A few weeks ago, BearInsider had their annual recruiting meet-and-greet event with Coach Dykes. Last week, we shared with you Coach Dykes' thoughts on the defensive players in Cal's 2015 recruiting class. This week, we go over the offense, athletes, special teams, and the Q&A portion of the evening. These aren't direct quotes from Coach Dykes, but I've paraphrased it as best I can.
Billy McCrary III
McCrary had a blazing 4.38s 40-yard dash time. In addition to his excellent speed, he's very strong with an excellent 300-lb bench press. He's also a great student, and late in the recruiting cycle, Stanford made a run at him, but he held firm with Cal. He played QB in high school, but also some DB and receiver. He could end up playing running back, corner, or safety for the Bears.
Hawkins is explosive, fast, big, very physical. He's exactly what the Cal coaching staff is looking for in a receiver. Coach Dykes said especially that our receiving corps is somewhat lacking in physicality. They have a lot of other great qualities, but this is a different dimension that Hawkins can bring to the team. He also has great speed, and he's rangy and could play a lot of different positions.
Lonny was a QB, TE, RB, LB... he did it all. He was really good on defense as well. They think Lonny will push Watson and Enwere for snaps. He's a very mature kid and has an extremely bright future.
Dylan Klumph, K/P
Dylan is a JC transfer, but he'll be a true sophomore, so he'll have 4 years to play 3. He's got a strong leg, and he's a big guy at 6'3", 230 lbs. Coach Dykes thinks he can compete for both kickoffs and punting duty. The ball really explodes off his foot and just sounds right when he makes contact. There's a lot of potential here.
Bowers is a natural leader; he led his high school team to a state championship, and he does all the things you want your QB to be able to do. He's a good athlete, he's got a strong arm, and "can make all the throws", as they say. They're excited about him and glad he was able to make it as a mid-year enrollee so that he can participate in Spring Practice.
He's a "very very high academic kid", one of the first commits of the entire class. He's got great character, and he helped recruit his fellow classmates. He's the kind of lineman that finishes his blocks really well, and has that attitude you look for in the trenches. He plays with a lot of toughness, and the staff sees him as a solid prospect at center.
They got on Patrick a little late, even though they knew about him from having his brother Tony on the team. Patrick is also strong and tough, but it was a late growth spurt that really got the coaches' attention. Every time they saw him he kept getting bigger, and he'd eventually grown 4 inches to 6'5" as a senior in high school. He plays really tough and physical.
Semisi is a really good athlete and a prototypical O-lineman. The staff thinks he could play at tackle; he's a very talented guy, and he was heavily recruited nationally. He plays nasty and is an academic fit as well.
His film was really good, and he runs very well. His tremendous speed and explosiveness gives Cal some big play ability. He's also really good at making a play on the ball in the air.
Carlos is 6'4", so he's a big body that the were looking to have at the receiver position. His speed is also very good for his size, and that combination of size and speed is elite and rare. Strickland was heavily recruited and could have gone anywhere he wanted, but chose to come to Cal. We're fortunate that he happened to grow up a Cal fan... in Dallas, TX. He's also a very good student. They think he'll be a special player.
This recruit also grew up a Cal fan, but this one is less surprising, as Austin Aaron is a local kid from Napa who is a 3rd generation Cal Bear. Aaron was their first commit, and at about 6'4" or 6'5", they are planning to play him as an outside receiver, but could also move him inside. He has great ball skills. Michigan made a run at him late in the process, but he held firm.
They see Greyson playing at the H receiver position, running slants, outs, etc... He's a great route runner, and really is good making double moves. He's not necessarily a burner, but he's quick - more of a 20-yard dash than a 40-yard dash kind of guy, and he churns his feet very well and is great laterally. Catches the ball very well. He comes out of Corona Centennial High School, which is one of the best-coached high school programs in the state. Again, that's one of the things they look for, is a kid from a good high school program, who might be further along the learning curve thanks to good coaching at the high school level.
Kanawai is the all time leading high school receiver from the state of Hawaii. He's got speed, acceleration, vision, feel, toughness... and of course he was highly productive, which they really love. Catches the ball well, and importantly, knows what to do with the football after he catches it.
Q: What's the outlook for next year? Are we going to see improvement, especially on the lines?
A: Well, the Pac-12 is very tough. Everybody in the conference is good, and the conference is as tough as it's ever been. All the schools are investing in football. It's probably the best league in the country right now, and I say that because the teams in the middle of the conference are better than in other conferences. So, there's a small margin for error. In order to win more games, you have to win more of the close ones. You have to play better situational football, do things like eliminate penalties, so that's what we're trying to do.
