Sonny Dykes had a telling statement about the trajectory of the Golden Bears: If Cal wants to return to elite status in the Pac-12, it'll be important to hold their backyard.
So based on this year's results, Cal isn't quite ready to be an elite team yet.
It wasn't a good year for the Bears to hold their backyard. Cal struggled to get the big prospects from Northern California in 2016. Only Jake Curhan was a Northern California prospect that committed to the Bears--everyone else from in-state hails from Southern California.
Let's take a look at the big-time prospects Cal missed out on in the region they should be holding.
De La Salle defensive tackle Boss Tagaloa: Tagaloa put Cal in his final five, but eventually decided on UCLA. The Bruins have won many defensive line recruiting battles in-state with the Bears, and Tagaloa is the latest victory on that front. Cal's ability to return to elite status depends on getting this elite linemen.
De La Salle tight end Devin Asiasi: Probably the least surprising of the bunch. Cal and De La Salle have never had the best relationship, and Asiasi is the latest recruit from the powerhouse that went to a traditional power like Michigan. Also Cal hasn't been big on traditional tight ends since Sonny installed the Bear Raid, so this isn't a huge surprise.
Bishop O'Dowd linebacker Camilo Eifler: This is a tough loss. Eifler is the type of recruit the Bears need--tough-minded on and off the field, his adoptive mother teaches at Cal, and the Bears have to get impact linebackers in a hurry. Big whiff, and he figures to be a future menace in that Washington defense.
Liberty (Brentwod) safety Shurod Thompson: Cal had Thompson committed early as the Bears wanted an impact safety, but for whatever reason both sides decided to mutually part ways.
Placer (Auburn) offensive lineman Jacob Capra: Another hard one to swallow, because Jacob's brother Johnny was a Cal commit for the longest time before flipping to Utah at the last second. Very likely Cal has both Jacob and Johnny if they can hold that class together.
Pittsburg cornerback Jordan Parker: Oklahoma continues its California encroachment into the East Bay, landing Joe Mixon and now Parker. Such is life.
Folsom offensive tackle Jonah Williams: Bama came calling. No chance here.
Jesuit (Carmichael) athlete Beau Bisharat: It would've been great if Cal could have snagged another Stanford decommit, but Bisharat seemed to want to be a running back and Cal wanted him at linebacker, so...
It seemed like a mixture of bad luck and tough recruiting. But it would've been nice to land one or two of these players.
Dykes commented on that at Signing Day.
"We're not going to get to where we want to be until we can get the kids we want to locally," Dykes said. "That's where it all starts. To me, you've arrived as a program when you recruit your backyard and get who you want to get. Clearly, we haven't arrived as a program yet.
"We haven't gotten those guys yet. I have tremendous confidence we will."
Cal has struggled in recent times to keep prospects from their backyard, and it remains tough sledding for Dykes to improve his standing here. Sonny has had to go elsewhere (SoCal, the Northwest, Texas, the South) to find his recruits. But it's hard to build a culture without the Bears proving they can handle business in the Bay Area.
Cal has a lot of top potential 2017 recruiting targets in the Bay Area. If Dykes wants to lift the ceiling on the future of the program, this is the year to get them.
What do you think? Is it important for Cal to secure their backyard? Should Cal make Bay Area recruiting a priority? Or is it overrated and not a huge deal?