Getting hyped on football recruits is always a dangerous game. It is a guessing game that generally has most of us on the outside excited about a few players we know little about. The best example of this is unfortunately Lonny Powell, who many had pegged as the heir apparent to the beastmode throne at Cal. He was an electrifying player in high school and to this day I am not sure I have seen a better high school tape. Fast forward to present day, Lonny is no longer with Cal and we won't ever see his impact as a Golden Bear.
This years recruiting cycle was particularly interesting as there was a bit of a shift in the top four teams in the conference. For our extended look into the Pac-12, we will focus most of our analysis around Rivals as they (in my opinion) do the best job at evaluating recruiting classes. Oregon, who usually has an annual top 15 class, dropped out of the top 25 and out of the top third of the conference rankings. UCLA, USC and Stanford all remained at the top but a few other teams like Cal, Utah and Washington had great classes as well. Recruiting class don't necessarily signal impending conference parity, however it does open the door for a more diverse group of athletes at a wider range of schools around the conference. This is big for Cal as many last year openly questioned if a few of their losses were a result of less athleticism on the field.
Let's take a look at the conference rankings for 2016, evaluate Cal's class against the rest of the conference and highlight one of the players to watch out for this spring and fall.
2016 Conference Rankings:
(Photo Credit: Rivals)
There have been a few people to point out that a few teams had a recruit average that was higher than Cal's and perhaps this class is overvalued. While I think it is a good point to take into account more than one statistical data point, it is also important to understand that star rating isn't a direct indication of success. The lack of five star recruits that make it to the NFL showcases just how flawed this system can be sometimes. When rebuilding the Stanford program, Jim Harbaugh built recruiting classes on three star athletes that he saw as the best fit for the program. David Decastro, Jonathan Martin, Zach Ertz and Richard Sherman were all three star recruits and we all know where they ended up. Don't be fooled into thinking that great programs cannot be built without five star recruits. At the end of the day, Andrew Luck and Jared Goff were not five star recruits and they each turned out just fine.
How Cal compares against the conference:
The eternal Cal optimist in me loves this class especially building on the momentum from last year. Not only were we able to recruit student athletes who can excel in the classroom, but we also increased our size on the offensive line and added break away speed at the slot position. This could add a nice wrinkle to Sonny's offense and open up an entirely new set of plays for the Bear Raid.
Cal suffered a few blows from our no longer friendly rival down south. Boss Tagaloa ended up choosing the Bruins over the Bears as well as a many other schools. Paco Perez also managed to anger many Cal fans with the manner in which he selected UCLA on signing day and I imagine will not receive the most joyous welcome when the Bruins visit Berkeley this upcoming season. USC pulled its usual signing day magic, inking a number of five star recruits who somehow forget that USC hasn't been an elite team in years. Stanford had the best class in the conference and continues to build upon an already stacked offensive line. At this rate, the Tree's will be producing running back after running back as they fit through the massive holes that offensive line can create. As awesome as it was seeing CJ cement Cal as running back U last night, Stanford has become an institution for great offensive lineman.
Player to watch out for:
As long as Cal keeps Victor at quarterback, I see him as the player who can make the most immediate impact for the Bears this fall. We saw what Sonny wanted to do with a mobile quarterback with Luke Rubenzer and Viramontes can be what Luke was and more. If Chase Forrest wins the quarterback competition this spring, which I expect him to do, I also imagine Victor or Luke will spell him in a running situations to force the defense to give up a linebacker. We will start to see a lot more evidence of this intent as we get closer to fall camp and see how the depth chart fills out. Victor's tape is some of the best I have seen from this class and once again I find myself not listening to my own advice about hyping recruits.