We need another Offensive Tackle. We brought in Dominic Granado and redshirted him last year to be ready this year, and physically he's tested better than any other O-linemen we have. It's just up to him to translate that into his level of play. We've also got some other promising tackles - Aaron Cochran has the potential to be good, and we've been waiting for Brian Farley to show to his potential as well. Developing another tackle would let us move Rigsbee inside to his natural Guard position.
At DE, DeVante Wilson will help. We're getting Kyle Kragen back from his bout with mono. Noah Westerfield was 210 lbs, and now he's 240-245, so he should be a lot stronger and more explosive. There's Barr, Lopa, Davis... Jonathan Johnson showed some flashes, and we think he could show up big this year.
Q: What's the thinking behind recruiting so many kids who played QB?
A: Well, in high school, often times QBs are the best athletes on the field. If you're a high school coach and you're trying to win, it makes sense that you'd make sure your best athlete has the ball in his hands on every single play. Guys who play QB also tend to be more comfortable as leaders. [I think Coach Dykes also told a story about Michael Crabtree playing QB in high school, and that when he was moved to WR at Tech, Dykes was frustrated that he could never get Crabtree to get in the proper stance... but he was such a fantastic athlete that he made 134 catches anyway]
Q: What happened late in the recruiting cycle with some Cal recruits, particularly with Florida?
A: Well, recruiting is unpredictable. Sometimes you think you know what a kid is thinking, but you never really do. With Nick Buchanan, I would have thought if he flipped he'd go to Georgia, because he did want to play closer to home, but he ended up at Florida instead. We also lost a few guys who couldn't make it through admissions due to something in their final transcript. One guy ended up going to Michigan after that happened.
Q: How was it shaking Pat Fitzgerald's hand after the game?
A: I have a lot of respect for Pat. He's a really good guy and he's done a great job over at Northwestern.
Q: O-line 2-point stance vs. 3-point stance; would it make sense to do a 3-point stance for short yardage situations?
A: There's no reason to think that it makes a difference. We've historically been among the most effective teams in the Red Zone and on converting 3rd downs, and we use a 2-point stance, so I don't think it's actually an issue. Besides, if we used different types of stances situationally, we'd have to spend time practicing it, and I think we're better off being really good at doing it our way.
Q: Which true freshmen do you think have a chance to play early?
A: Well, Lonny Powell is already here this Spring, and running back is a position where traditionally you can play a little early if you're talented and physically ready. All the incoming DBs could also play early. Also the JC guys, naturally.
Q: What can you tell us about the new O-line coach Brandon Jones?
A: He's a West Coast guy, is actually from Oregon originally. He went to Texas Tech (recruited himself there, actually) and was a standout player for us there, so we go back a long way, and I've kept in touch and been following his career. He's a guy who believes in being technique-sound, and he'll bring an element of toughness to our offensive line.
Q: Can you explain all the out-of-state recruits?
A: Well, first of all, the Cal brand is really strong out of state. Probably stronger than it is in state, even. Another thing is that when we go over the list of the top 100 players in California, generally about 35 of them you have to scratch off the list immediately. They can't meet eligibility requirements to come to Cal. That's a big thing, because we want to build a program with players who can make it to their 4th or 5th year. That's how you win. Those veteran guys give you toughness, leadership, and experience.
When we played Stanford last year, we only had 7 guys who were in their 4th or 5th year. Stanford had 46, so it was kind of a "men vs. boys" scenario. Our guys gave a good effort, but it's hard to win with 19-20 year-olds vs. 21-22 year-olds.
Q: Why didn't we blitz more? We had a terrible pass rush.
A: Well, we also had trouble covering. It's a bit of a catch-22. You're having trouble rushing the passer, so you take a guy out of coverage and blitz, but then if you don't get to the QB, you have open receivers because you have fewer guys covering, so you put another guy in coverage, but then your pass rush is bad... You see the dilemma. Really we just need to get better at rushing the passer and at covering. [Sorry, heavy paraphrasing here, I was getting tired of taking notes]
Q: How are we going to deploy Rubenzer this year? Last year it seemed that most of the time when he was in, he was running the football. Wasn't that too predictable?
A: Well, actually, if a capable backup QB emerges, we may redshirt Luke. [Note: he has since moved to safety this spring, but may still redshirt]. But to answer your question about running, a lot of times when we make the substitution and do it quickly, the defensive play has already been called, and there isn't time to change it up. So if we have a numbers advantage, that won't necessarily go away.
Q: Looking at your QB recruiting, it seems as if going to more mobile QBs is an emphasis. What does this mean about how the offense might change in the coming years?
A: The truth is, we've always wanted mobile QBs, even back at Tech. The idea is that if your QB can run, that's an extra thing the defense has to account for, which opens things up.