The 2012 receiver class has been the gold standard for receiver classes, with four wideouts who have made heavy contributions to the offensive lineup. Bryce Treggs, Chris Harper, Darius Powe, and Kenny Lawler have shined in the Bear Raid over the past couple of years. Since the offense runs through receivers like Carlos Mencia runs through other comedians' jokes, the coaching staff brought in six receivers in this year's class. With a receiving corps that will lose at least four key contributors after this year, replacements will be in high demand in 2016. With a year of seasoning, there will be a whole crop of targets for the next Bear Raid commander to throw to. To go along with the standout receiver class, Cal pulled three offensive linemen who will give the QB of the future time to get it to those receivers. While not the same level as far as a position class goes, the three offensive lineman signed definitely can contribute within the next couple of years.
O-Line Class of 2015
Semisi Uluave, Ryan Gibson, and Patrick Mekari make up the offensive line class of 2015. The first two are listed as guards, while Mekhari is listed as a center. Considering this year's loss of Chris Adcock and Alejandro Crosthwaite, the interior of the offensive line may be inexperienced this year, with holes ready to be filled in the future. Currently, Cal's offensive line will feature Steven Moore, Chris Borrayo, Matt Cochran, Jordan Rigsbee, and one of Brian Farley or Vinnie Johnson. Farley and Rigsbee will be gone after this year, and Cochran, Borrayo and Moore will be gone the year after that. Turnover will have to happen quick, as is the nature of college sports.
Semisi Uluave was the last of our linemen to commit, and he remains an intriguing prospect for one of the guard spots. He's listed at 6'5" and 325 lbs (though I've seen him listed at 335) which puts him in a similar size category as Myles Bunte and Aaron Cochran. He did play tackle in HS, and his frame is comparable to Trent Williams, the left tackle for Washington in the NFL. It's not too farfetched to slot him in at either tackle spot in the future. His feet aren't quite there for the vertical pass blocking he'll be asked to do, but that will come with a year of seasoning and strength work. This can change however, as Uluave is a member of the LDS church, and do his mission in the near future, putting him out of football for two years. If that happens now, he'll be back at a time when the state of the offensive line will be even more in flux. He'll be an interesting project at either of the guard or tackle spots when he returns.
Ryan Gibson and Patrick Mekari are the other two members of this offensive line class. Gibson comes from our Sherman-esque recruiting run through the South, coming to us from Mississippi. Mekari is the brother of current defensive linemen Tony Mekari. Gibson and Mekari will definitely be here for fall camp, which makes speculation about their future in the program a little easier. Gibson and Mekari are listed at 265 and 300 pounds respectively, and are a bit more mobile than Uluave already. Gibson in particular will probably need a year of strength training and training table food in order to bulk up to a more palatable D1 weight for the offensive line. Our lightest linemen currently is Brian Farley at 280, which Gibson can easily get up to within a year. The thing about Cal's offense is that it doesn't need a whole load of 300+ linemen. It needs guys with good feet and good lateral agility, much like Oregon's offense. Gibson has that, along with excellent explosion out his stance. He played tackle in high school, and he could fill that right tackle spot if Vinnie Johnson doesn't grab it next spring.
Mekari presents another piece to look out for in the near future at the center position. In the past couple of years, Cal's centers have had some issues adjusting to an all shotgun offense. Bad snaps have been an all too common occurrence, with Matt Cochran and Addison Ooms having some issues even this spring. Mekari already has great for playing the center position, and snaps the ball very well already. He could slot in after Cochran leaves as the starting center in 2017, though that is still a ways off, and J.D. Hinnant remains another competitor for that spot. Time will tell, as this is still far off in the future
WR Class of 2015
The six wideouts in this class may not play this fall, but I will guarantee at least three of them will see significant playing time in 2016. The class of 2012 will be gone, taking Steven Anderson and Trevor Davis with them. Jack Austin and Ray Hudson will be the only members of the receiving core who have seen significant time. That leaves two open slots for 2016, one on the inside and one on the outside. Erik Brown will definitely get a shot at the inside slot, but a number of the incoming class will make some noise to take a spot for 2016.
