It used to be that I didn’t care a lick about recruiting. Then I got a fun little job reporting on games for an organization that was mostly focused on recruiting (Rivals/BearTerritory.net). The more I learned, the more I realized just how important recruiting was. Make no mistake, the coaching and the game planing are very important, but if you don’t have the raw talent, teams like USC are just going to bowl you over. They’ll be bigger, faster and stronger and no amount of creative game planning will overcome their sound game plan built around the fact that they’re bigger, faster and stronger.
So that’s why it’s so important that Cal continues to bring in very good recruiting classes. Last year was awesome, with the #11 class and two 5-star players (OK, we lost one later). To follow it up with a #17, means that we’re going to have a very talented team in a couple years. (Remember that recruits don’t become the heart and soul of the program until they’re upper-class men and really don’t have much of an impact for at least a year.)
To re-enforce the point, wonder why 2008-2010 were such rough years… look no further than recruiting from 2007-2009:
2007: #22 in the country, 3rd in the conference*
2008: #34 in the country, 7th in the conference
2009: #42 in the country, 6th in the conference
(*Note that 2007 was based more on the number of recruits at 26 and less on star ranking, with only 5 4-stars)
Not all that great, particularly when you compare it to 2004-2006:
2004: #22 in the country, 4th in the conference*
2005: #9 in the country, 2nd in the conference
2006: #19 in the country, 4th in the conference*
(*Note the inverse of the previous one for 2004 and 2006, these were smaller classes with a high star-ranking that was 4th in the conference only because teams with big classes loaded up on lesser talent (UW in 2004, UCLA and Arizona in 2006))
Point being, it’s really good news to see us up in the recruiting rankings where we used to be back in the heart of the Tedford era, and to be there for 2 consecutive years.
Now for some specifics on this class:
There’s two things I look for in a good recruiting class, the number of highly talented players with good physical characteristics (do they have the frame to be a good O-line guy, etc.) and how balanced the class is. It doesn’t do any good to bring in 4 tight ends and no defensive guys. That lack of balance will hurt down the road.
Going further, the team is allowed to have 85 scholarship players. That works out to just under 4 complete teams (22 players (11 offense, 11 defense) x 4 is 88). Since, minus redshirting, you get a player for 4 years, it means that in a perfect world, your class should pretty well reflect a complete team. Let’s see how this team stacks up:
QB: 1 (Kyle Boehm)
RB: 4 (C.J. Anderson, Brendon Bigelow, Darren Ervin, Daniel Lasco)
OL: 2 (Jordan Rigsbee, Matt Williams)
TE: 1 (Richard Rodgers)
WR: 1 (Maurice Harris)
DL: 5 (Todd Barr, Puka Lopa, Brennan Scarlett, Mustafa Jalil, Viliami Moala)
LB: 3 (Jalen Jefferson, Nathan Broussard, Jason Gibson)
DB: 5 (Joel Willis, Kameron Jackson, Stefan McClure, Jordan Morgan, Avery Walls)
While it’s not perfect balance (last year was better) it’s pretty darned good. The two weak spots are WR, which isn’t as bad as it seems because there are a few guys (McClure, Ervin, Lasco) who Tedford mentioned might either play some or be moved to wide receiver, and OL, which if you ask me is the glaring weak-spot. The good news is the two we got look like monster recruits. Nevertheless, if we could substitute RB recruit or two into a OL recruit, it would definitely help the balance of the class.
Don’t under estimate the value of the large set of recruits at DB and RB though… those are two spots where we’ve lost a lot of talent to graduation and they cupboard needed to be refilled, particularly at RB where injuries have really hurt. It would be awesome if Bigelow or Ervin could make the sort of instant impact that Best or Lynch made their true-freshman years.
As for individual guys that just wow, top of the list is Moala, who is a 5-star over on Scout (as a quick aside, I always use Rivals rankings… it’s a loyalty thing) even though he’s a 4-star on Rivals. He’s a monster guy and ready to play nose guard right away at 326 lbs and supposedly is going to be able to walk into the weight room in August and instantly set the bench press record for Cal at 490.
Stefan McClure is another one that jumps out, being very versatile, being one of those rare talents who can both be a smothering corner and tackle like a linebacker (while Tedford compared another recruit to Syd’Quan Thompson, this guy’s tackling skills make me think he’s more like Syd).
The other two defenders who really stand out to me are Jason Gibson and Brennan Scarlett, both because of their versatility. Tedford called Scarlett a predator like Kendricks, yet he’s a defensive end who can rush hard from the outside, despite the fact that he’s being compared to a linebacker. Gibson is just the opposite, a linebacker who played a lot of DE in high school and his film looks great. The way Pendergast likes to mix things up, these will be two guys who will allow for more complex blitz and coverage packages that will keep the opposing QB’s guessing.
Moving to offense, the odd-ball of the group of standouts is quarterback Kyle Boehm. He’s ranked as the #7 QB in the country but is only a 3-star, having lost a star over the winter. It’s really odd and perhaps because he was doing a lot of running as a QB in his senior season. But his video looks really good throwing the ball. Tedford had lots of good things to say about him.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, the two offensive line recruits look like monsters. Matt Williams is enrolling early and is a JC transfer (it’s pretty rare JC guy’s get a 4-star ranking). He’s 6-7 and 285 and just looks like someone who could add 50, heck even 75 lbs of muscle and still be limber and fast with the size of his frame. Jordan Rigsbee is no slouch himself ranked the #9 guard in the country out of high school and at 6’4″ 275 should be only a year away from being ready to play.
As you can see, there’s a lot to be excited about. Lot’s of talent that’s eye-poppingly good and pretty good balance. Where there wasn’t balance, it was because Tedford was after some new-found depth at defensive back and running back. While the O-Line shortage is probably the most disconcerting, the two guys we got look awesome. Overall it looks really, really, good.