By now, many of you have probably heard the story of Scooby Wright. Wright is a local Bay Area prospect who attended school at Cardinal Newman in Santa Rosa. Due to many factors like the lack of regional success of his league and not being balls to the wall outstanding at his camps, Wright flew under the radar as a two star recruit by many of the big scouting services.
And this story has been widely circulated by now. Via Jeff Faraudo.
Cal didn't think he was good enough to offer a scholarship.
"They told me to go look at Sacramento State," Wright said, referring to Cal's recruiting staff led by then-coach Jeff Tedford.
Wright was a high school star in Santa Rosa and attended Cal's football camp. Even so, Wright's father, Phil, said the response from the Bears was, "Zero, zero, zero."
The kid says Cal told him he "wasn't fast enough, wasn't tall enough."
Wright received one offer from Arizona, where he committed. Now he's the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and the Nagurski Award winner, given to the best defensive player in the country.
It's hard to say if Wright would've come to Cal, as the coaching staff that would have been responsible for his recruitment got the boot a few months later. But with a lack of clear and present offers, if Cal had been first to the table, who knows what would have happened?
But that brings us back to recruiting and stars.
Look. Cal isn't alone here. Everyone totally whiffed on Wright as well, including schools like Washington and USC and UCLA. Sometimes you miss on players, and Cal has had plenty of misses near the tail end of the Tedford era out of their backyard. Cal passed up on not-so-highly ranked talent to chase stars, and often succeeded in landing them.
At the time though? A lot of us were very happy that Cal was starting to land top 25 recruiting classes and getting four-star or borderline five-star talent. There was a lot of love being tossed around for he who shall not be named because we now had the players that we could put on the field to go toe-to-toe with the big boys and get national championships.
Four years and a lot of losses later, that turned out to be a costly philosophy.
Yes, there is a clear correlation that teams that recruit highly heralded players end up going to national championship games and winning conference titles and all that good stuff. Most schools need some elite talent to achieve the results they're seeking, especially considering how stacked their rivals are in similar talent pools.
Cal is not most schools. Players have to actually earn their degrees. It's a school that is not for every student, so the same should be true for student-athletes too. Tedford and company tended to perform very well with players that were not highly ranked but highly motivated to thrive in the Cal environment. Alex Mack, Justin Forsett, Mike Mohamed, Tyson Alualu, Matt Giordano, Craig Stevens, Brandon Mebane, Erik Robertson, and of course Aaron Rodgers were all part of a nexus of unheralded two to three star talent that revived this program and brought them back to glory.
The players that were highly ranked? No doubt a lot of them kept Cal nationally relevant. But as time went on and we started focusing primarily on talent rather than fit, it was more of a mixed bag with not-so-great results. Anyone who wants to look back at the last five years can see that being really physically talented doesn't mean you mix with Cal necessarily.
That brings us to Sonny Dykes. By conventional standards, Cal isn't really recruiting that well this year. But that doesn't mean we aren't landing good recruits that don't fit what we need and would be great Golden Bears. The slowly rising APR and graduation rates suggest that we are finding players who match the Cal profile a lot better than their predecessors, and that is a good thing. Cal needs players who fit in from Day 1 and can only take limited risks on academic so-sos.
They need athletes who are willing to buy in, get their degrees, and work hard on and off the field. That's the only way Cal can succeed in the long run .
Maybe soon enough, we'll stumble into our own Scooby Wrights.