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Can Justin Wilcox recruit well enough to escape the pull towards .500?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 07 Cal at Washington Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re in a new, unusual period in the college football calendar: the time in between the early signing period and what used to be National Letter of Intent Day, on February 7.

And that makes this a somewhat dangerous time for grand pronouncements about success or failure on the recruiting trail. Most teams have signed the majority of their verbal commitments and recruiting targets, which means that it’s hard but not impossible to add impact recruits to a class. Cal is certainly still looking to add a few themselves.

Two years ago, I talked about how if Sonny Dykes continued to recruit in the middle of the conference, they will likely continue to get middle-of-the-conference results. Back in August, I offered the following thoughts on how Cal’s class of 2018 was shaping up:

As of this very early date, Cal’s recruiting rankings aren’t markedly different from the Dykes era. Cal is still doing (generally) better than your Oregon States and your Arizonas and worse than your UCLAs and your Stanfords. The established pecking order appears unchanged so far.

So where do we stand between signing periods? Well, pretty much the same as where Cal stood back in August. In the 247 composite, Cal fell from 5th to 6th (thanks to a Chip Kelly related surge at UCLA) in the overall standings and remains at 7th place in the average recruit rankings.

That probably shouldn’t be much of a surprise - much of the legwork for this class was put in prior to the season, and more than most schools Cal got their commits in early. And while this year’s coaching carousel hit the Pac-12 much harder than anticipated, that seemingly hasn’t impacted Cal’s recruiting class . . . yet.

The strengths and weaknesses of Cal’s recruiting class are pretty clear. The offensive linemen are both deep and talented, and will hopefully eventually be the foundation for a strong offense. Meanwhile, Cal was unable to finish with a number of QB and defensive line targets, and will likely be looking to shore up those numbers over the next few months with the ~5 slots Wilcox has left to play with. I would also guess that they’ll look at another player or two for the secondary if the right recruit comes along.

And in all likelihood, Cal will bring on more prospects roughly in line with the players they have already signed - three star recruits somewhere between 500 and 1000 in the national composite rankings. And considering where Cal was prior to the season in terms of prestige and expectations, where this recruiting class will likely finish makes all kinds of sense.

But still: Cal is now 23-26 since Dykes restored Cal to something close to Cal’s natural pecking order in the college football universe. Those results more or less matched Cal’s recruited talent. Maybe Justin Wilcox is the guy to develop under-recruited players to greater heights, but recruiting rankings would suggest similar results in the future.

We can and should revisit the question in February, but what I’m wondering right now is this two-parter:

1. Exactly how pleased are you so far with Justin Wilcox’s first full recruiting class?

2. Is Justin Wilcox and the coaching staff he’s assembled the group that will eventually improve Cal’s recruiting from 6/7th best in the Pac-12?

For right now, I think my answer to question #1 is ‘whelmed’ and question #2 is ‘yes, though I don’t have any real strong evidence other than faith in what he’s done with most everything else so far this year.’ Your thoughts?