Tedford downplays impact of staff shakeup

California head coach Jeff Tedford tries to keep a positive outlook discussing recruiting class and changes to coaching staff for the first time.

BERKELEY, Calif. – It wasn't a surprise that California head coach Jeff Tedford's first media availability since the stunning departure of assistant Tosh Lupoi became a referendum on the former Golden Bear player, graduate assistant and defensive line coach's abruptly exit for Washington.

Despite Tedford' s best efforts to keep the focus on the 17 recruits Cal signed Wednesday – "the guys who chose to come here for the right reasons," Tedford said – Lupoi was the explicit or implied subject of nine of the 28 questions posed.

Tedford refused to blame the precipitous collapse of a recruiting class that had been ranked in the top 10 after receiving non-binding verbal commitments from five-star safety Shaq Thompson, five-star defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy and four-star wide receiver Jordan Payton at the U.S. Army All-America game, only to lose all three after Lupoi and wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau bolted to join the Huskies in a 48-hour span just over two weeks out from signing day.

Thompson signed with Washington, while McCarthy and Payton signed with UCLA, as did another former commit, running back Kenny Walker.

"More than any other time, this year you see decommitments all over," Tedford said. "School after school after school had decommitments right down to the end. When the coaching change happened here, people want a relationship with their coach and people start looking other places. There were a couple guys in the beginning that were committed here but chose other places. I don't think we're unique to anyone else to tell you the truth."

Cal also missed out on five-star defensive lineman Arik Armstead, who signed with Oregon over the Bears.

In the Scout.com rankings, Cal finished eighth among Pac-12 teams and 38th in the nation.

"The perception is we're in trouble," Tedford said. "We're not in trouble. We got a lot of great recruits here. We lost probably two recruits over it that could have went either way."

Lupoi has become Public Enemy No. 1 among many Cal fans. But apart from revealing that he petitioned the conference for an additional in-home visit with a recruit, a request that was denied, Tedford tried to stay positive talking about him.

"I don't want this to be a big Tosh thing," he said. "Tosh did a great job while he was here."

Still, Tedford admitted the timing of the moves, forcing him to transition into searching for Lupoi and Kiesau's replacements, could not have been more distracting.

"Timing is critical in recruiting, there is no doubt," Tedford said. "When this is less than two weeks away to have movement, all of a sudden your focus is put on hiring coaches and building relationships with those coaches back to the recruits."

Cal was able to hold on to its marquee recruit, five-star wide receiver Bryce Treggs from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco.

The 5-foot-11, 171-pound Treggs was one of five receivers in the signing class. All are expected to contend for immediate playing time alongside returning starter Keenan Allen next season, Tedford said, but Treggs drew special praise.

"When you watch him play and you watch the speed and the athleticism, he kind of reminds you of a guy like DeSean Jackson who can run like that and has a lot of ability that way," Tedford said.

Tedford also singled out quarterback Zach Kline, an early enrollee from Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Valley, and mammoth Richmond (Calif.) Salesian offensive tackle Freddie Tagaloa.

"Zach has really fit in well already," Tedford said. "He is working very, very hard. I think it is very important for him to be here this spring so he can get some reps with the offense."

Tagaloa, listed at 6-foot-8 and 312 pounds, "will one day be a first-round draft pick," Tedford said.

Tedford could not discuss the day's biggest surprise signatory for Cal, four-star Upland (Calif.) wide receiver Kenny Lawler, because school officials had not yet approved his letter of intent.


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