SECOND SEASONOK, the bowls are (almost) over, and now it's finally time to focus on CFB's second season - recruiting. The dead period ends today, so expect lots of breathless speculation, broken verbals, and TV commitments leading up to LOI day on February 7. Some tips from the Hill:
- Stars don't matter - to the extent they're relevant at all, it's because they're reflective of the interest that a kid is getting from top programs. Fives are usually better than twos (but not always) and threes are often much better than fours. Forget the stars, and please don't pay attention to the "national rankings" that purport to judge teams based on average stars per recruit.
- Who's recruiting a kid does matter - when Tedford started he was slugging it out with Fresno and Oregon State for guys. Times have changed. The remaining undecideds on Cal's board are also considering teams like Notre Dame, USC, Georgia and Penn State. We may lose most of them, but at least we're in the right area code.
- Balance matters - coaches can occasionally fall into the trap of passing on a position because things on the current roster look good. Then guys get injured, fail out, or don't perform, and suddenly you've got a depth problem. Or, you're Rick Neuheisel, and you just don't care about offensive linemen.
- You can have too many recruits - just ask Karl Dorrell how happy he is to have 8-10 available scholarships this year. UCLA gave out 26 scholarships in the 2004 class, 22 in '05 and 22 in '06. They should have passed on a handful of these kids.
QB: We believe you need to average one QB a class. We're due for one in '07.
Verbals: Brock Mansion (Episcopal School, Dallas). He's a tall (6'5") and a runner (900 yards as a senior), which is interesting. Played at the private school level in Texas, which is a far cry from 4A or 5A ball and may have limited his exposure. Also plays basketball and baseball. Good enough to get a Tedford offer, so good enough for us. Cal missed on a couple of other guys, including Kellen Kiilsgaard, who for some reason will attend Stanford next fall.
Undecided: No one - Mansion will be the only QB in this class.
Went Elsewhere: Aaron Corp (USC); Logan Gray (Georgia); Kellen Kiilsgaard (Stanford); Ronnie Fouch (Washington); Stefan Loucks (Texas Tech)
Outlook: Hard to say, but we'll trust JT on this one.
RB: You can't have too many talented backs - if there's not enough room on the depth chart, some get switched to defense or contribute in the return game. Cal doesn't have an acute need here, having picked up Slocum and Montgomery in last year's class, but you never look a gift horse in the mouth.
Verbals: Jahvid Best (Salesian HS, Richmond); Shane Vereen (Valencia HS)
Went Elsewhere: Brandon Johnson (Washington); Curtis Shaw (Washington)
Outlook: Pretty darn good. Both committed backs are very fast (4.4). Best would probably not blueshirt and see time in the backfield rotation and kick return. Vereen could be switched to DB if he looks to be bottled up behind Slocum, Monty et al.
WR: A need position. DJax is likely gone after next year, and Jordan and Hawkins are certainly so. Getting two productive receivers from this class is a priority.
Verbals: Mike Calvin (San Lorenzo HS); Alex Lagemann (Saratoga HS)
Went Elsewhere: Kayne Farguharson (Miami); Brandon Carswell (USC); Drew Davis (Oregon); Kerry Taylor (Arizona State); Zion Babb (Michigan)
Outlook: Would have been better to get three guys, but both Calvin and Lagemann are highly regarded and non-smurfs (6'2" and 6'3", respectively)
TE: A need position for the long run - Graffort was the only TE in last year's class, and he's a walk-on who's not on the level of previous Cal TEs.
Verbals: Skylar Curran (Butte JC); Savai'i Eselu (Moanalua HS, Honolulu)
Went Elsewhere: Blaine Irby (Texas); Steve Watson (Michigan); Aron White (Georgia); David Paulson (Oregon); Brian Linthicum (Clemson)
Outlook: Mission accomplished.
OL: Always a big need, considering injury issues and the fact that many guys just don't project to the collegiate level. Cal is coming off a good class (Bemoll, Laird, Guarnero) but more depth is always welcome.
