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Cal football recruiting: A closer look at Ross Bowers, Kanawai Noa, and Nick Buchanan

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Back again with more film, and more recruits...

Is Ross Bowers the man to replace #16?
Is Ross Bowers the man to replace #16?
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

I. Intro

Back again y'all! Hope you had a happy holiday -- I'm sure the coaches did, with the recent set of recruits Santa brought in.

I'm gonna be looking at three guys on offense this time -- one on the line, one behind center, and one receiver. Nice little balance, I suppose. (There aren't likely to be any backs this year, but probably one in 2016, since the depth chart is crammed right now.)

This post still leaves the following players unscouted: DeVante Wilson, Antoine Albert, Cameron Saffle, and DePriest Turner (who will likely end up looking much like Billy McCrary, being a QB who plays defense at the next level, so I might re-scout Zeandae Johnson, instead), meaning there's more from me coming as we head into the new year.

Let's get into it.

II. In which we quickly look again at the flying wonder himself, Ross Bowers

The last time I looked at Ross Bowers' play, it was at the end of his junior season -- before he hit camps, won a state title, and of course, burst into viral meme-dom with that leap of his into the end zone. So, he's been a bit of a different player since then, and a few months back on Twitter, he kind of hinted that I should re-examine the senior film, so I will here.

Unfortunately, since there is no single highlight reel that I could find of him from 2014, I pieced these limited observations together from what I could find on his Hudl page of individual senior year games, as well as from some of Avi's Vines from his State Champion game against Miami Central.

  • We knew from last year that Bowers had a good mobility, and he proved it again with the flip we all watched about 103159124 times. He isn't as fast as Rubenzer or as much of a short yardage threat, but he's no stone-legs back there, either. A nice medium between Goff and Rubenzer, I still say. This play makes up the entirety of the Chiawana highlight reel. It's replayed three times.
  • His arm seems to have gotten stronger -- at least, it's definitely stronger than I remember it being, with passes zipping out with more authority in the short ranges (0:23), and this 20 yard laser essentially bouncing off one foot (also at 0:23). Avi has good footage of an absolute ROPE here. Touch on the long ball is still very, very strong -- watch him drop it right into the receiver's arms after dodging a rusher here.
  • Very decisive, quick decision maker. Here, the receiver has a soft cushion on the stick route, boom, he hits him. He's generally very good with where he tries to put the ball, although this wasn't exactly a highlight.
  • May also have to continue work with his eyes. Looking right at the receiver from before the snap was a dead giveaway here, although this was a better play of him holding the defense steady. Young QBs tend to struggle with this, though. Nothing to worry about too much.
  • Still really effective on the run as a thrower, with great escapability and feel for the rush around him, something that I initially noticed and hasn't changed. One thing I'd like to see more of still -- whether with a full highlight reel later or once he gets to camp -- is how he handles staying in the pocket once he can't manage those Houdini type escapes.
  • Don't sleep on Bowers and assume the job is going right to Luke. Young Skywalker has time to improve still, but must develop quite a bit as a passer. He actually ended up being a bit more behind than any of us thought, based on his game action, while Bowers looks plenty polished as is, right now.

III. In which we scout the Import, Kanawai Noa

Everything looks right in receiver country next year, since Bryce Treggs all but guaranteed every wideout would be returning. If his claims eventually do hold true, it would give Cal no less than seven -- SEVEN!!! -- starter quality pass-catchers, a ridiculous amount of riches no other offensive coordinator can dream of matching, and all but assures Jared Goff will leave Berkeley as the most profilic passer in its history.

The future further off, we are less certain about, since no one behind Treggs and company has shown capable of eventually replacing them. Perhaps most of that's because they don't have the opportunity to, so this is not a tremendous concern at the moment -- it's a luxury one that'll probably end up being met by some combination of Erik Brown, Ray Hudson, Jack Austin, Austin Aaron, and...Noa.

Ah, yes. Mahalo, Kanawai.

