One of the most dominant storylines of the Sonny Dykes era was his struggle to connect to the Bay Area, and particularly recruit Bay Area athletes. A native Texan who hasn’t really spent much time recruiting Northern California, Dykes really never seemed to make a dent in local Bay Area recruiting, as the Bears saw the rest of the Pac-12 (and other national programs) take up root in their backyard and poach some of the best possible talent.
Justin Wilcox made it a priority in his opening press conference to lock down the local schools, and it seems he hit the road locally first with his limited coaching staff. Monte Vista assistant coach Chris Babcock took note of Wilcox’s efforts, and had this rather shocking statement regarding Dykes’s efforts to build his Bay Area local connections.
Monte Vista was a pretty steady place to find a Cal recruit every few years. Dave Wilkerson, Mike Costanzo, Bryce McGovern, Matt Russi all hail from the Danville school. Neglecting a blueblood Bay Area programs makes little sense on its face.
Aside from the first class (which saw Dykes retain Jared Goff, Anderson, Ray Hudson and Caleb Coleman), Cal has been short on landing Bay Area prospects during the Dykes era. The last two seasons, the Bears landed one prospect from the local high schools, and on average landed only one high school prospect (most of their Bay Area targets came from the junior college ranks).
- 2014: Defensive linemen Sam Atoe, Trevor Kelly, linebackers Jake Kearney (JUCOs) and John Porchivina (Casa Grande, Petaluma)
- 2015: Defensive backs Khari Vanderbilt and Antoine Albert (JUCOs), Austin Aaron (Napa)
- 2016: Offensive lineman Jake Curhan (Redwoods, Larkspur)
- 2017: Linebacker Paul Scott (McClymonds, Oakland)
There are a host of reasons why Dykes probably didn’t prioritize Bay Area recruiting. The big one is probably that the Air Raid (and the Tony Franklin System) is not particularly popular in Northern California. Cal has had decent success recruiting some Southern California programs, where Air Raid stylings have become more popular.
Another is that Dykes and most of his staff hailed from Louisiana Tech, so his roots were in recruiting the Deep South and Texas. California is still highly represented, but Cal landed its biggest coups outside the Bay.
Although I agree that the Bears should maintain a national focus, it would be nice to see Cal get more competitive for local prospects. USC, UCLA, Washington, Oregon have generally had their way in the Bay, with other national powerhouses nabbing a prospect or two.
It does sound like Cal will be prioritizing the Bay as a place of interest going forward though!
PS: And down South the staff went on Day 2, with Cal commits like Chase Garbers in Newport Beach and Jordan Genmark Heath in San Diego getting visits!