tuned for that.
Shower me with your comments below.