Sonny Dykes had an uphill task when he took over the head coaching job for the California Golden Bears. Cal was coming off a 3-9 season and its appeal was at an all-time low compared to traditional rivals Stanford, UCLA and USC. The Bears had a lot of work to do in a matter of a few months if they expected to finish with a decent recruiting class.
Dykes did pretty well. He managed to recruit pretty well for both the offensive and defensive lines and give the Bears a few quality players at each position. He also flipped a few recruits from rival West Coast schools (particularly Arizona but also Boise State and BYU) and managed to land plenty of under-the-radar talent that should help Cal mightily after a year or two of development. Johnny Ragin III, Edward Tandy, Tony Mekari, Jacobi Hunter are several such recruits that could make an impact thanks to how well they fit Cal.
Dykes also kept the backbone of this class intact, particularly ensuring quarterback Jared Goff and running back Khalfani Muhammad stayed in the fold. And for the most part he found the Bears that wanted to be Bears.
Dykes did have to let a few talented players go due to academic issues, but he replaced them with slightly less talented players who fit the Cal system and are more likely to thrive in it. Cal should hopefully be in a better position than they were before the hire.
Bud Elliott’s grade:
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Top three players
Quarterback Jared Goff, Marin Catholic High, Greenbrae, CA: Goff provides Cal with another talented quarterback who gives the Bears a prototypical dropback passer who can distribute the football to multiple receivers with aplomb and do so accurately and without the offense ever slowing down. Goff can also run, which will be important in the Sonny Dykes offense. With Goff and Zach Kline Cal has two very talented signal-callers.
Running back Khalfani Muhammad, Notre Dame High, Sherman Oaks, CA: Muhammad is on the smaller side, but don't mistake him as diminutive. Muhammad does a good job bursting once he gets to the second level and is really good at picking up extra yards thanks to an intuitive ability to cut back
Defensive end Takkarist McKinley, John F. Kennedy High, Richmond, CA: Flew under the radar for most of the recruiting cycle, McKinley took off in the winter after some impressive all-star performances. McKinley is extremely athletic (raw, but athletic), and has impressive potential to totally dominate off the edge in future seasons. McKinley might need a redshirt year but as time.
Top three rival classes
UCLA: Cal's little brothers to the south were anything but. The Bruins landed perhaps the best collection of offensive linemen on the West Coast, bagged a group of safeties that'll terrorize the Pac-12 for years to come, and pretty much stacked talent at almost every position with additions like Kylie Fitts and Asiantii Woulard. UCLA appears to be back, and will be a very tough play for Cal in the upcoming seasons.
USC: The Trojans had all sorts of problems hanging onto players this season, but USC did still land plenty of quality talent across the board. That includes safeties Su'a Cravens and Leon McQuay III, defensive end Kenny Bigelow, running backs Justin Davis and Ty Isaac, wide receiver Steven Mitchell and quarterback Max Browne. There's a good chance all of these USC playmakers can end up contributing as freshmen.
Stanford: Cal has to be happy about one thing; their rivals didn't perform all that well. However, Stanford had limited scholarships due to a small senior class so they didn't have to worry too much about recruiting this season. The Cardinal did find some nice talents, including two nice inside linebackers in Peter Kalambayi and Kevin Palma and a playmaking wide receiver in Francis Owusu (brother of Chris).
Biggest National Signing Day drama: It wasn't fun drama at all for Cal on National Signing Day, as they ended up losing Cameron Hunt from Cal to Oregon. Hunt had been wavering ever since the firing of Jeff Tedford, and Oregon eventually appeared to persuade him away after his official visit to Eugene. The loss of Hunt isn't devastating, but it did hurt what was looking like an impressive Cal offensive line recruiting class. The Bears still have plenty of quality names like Aaron Cochran, J.D. Hinnant, Vincent Johnson, Chris Borrayo and Erik Bunte.
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