For the last few years, Cal sports website BearInsider has been sponsoring an annual post-Signing Day recruiting event on the Cal campus, where Coach Dykes introduces his new recruiting class to a group of Cal fans, and takes a little time to answer questions and share his thoughts. Fortunately, Jim over at BearInsider doesn't seem to mind us checking it out and sharing a bit of it with the masses.
This year, Dykes started off by noting proudly that he considers this class to be the best recruiting class in the 3 years he has been at Cal. The various recruiting sites seem to agree with him, placing the group somewhere in the 30-40 range, nationally. Dykes said that that's the theme of the Cal Football program right now: Getting Better. As the coaching staff gets settled in here at Cal, they're doing a better job of building an identity and a brand, knowing what works for their student-athletes, and what types of athletes will fit at Berkeley. Cal isn't for everyone, and it takes a special kind of person to succeed here.
As with anything, there's been a learning curve, but their goal is to build a culture and a program that can sustain itself in the long run, and ultimately the end result of that will be wins, but that's the last thing that usually comes. The first year, they were bad, he admitted. The second year they were improved, but there were some missed opportunities. The third year, he promised, will really show what their program is about. He feels the program is in a good spot, and they aren't where they want to be yet, but the train is loaded up and has made it a good portion of the way up the hill. This spring, there will be plenty of competition for spots, and with the depth being much improved, nobody is going to win a starting job simply because he's the only healthy guy remaining at the position. That competition is going to make everyone better.
Coach Dykes also introduced new Inside Receivers Coach Jacob Peeler, but he didn't really say much beyond the fact that he was happy to be there, and that Cal's reputation pretty much sells itself in recruiting, which is nice to hear but felt kind of like a platitude. He seemed like a nice, affable sort though.
The Recruits! Defense Edition
The next post (Part II) will cover the offensive recruits and the Q&A, but first let's go over the defense, since these guys may end up being the crucial reinforcements we need to be competitive next year. Dykes played highlight tapes and shared his thoughts on all the incoming players, starting with the defensive backs:
Antoine is physical, gets off blocks, can cover well, make open field tackles... pretty much everything you want a defensive back to be able to do.
Psalms has good size; he's 6'3", about 180-185 lbs. He's played all over the field, offense and defense. He's a tall, athletic guy, good with open field tackles as well. Also has a very good academic profile. As you'll note with Malik and other recruits, the Cal coaching staff really wanted to get bigger and longer at the defensive back position.
Trey played QB in high school, but the Cal staff is projecting him as a safety. Also is a very high academic kid. Turner is from Alabama, and Coach Dykes noted that they did end up with a number of out-of-state recruits, but that's just how it ended up. The Cal brand is quite strong out of state, and Dykes actually noted that all the out-of-state recruits were what they called "gold admits"; that is, they didn't need to make any special exceptions for them, they all met the requirements to be admitted regularly as a Cal student.
Rambo is a 6'4" corner! he also played safety and wide receiver in high school. He's obviously really big as a cornerback, but they think he can stick there, so they'll keep him at corner first, or else move him to safety if that doesn't work out. He's also an outstanding student (...are you beginning to sense a theme here?).
Brown is 6'2" and an early enrollee. Dykes and the staff are very excited about him. Although he's a JC transfer, he'll be a true sophomore, and he was already very productive on his junior college team. Derron was injured in high school, so he ended up being passed over and kind of "under-recruited" coming off his senior year. He's a physical player, has a great work ethic, and since he's already been on campus they noted that he has made the transition to Cal well thus far.
They brought in DeVante specifically to improve Cal's pass rush. He originally went to USC and got injured, so he ended up getting bounced to a JC, and now he's in Berkeley as an early enrollee. He's about 255 lbs, a very mature and focused guy, highly interested in academics.
Russell is an "off-the-charts" academic kid, heavily recruited, could have gone to any school in the country pretty much, wanted to come to Cal. He comes from a great family, and is a high character guy. They're going to start him at defensive end, but they think he has the frame to possibly grow into playing defensive tackle, and be a really athletic kind of a d-tackle at that.
Dykes described Saffle as "long", and a "quick twitch" kind of athlete. He had a knee injury his senior year, so that kept him a little under the radar, but he has a huge frame and is explosive. He's also a high academic kid, and apparently his mother was one of the first couple hundred employees at Microsoft.
They think they could play Zeandae at either DE or DT, but he's also intriguing as a tight end, he's that kind of a quality athlete. He's also another high academic kid, as Dykes says. Johnson is 6'5", 250 lbs, and runs very well. He's also from Fresno, and Dykes remarked that he considers the Central Valley to be very important to Cal in terms of football recruiting.
Yet again, here we have another "high academic kid". He played both OL and DL in high school. He's a good athlete, and also was a wrestler.
Howard comes from a really strong high school program, and that's another thing that Dykes said the coaching staff likes. There are some very solid high school programs that Cal wants to make inroads with, because not only do they have talented kids, but they have usually been well-coached and they know how to win. Trevor is a good athlete who's still growing and getting bigger, and runs well for his size.
So, that covers the defense. Next up: offensive recruits and a Q&A session!