  • At 6'1, 170 -- and probably the 180, 185 he eventually grows into -- I'm figuring that they're bringing in Noa to play in the slot first, as one of the designed match-up issues that the staff likes to have there, same as Bankhead. One advantage he does have though is a much more ready frame than his Southern California counterpart.
  • Aaron is probably destined for one of the X or Z spots, what with his size and his ridiculous propensity for jump balls and all.
  • Noa's offer list isn't the most impressive, which I'm certain is at least partially due to him being out off the mainland; he's got only one Power 5 interest besides us in Washington State, but also has received interest from Yale. The former suggests at least a good idea of his legitimacy as a player, since Mike Leach has done nothing but spot and then churn out receivers in his time everywhere, and the latter is evidence enough he should be able to cut it in the classroom.
  • Playing out from Hawaii hurts him in a second way, too, beyond the offers, since the level of competition is probably a little lower than it would be elsewhere (watch him streak repeatedly by corners who are playing already 12 yards off...that doesn't show too much). Still, there are reports of him being extremely impressive in some elite camp settings, which is promising.
  • Now, as far as what's on the actual tape, there's a great adjustment on an underthrown pass here, but that's really only the start of it. Noa knows -- I'll be returning to that pun a bunch over the next couple of seasons -- how to move in the open field and make guys miss in space, which is especially crucial in the slot. Stuff like that starts the video, and just gets more and more ridiculous. Punahou knows this just as much as you or I would, since by the time they reach State, they've started scheming up for him to take end around pitches with one blocker in front. (They would, however, lose that game 53-45, according to Google.)
  • More evidence of him knowing how to move? Watch him throw this head fake here, drop the defender to the floor with a stiff arm, then TIP TOE DOWN THE SIDELINE 20 YARDS FOR THE TD. MORE LIKE KANAWAI WOAH-UH. Yes, I'll be returning to that one too.
  • Special teams demon on the tape for sure, and while we don't know how he'll translate just yet, he could at least provide an option behind Watson and Muhammad in future years.
  • He's also fairly strong, too; you're going to see corners flail off of his midsection through a good portion of the film, as well as him fighting for those extra yards. Doesn't go down easy against the secondary.
  • I also love that he won't hesitate to throw a block. Really got in there to crack the backer...and it's only the first of a multi-play montage about him knocking out defenders. Oof. Because I only spend my time watching tape of guys who have committed to Cal, and though this is only something I've done for a few seasons, all of the above reminds me a lot of Jalen Harvey, although shades less explosive.
  • Out of the three Cal receivers in this class, I have them as Aaron, Noa, then Bankhead in that order, and I would guess the first two have substantially higher chances of contributing immediately than the third, just due to size alone. I also like Noa more than I did Erik Brown, just based on tape.
  • Long story short: I like that we could have something really under the radar with him. Really good in space, tough, versatile player with workable, but not outstanding athleticism. One of the guys I like a lot in this class.

IV. In which we meet the newest War Pig, Nick Buchanan

With Buchanan and DePriest 'Trey' Turner -- more on him next week -- in the fold, there are now seven players in the class that come from the deep South. That might not be ideal to people who think our class should come only from California, but let's not forget that getting players who can and want to play for Cal is more important than where they happened to play high school ball. Plus, even with the shift to bringing in talent outside our borders, this recruiting class has already been an improvement over the last one (at least, according to the rankings).

Before we get to Buchanan himself, let's note that since Coach Dykes was hired, Cal has recruited the following linemen:

2013: Chris Borrayo, Erik Bunte, J.D. Hinnant, Aaron Cochran, Vinnie Johnson

2014: Dominic Granado, Michael Trani, Kam Bennett, Addisom Ooms (listed here because he's a fairly notable walk-on)

2015: Ryan Gibson, Johnny Capra, Nick Buchanan

The current situation on the line has Borrayo, Rigsbee, and Moore, meaning there are -- presumably -- two spots up for grabs between some of the last of Tedford's OL recruits, and the ones Sonny has begun to stockpile since arriving. This will be a telling year for the rest of those '13 recruits, as it is reasonable to expect for them to begin trickling onto the two deep and competing, if not outright taking jobs by '16. That being said, there have been some promising returns on Sonny and company's ability to scout talent up front, since the one recruit they've put up in Borrayo is easily our best lineman.

Anyway, on to Buchanan:

  • All of the linemen under Coach Dykes have been noticeably athletic as a point of emphasis -- Borrayo wrestled, for one -- but Nick Buchanan plays a mean DE and special teams. That says plenty about his ability to move around, I'd say. If it doesn't, then please refer to the repeated clips in which he's busting off the line and swimming around fools, plus the one where he comes all the way across the field on a kickoff to put an opponent on his ass (0:58). Really solid ability of lateral movement.
  • Noticeably dominant and looks a lot stronger than Johnny Capra in the run game. Not sure if that's a function of whatever they feed Southern boys or not, but we'll take it, all the same.
  • Generally speaking, offensive line tapes don't show a lot of pass blocking, but in one of the glimpses we have of Buchanan at 2:13, you'll see the DE try to hit him with a swim and get our new recruit off-balance, only his feet allow him to re-set quickly so he's not leaning too far outside or giving up extra room. I actually think that's the only one of him playing in pass protection on the tape -- most of it is of him at guard, pulling, which means it's hard to project him at tackle here. I'm sure Coach Yenser has seen much more of him live, though.
  • O-linemen are really hard to scout insightfully on film, since everyone looks big and is demolishing folks, so I rarely feel as insightful as I would be talking about other positions. That being said, the good linemen tapes always have a hefty dose of them playing to, and through the whistle. Happy to report that he does that.