RECRUITING RECAP - WHAT'S IT ALL MEAN?As we summarized yesterday, Cal signed 26 new football players to letters of intent yesterday. (We forgot Florida transfer Nyan Boateng, who we'll profile at a later date) National experts seem to think Cal did pretty well; that's great, but we don't put much faith in recruiting rankings. Here are some thoughts on the Class of '07:
As we've noted in our early depth charts, Cal returns an awful lot next year, especially on offense. There are no gaping holes on offense, though Cal would perhaps welcome an offensive line backup or two. Defense is another question. The Bears badly need immediate contributors at defensive end, given that Philip Mbakogu looks very unlikely to return to the team. They could also use backup depth in the defensive backfield.
You would have to say that this class addresses areas of need. To nitpick, it would have been nice to find a JC defensive end who could step in and play immediately. Alex Cook apparently doesn't have the size Delgado wants at that position, so he will contend for time at SLB. Conte was, in our view, a huge get since he will be the "tall corner" of the future. Tedford's comments at his press conference indicated a willingness to let freshmen compete for playing time, so we may see fewer blueshirts in this class.
This is the most often-overlooked aspect of a recruiting class. Most teams get this right, but there are notable exceptions. Rick Neuheisel's classes at Washington were filled with lots of backs and receivers, but too few linemen on either side of the ball. The Huskies paid for this oversight in subsequent seasons as opponents pushed them all over the field.
USC doesn't care too much about balance. They will stockpile the best recruits regardless of need and hold Darwinian practice competitions to determine the starter. Trojan fans can say that Joe McKnight and Marc Tyler are different sorts of backs - they may well be, but last I checked SC only had one tailback position. Lynch and Forsett were different, too, but only one of them got the ball each down.
Stockpiling recruits made lots of sense in the days before scholarship limits. Bear Bryant perfected the art at Alabama, and had a depth chart full of decorated stars who rarely saw the field. He just wanted to ensure those stars didn't start at Auburn or LSU. But today, if you put a HS All-American third on your depth chart you lose something - you lose a scholarship that might have gone to a player with a better chance of contributing. I'm not knocking SC's class at all - it looks great and they should continue to be the big dog in the Pac-10. I am questioning Carroll's overall philosophy when it comes to scholarship balance. It's fine to say that CJ Gable is going to switch to defense - but is he going to be a good DB? Will he respond to the position switch? What does that do to team chemistry?
Cal's class is extremely balanced: 1 QB, 2 TB, 1 FB, 2 WR, 2 TE, 5 OL, 4 DE, 4 LB, 3 DB, 1 P. The only position where Cal scored a donut was defensive tackle. This was in part intentional, since Cal didn't push too hard for many players at the position. But taken in the context of the entire team - where we return a starting DT in Malele and have capable young people in Costanzo and Hill - it's not too big of a concern.
Fans tend to focus on misses, which can corrupt their vision of a class. Everyone loses players - well, everyone except USC. Misses really hurt when the player in question is demonstrably superior to any "replacements" that are signed, or the team can't find anyone to fill a position of need. Cal doesn't have any glaring misses this year, with the possible exceptions of Brian Price and Matthew Masifilo - well-regarded defensive tackles who chose UCLA and Stanford, respectively.
Others have focused on Akeem Ayers (UCLA) and Kenny Rowe (Oregon); well, I'll reserve judgment since I believe Scott Smith could wind up being better than either of them. At running back, it might have been terrific to get Marc Tyler (we never had a shot), but I'm more than happy with Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen. What does Tyler's extra star mean? Probably not much, given recent history. How about Malcolm Smith at WLB? Is he a lot better than Mullins or Holt? Is he better at all? Time will tell.
Other Trivia About the Class
* Highest number of out-of-state recruits (nine) during the Tedford era.
* No academic issues that we are aware of. This class is full of good students (as noted in our capsule profiles yesterday)
* First class since '04 without a Pacific Northwest player. More Hawaiians (three) than any other Tedford class (any Cal class, I believe).
* No one seems to have caught this, but there are only five Bay Area players out of 25, an amazingly low number.
* Tedford mentioned a number of players who could make an immediate contribution. In addition to the Jucos, he named Best, Vereen, Smith and Jordan as guys who could play immediately. He also noted that the OL class would have a chance to "come in and show what they can do."