All in the Family

6-foot-4 Newbury Park (Calif.) bulldozer Zach Okun spoke with BearTerritory in-depth about his Friday jaunt to Berkeley, and after keeping what he learned from his brother's recruitment in mind, the 2015 offensive lineman found that family matters most of all.

This upcoming football season will be the first that 2015 Newbury Park (Calif.) offensive lineman Zach Okun – all 6-foot-4, 303 pounds of him – won't be protecting his big brother. Ben Okun – a 2013 dual-threat quarterback who wound up signing with Air Force – may not be quarterbacking the Panthers, but everything he learned during the recruiting process will stay with his "little" brother, who made the six-hour drive up the 101 to California with his mother and father on Friday.

"His was a little bit different, because his was mostly the academies and the Ivies, so the whole process is a little bit different, but I definitely learned how ruthless it can be, for sure," Zach said. "If a coach doesn't like you one day, the whole process is over with that school. I'm definitely going to take it slow and build good relationships, because you want the coach on your side. It's also about where you feel comfortable.

"My brother de-committed after Signing Day, because he got an offer he felt more comfortable at, and that was a learning experience for myself. If you're unhappy, then just do what you want to do."

At least at first blush, the younger Okun definitely felt comfortable in Berkeley.

"I definitely felt like they were a family," he said. "There's a whole family feel to that whole campus, and the football team, especially. The coaches seem super caring with their players, which was cool. It's not like the other schools don't have that, but I definitely felt a stronger vibe of that from Cal."

Okun – an invitee to the 2015 U.S. Army All-American Bowl – spent virtually the entire day with offensive line coach Zach Yenser, starting at 10 a.m., from a golf cart tour of campus to checking out the new uniforms and facilities.

"I got to try on the uniforms, and that was really cool," Okun said. "It was great to get up there, see the campus and meet all the coaches, just see what they're all about."

As for the new wardrobe, Okun appreciated their overall simplicity, but also the subtle touches of style.

"I like the way they kept the classic Cal kind of look to it," Okun said. "They're classy, I would say, but they modernized it and kept a good balance. They were definitely pretty attractive uniforms, for sure."

Okun – who has also visited USC this summer, and Oregon and UCLA last summer – was blown away by the distinctive personality – and the views -- of the Bay Area.

"We went up the tower, and standing there, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge. We were standing on top of the stadium, and it's the best view I've ever seen from a college football stadium," Okun said. "That's definitely pretty cool, too, the whole area itself. The whole area is appealing to a lot of people, especially when you look at a lot of other schools – they don't have that area around that draws people in. Cal definitely has that."

Another appealing factor is that Berkeley is just far enough away from home to where the parents can't pop in unannounced, but close enough that it doesn't take too long to get home: Just hop on the 880 to the 101, drive about 300 more miles and get off at Old Conejo Road.

"I think, as far as location goes, Cal's far enough to where you feel kind of away from parents, but close enough to where if you wanted to drive up for dinner or fly up, it's only an hour – six if you drive – so that's definitely a good feeling," Okun said. "The parents can come up whenever, but you have some separation from them in the meantime."

Much of the day was spent speaking with the coaching staff, who answered every question Okun's parents could offer up.

"I know my parents really like it now," Okun laughed. "I really, really liked it. I got to meet all the coaches for the first time, and it was definitely cool to get out there and see the area and see what they're all about. I really, really, really liked the whole vibe they gave and how they treated my family and I the whole trip. It was definitely really cool to get out there, for sure."

Okun was particularly taken with his companion for the day: Yenser.

"Coach Yenser, he went on the whole visit with us, took us all around, so I definitely got to know him quite a bit," Okun said. "What's funny is that we had a guy go to our school who played for them [former Louisiana Tech QB Colby Cameron], and the offense that they run is very similar to what we do at Newbury Park High School, so they spent time with us, related everything they do with what we do, and it was definitely cool, how all the things connect. It definitely gave me a better feeling of how things operate at Cal, for sure."

How similar are the two systems?

"We run pretty much the same offense," Okun said. "They're a little more spread, but we run concepts that are really the same thing, which is definitely cool. When I get in there, I'd understand the system and get early playing time, which is one of the things we talked about, quite a bit, actually."

Okun was also impressed by the coaching staff's candor and energy, and above all, their desire to win.

"I always thought that all the coaches recruiting me, they've told me that they want me at guard or center, but [Cal] said that, if they had to, they'd move me out to tackle, which surprised me," Okun said. "They're so open to playing the best players where they should play, so the opportunity to play early there, too, is definitely intriguing. The coaches are so open to replacing a player they signed the previous year if there's another player better than them. They don't care if you're a fifth-year senior or a freshman; As long as you can play the game, you'll definitely have a chance to compete for a job early on."

Though Okun spent the better part of half an hour speaking with head coach Sonny Dykes, he still felt that it went by rather quickly, but not too quickly to get a feeling for what the Bears' new skipper is all about.

"We only got to talk with him for maybe 25 or 30 minutes, which is actually quite a bit of time," Okun said. "I definitely got a vibe that he's going to be a successful coach at Cal, and their whole offensive and defensive schemes are super-aggressive and fast-paced. The school will definitely be successful – more than a lot of people think they'll be—because of coach Dykes and the whole coaching staff."

Okun – who has a 3.1 GPA and, according to the academic advisors he spoke with, is perfectly on track to be admitted to Berkeley – said it's still too early to think about what he wants to study, but at Cal, he knows he'll have plenty of options.

"It gave me an idea of, if I wanted to study something, how much Cal would definitely help later in life," Okun said. "With a Cal degree, you can pretty much do whatever you want, so if you decide to go to Cal, you'll be in pretty good hands later on."

Of course, no visit to Memorial Stadium would be complete without a tour of the Simpson Center for Student Athlete High Performance.

"It's one of the best I've seen, for sure. It's huge. There's a lot of weights, a lot of gadgets – it's definitely pretty cool. It surprised me, for sure," Okun said. "They're a lot -- a lot -- nicer than I expected them to be. Right now, they're on par with Oregon's, which I don't think a lot of people realize. Having seen both of them, Cal's are definitely up there with them. They're definitely on-par, for sure."

While Okun saw several players about the facility, he didn't want to disturb the studying and camp prep, but after he and his family left for lunch in San Francisco and then an evening in Monterrey, he did get a nice parting gift.

"I got to talk to a few of them. What's funny is that one of the offensive linemen tweeted me after my visit, which was really cool," Okun said. "For the most part, it was to meet the coaches, not the players, too much. I saw a few of them around, but a lot of them are writing essays right now or studying, so I didn't want to intrude or anything, but from what I've seen, the players are pretty content about what's going on there, so that's pretty cool."

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