Verbals: Matt Summers-Gavin (St. Ignatius Prep, San Francisco); Sam DeMartinis (Notre Dame HS, Sherman Oaks); Justin Cheadle (Bakersfield HS); Mitchell Schwartz (Palisades Charter HS); Todd Huber (Palos Verdes Penninsula HS).
Went Elsewhere: Carson York (Oregon); Sione Tau (Arizona); Devan Cunningham (Fresno St); Edwin Alvarez (Rutgers);
Outlook: O-linemen are the toughest to predict - lots of two and three-star guys make all-conference teams, and four-star guys are bombs. But this looks like a great class. Summers-Gavin turned down Notre Dame; DeMartinis had 14 offers and was a priority recruit for ASU; Schwartz is a late bloomer who got offers from the Ducks and Virginia; Huber and Cheadle each had a handful of Pac-10 offers. DeMartinis projects as a tackle; MSG and Schwartz at guard, and Huber at center. Cheadle will most likely switch to defense, which is just fine by us.
DL: An immediate need, given how thin the Bears are at the ends. Would be nice to get a DT.
Verbals: none (though Cheadle probably fits in here - can he play end?)
Undecided: Kenny Rowe (Long Beach Poly HS); Matthew Masifilo (Campbell HS, Hawaii); Cameron Jordan (Chandler HS, Arizona); Scott Smith (St. Louis HS, Honolulu).
Went Elsewhere: Brian Price (UCLA); Akeem Ayers (UCLA); Duke Lemmens (Florida); Kevion Latham (Penn State)
Outlook: This is an area of concern, given that we have only one commitment to date (and none at DE, where we need help the most). We're guessing that JT's first phone call after the dead period will go to the Rowe residence. Smith and Jordan are also DEs; Masifilo is a tackle. This could be a surprise area where the staff pulls a rabbit out of its hat.
LB: Mohamed was the only LB in last year's class, so it's important to pick up a couple of guys here.
Verbals: D.J. Holt (Crespi HS, Encino)
Undecided: Malcolm Smith (Taft HS, Woodland Hills); Malachi Lewis (Rio Mesa HS, Oxnard); Tony Fein (Scottsdale HS); Devin Bishop (CCSF); Robert Mullins (Dorsey HS, Los Angeles)
Went Elsewhere: Steve Sloan (UCLA); Casey Matthews (Oregon); Marshall Williams (Auburn);
Outlook: The Bears wouldn't mind three commits at this position given the caliber of the undecided players, and need to add at least one more to feel good about the class. People think we're in the final three for Smith (with USC and Notre Dame) and have a reasonable shot at Lewis, Bishop and Mullins.
DB: Cal has lots of young talent at corner (SQT, Peele, etc) and could use experienced depth; the Bears have experience at safety but not much youth behind them. Juco commits could help facilitate position switches among returning players.
Verbals: D.J. Campbell (Cheyenne HS, Las Vegas); Chris Conte (Loyola HS, Los Angeles); Sean Cattouse (Hubbard HS, Chicago)
Undecided: Terry Mixon (Grossmont JC); Donovan Warren (Long Beach Poly HS); Chaz Thompson (Siskiyous JC); Glenn Love (Hamilton HS, Chandler AZ)
Went Elsewhere: Courtney Viney (UCLA); Anthony Gildon (Oregon)
Outlook: Cattouse is a converted QB who will play safety; Conte and Campbell are corners. If Mixon and Thompson commit, they will immediately compete for starting roles (Mixon at the free and Thompson at corner opposite SQT). Warren is a long shot and will probably go to SC, but the Bears would make room if he accepts the offer. If all three come (highly unlikely) that would be six scholarship DBs in a class of about 23 - too many considering Cal's needs at other positions.
Summary: Things look pretty set on the offensive side of the ball - there aren't any undecided kids who are priorities for Cal. The OL class could be the best in Cal history. Defense is another question, where lots of coveted recruits have yet to make their choice. The overall balance in the class isn't very good right now, unless Tedford can convince some of these guys to choose Cal.