While acknowledging Cal did not sign many highly rated skill position players, new Bears head coach Sonny Dykes was happy with the linemen that were part of the 25-player recruiting class Cal signed on Feb. 6.
“We’ll have a higher standard in the future,” Dykes said. “Next year’s class will have a little more star power, more skill-position players.”
Cal did not sign any players ranked among Scout.com’s top 200 recruits, and the highest rated signee was quarterback Jared Goff, rated the nation’s No. 234 recruit by Scout.com and 140th by rivals.com.
But the incoming freshman most likely to get playing time next season is running back Khalfani Muhammad, partly because of injuries to the position and partly because he figures to fit Dykes’ offensive system.
Dykes’ recruiting time was limited after being hired on Dec. 6 following the dismissal of Jeff Tedford. But Dykes was still able to add 16 commitments while keeping most of the players that had committed to Cal before he was hired.
“One of the first things we noticed was that we needed depth on the offensive and defensive lines,” Dykes said.
Cal signed five offensive linemen, including a tight end, and seven defensive linemen. However, the Bears did lose offensive guard Cameron Hunt, who would have been the second-highest rated player Cal signed if he had been retained. Hunt had committed to Cal during the summer when Tedford was the coach, but ultimately signed with Oregon instead.
Cal also needs help in the secondary.
“The one need we fell short on was defensive back,” Dykes said.
The Bears did sign two cornerbacks – Darius Allensworth and Cameron Walker. Aside from Muhammad, Walker is the incoming freshman most likely to get playing time next season, because of the need at the position.
Cal’s class is ranked 29th in the country and fifth in the Pac-12 by Scout.com and 30th in the country and fifth in the conference according to Rivals.com. Those rankings seem to be based more on the quantity of recruits than the quality.
Dykes noted that getting players who could make the grade academically was a high priority, and he said the Bears’ low graduation rate and APR hurt some in its recruiting efforts.
–QB Jared Goff (Marin Catholic High, Kentfield, Calif.) – Goff is the highest rated of the Cal signees, ranking 140th overall in the class of 2013 by Rivals.com, which rated him the No. 8 quarterback recruit. He has already enrolled at Cal and will participate in spring practice. He completed 63.9 percent of his passes for 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions as a senior.
–RB Khalfani Muhammad (Notre Dame High School, Sherman Oaks, Calif.) – Muhammad is just 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, but he was the California state champion in the 100 and 200 meters as a junior. His speed and shiftiness should allow him to fit in well with Sonny Dykes spread offense, which creates space for running backs. He is likely to see playing time as a freshman.
–DE Sione Sina (College of San Mateo) – As a junior college transfer who has already enrolled at Cal, Sina is expected to help immediately, especially with Cal switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense. A 6-foot-2, 255-pounder, Sina had 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in 2012. He has the size and speed to make plays.
–CB Cameron Walker (Loyola High School, Los Angeles) – A sleeper who could get playing time immediately because a need at the position, the 5-11, 180-pound Walker is an outstanding athlete who played running back, receiver and defensive back in high school. He will play cornerback at Cal. He was rated a three-star prospect by Scout.com, which rated him the No. 63 cornerback prospect in the country.
See Cal’s entire 2013 recruiting class here.
— CB Steve Williams decided to forego his senior season at Cal and enter the 2013 NFL Draft. He was one of Cal’s top defenders last year, and the decision, which came as a surprise, is a significant blow.
–WR Keenan Allen also turned pro rather than return for his senior season, but that was expected.
–Five players enrolled at Cal in January. Two were high school players — PK Matt Anderson and QB Jared Goff – and three were junior college transfers — WR Drake Whitehurst, DE Kyle Kragen and DE Sione Sina.
–Andy Buh was named Cal’s defensive coordinator. He was Wisconsin’s linebackers coach last season after being Nevada’s defensive coordinator the previous two seasons. Before that he was a co-defensive coordinator at Stanford.
–Tony Franklin, who was Sonny Dykes’ offensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech, was named Cal’s offensive coordinator.
LOOKING AHEAD TO SPRING PRACTICE
Practice priorities: Cal has a lot to do. It needs to put in an entirely new offensive system based on spreading the field with four and five-wide receiver sets, and it has an entirely new coaching staff on both offense and defense. And it must instill a winning attitude after a 3-9 season in 2012.
The first order of business will be to select a new quarterback for Sonny Dykes’ spread offense, although the choice probably won’t be made until next fall. Allan Bridgford, who is the only quarterback on the roster with playing experience but completed only 45.6 percent of his passes in 2012, and Zach Kline, who redshirted his freshman season, are the top candidates, although freshman Jared Goff enrolled in school in January.
New defensive coordinator Andy Buh needs to install his 4-3 defense after the team played a 3-4 in 2012, and he must replace three of the four starting defensive backs.
QUOTE: “The academic issues were used against us as much as the (3-9) record was, quite frankly.” – Cal coach Sonny Dykes, on the effect that Cal’s low graduation rate and APR had on recruiting.
KEY LOSSES: WR Keenan Allen, CB Stevie Williams, CB Marc Anthony, QB Zach Maynard, RB Isi Sofele, RB C.J. Anderson.
PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2013:
TB Brendan Bigelow – Bigelow demonstrated his break-away speed and big-play potential, but the Cal coaches had trouble figuring out how to make use of his skills. He averaged 9.8 yards a carry, and he had three touchdown runs of more than 50 yards. With the other two primary ball-carriers – Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson – being seniors in 2012, Bigelow should be the focal point of the running game in 2013. He should fit in well in Sonny Dykes’ offensive system, which spreads the field and gives running backs room to maneuver.
OLB Chris McCain – A starter since midway through his freshman season in 2011, McCain has a chance to be a star next season as a junior. Despite being slowed by injuries, McCain had 8.5 tackles for losses and four quarterback hurries in 2012 and is capable of making game-changing plays. Injuries are the key issue with McCain.
QB Kevin Kline – After redshirting his freshman year in 2012, Kline will compete with Allan Bridgford for the starting job in the spring. Based on Bridgford’s struggles in his three starts in 2012, Kline will get a serious look. Kline played pretty well last spring, and could become the Bears starting quarterback in 2013.
WR Chris Harper – Harper did not become a regular starter until Keenan Allen got hurt, but he still finished second to Allen in receptions with 41, and showed a knack for making spectacular catches. Assuming he recovers well from shoulder surgery, he figures to be the Bears’ No. 1 passing target next season and big part of Sonny Dykes’ spread-offense passing game.
–LB Chris McCain is likely to miss spring ball with a torn labrum.
–WR Chris Harper is likely to miss spring football following shoulder surgery.
–CB Marc Anthony and OL Brian Schwenke both were in the starting lineup for the South squad in the Senior Bowl.
–RB Isi Sofele played in the Casino del Sol College All-Star game in Douglas, Ariz., and he had 64 yards on 11 carries, including a 15-yard touchdown run.
–DL Aaron Tipoti also played in the Casino del Sol All-Star game and had a sack and an interception.
–Former Cal quarterback Zach Maynard played in the Raycom College Football All-Star Game and was 2-of-8 for 15 yards in limited action off the bench.