Greyson Bankhead and Brandon Singleton will be challengers for the inside spots. They've been compared to Treggs and Harper respectively, mostly for their size, and rightfully so. Bankhead, one more piece of the Corona High pipeline, isn't going to be Megatron, but has experience playing in the slot already. He has the explosion to get open on seam routes and skinny posts, which can be seen in his film. Bankhead has some good agility and change of direction, similar to Treggs, along with the confidence and attitude necessary to be successful. If Bryce is willing to mentor his successor, which I'm sure he is, Bankhead could see some playing time this year. He can at least develop well enough to grab a starting role next season though. Singleton seems tailored toward the outside receiver spot though, and more importantly, the return game. He has the patience requisite for being a return man, and the acceleration to make things exciting. That's not to undermine his talent at the receiver spot. He uses the acceleration to get open, playing receiver in some sort of wishbone style offense. He has a little bit of Desean Jackson in him, which is usually a good thing. Singleton could see time in 2016 as a punt returner, since there hasn't been an effective one since Keenan played back there in 2012.
Austin Aaron is another local product with a big frame who can be a deep threat. He is similar to Kenny Lawler in size, but I'd compare him to one of Aaron Rodgers' favorite targets, Chase Lyman. Like Lyman, Aaron is a talented route runner who has the ability to get open whenever. If you can find them, watch the highlights of Lyman from the 2003 Insight Bowl and against Oregon State in 2004. Like Lyman, Aaron is very smooth in his cuts, and he's willing to put his body on the line to make the tough catches. I can see him playing in 2016 behind Jack Austin on the outside. I'm not too sure we'll see an explosion like Lyman had in that Oregon State game. Three touchdowns in the first quarter is hard to top
Carlos Strickland and Jaylin Hawkins were two of the last commits to this class, and they will be welcomed with open arms to this recruiting class. Strickland is the same size as Aaron, and plays with a similar ease. He's got the back shoulder fade down pat, and at 6'5" he should see a lot of those in the coming years. He can outjump the majority of corners in the Pac-12, which bodes even better for his chances of starting in 2016. He may be a Kenny Lawler type, redshirting his first year, and coming on strong in his second year. I could see him starting opposite of Jack Austin at the Z-position in 2016. Hawkins provides another interesting option in the receiving core. He's exceptional in the screen game, better than anybody we've had in the last while, except maybe Trevor Davis. He can make quick cuts without losing too much speed, which allows him to break away on his short routes, which set up the double moves on the deep routes. Hawkins has the knowledge of how to follow the blocks on screens, how to set up defenses for double moves, and he has the athletic ability to outrun the defense otherwise. If anyone were to play this year, I think it would be him.
Last but not least, Kanawai Noa has some impressive tape. This guy had over 3100 yards as a varsity receiver over three years, which is impressive. He's a fluid route runner who comes in at 6' and 175 lbs. That size and his tape is reminiscent of the other favorite target of Aaron Rodgers, Geoff McArthur. Noa is very good at blocking downfield on runs, a talent that's underrated, which can turn a 10 yard run into a 50 yarder. He is a good cutter, but what impresses me the most is his functional speed. Keenan Allen may be the best example that we have of functional speed in recent times. Allen ran something slow, like a 4.8 at the combine, but still could outrun a number of defenders to the endzone. The same goes for Noa. When he makes a bunch of guys miss from cutting back, I'm reminded of when Keenan shook the entirety of the UC Davis football team. He can run all the quick routes in the Bear Raid well, and I think he might have the best Cal career out of the bunch.
The biggest piece to getting all these guys is the proliferation of the spread offense, and how many TFS characteristics can be seen in high school offenses. The days of the wing-T are over, and having players ready with a skillset tailored toward what they're going to do in the college game helps a bunch. It is going to make Cal a much better team, and as we have seen in 2016 recruiting, a much more attractive destination. Get excited folks.