When California wide receivers coach Rob Likens left the Bears to become the offensive coordinator at Kansas, Cal lost one of its sharpest recruiters. Luckily for the Bears, the man who picked up Carlos Strickland’s recruiting was Pierre Ingram, the man who would eventually become Likens’s replacement.
“In the beginning, coach Ingram was my recruiting coordinator, so he was the guy that recruited me from when they first offered me,” says Strickland, who got his offer from Ingram after his junior season, and saw Ingram visit his school during the spring. “Then, Likens started recruiting me. Really, it was September, when Likens started recruiting me. Obviously, he left in January, so coach Ingram picked it back up, recruiting me. We already had that relationship there, so it made it easier for me to be comfortable and everything.”
As a bonus, Ingram himself played receiver in both high school and at Middle Tennessee. Beyond that, Ingram – like Strickland – was a tall receiver.
“I wouldn’t say coach Likens leaving had an impact on anything,” Strickland says. “Ever since they offered me after my junior season, coach Ingram was the one calling me, recruiting me. I talked to coach Likens, still, but coach Ingram was the main guy that recruited me and talked to me.”
On his official visit back in October, Strickland could easily see himself in the Bear Raid offense, but it was his relationships with Ingram and the rest of the Cal football program that stuck out the most.
“I’d say just the people, man. There are a lot of great people, all the coaches and players, training staff, the doctors and I even met some professors – it was just all the people,” he says. “They really took care of me while I was up there, and also, their style of play. I got to see them on TV a couple of times. I was at the UCLA game, and that was a pretty close one. As I watched the offense make plays, I thought of myself – I could be in this situation, next year. I’d say I’m a pretty good fit to their offensive scheme.”
" I’m ready to put them pads on, catch some balls from Jared Goff and just ball out." -- Carlos Strickland
The fact that Strickland will have Ingram teaching him the ropes in Berkeley made his decision on Tuesday – a decision, he says, he made about two weeks ago – all the more easier.
“Cal, I’ve liked Cal for a while,” Strickland says. “I grew up watching Cal. It’s been my dream school, coming up. It’s the perfect situation for me to be coming into.”
How does Cal become a dream school for a kid who grew up in the heart of Texas?
“I watched a lot of Marshawn Lynch when he was in college, when I was in sixth grade,” Strickland says. “I watched a lot of his games, and wanted to be that type of player. I think that clued me in.”
That’s not to say that there wasn’t pressure on Strickland from all quarters to stay in the Lone Star State. He did wind up committing to Texas Tech, after all, and down the stretch, the Texas Longhorns also made a big push.
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“Man, every day, man, somebody’s saying, ‘Go to Texas, stay home,’” Strickland says. “A lot of people wanted me to put on for the state of Texas, but it’s ultimately my decision, and I needed to do what’s best for me. It turned out to be Cal.”
The decision to leave his home state wasn’t an easy one, because Strickland says one of his great passions is just hanging out with his friends and teammates, off the field. But, he’ll see them again, soon enough, when the Bears visit Austin to play the Longhorns next season on Sept. 19, 2015.
“I know, right? It’s in like seven, eight months,” says Strickland, his smile audible through the phone. “I’ve got to shut up those haters, now, I guess,” he laughs. “It’s going to be good to play my home-state team. That’s going to be good, man.”
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During the home stretch of his recruitment, over the past week, both Texas and Texas Tech came with the heavy push, with in-home visits from both. When BearTerritory spoke with Strickland at the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl practices, though he was still committed to Tech, he already had one foot out the door, for one reason: The relationships he’d built with the Cal staff.
“I’d say, really, just the relationship that I had with the coaching staff. I had a good relationships with the other coaches, but my relationship with the Cal coaches were better than with all the other teams,” he says. “I was thinking about decommitting the week of the Semper Fi game. I wasn’t really sure, so I waited a little, waited until I got back, talked with family, and made the decision to decommit.”
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Those relationships helped him sustain the four-star wide receiver during the past week, though, he admits, he did enjoy the attention.
“In one word? I’d say hectic, man,” Strickland says, when asked what the last week’s been like. “Coaches have been coming over, coming at me late, and the coaches that have been there, trying to make their last push for me, so it’s been really crazy. At the same time, I really, really enjoyed it, because not everybody has this opportunity, what I have in front of me, so you’ve got to make the most of it.”
Also echoing in his head were the words of the now-enrolled Lonny Powell, Strickland’s teammate on the West team.
“The first day I got out there, I had him on Instagram, and he was hitting me up there,” Strickland says. “He told me that he can’t wait to get out there and really ball out, out there. He was just recruiting me, sort of like a coach. I thought he was a Cal coach, for a second. He was giving me all the things and facts about the program and telling me it’s a great place.”
Strickland was sidelined for the game because of a nagging injury, but did appreciate the verve with which Powell addressed contact, running the ball.
“No remorse, man, he’s got no remorse,” Strickland chuckles.
The two have spoken since the game, and talked about life on campus.
“I talked to him yesterday, actually,” says Strickland. “He’s telling me he’s liking it out there, and he’s rooming with Vic Enwere and Noah Westerfield now. It’s a good spot for him.”
When Strickland arrives on campus, he wants to major in pre-pharmacology.
“As a kid, I’ve been good with the sciences, and math and I’m taking AP Calculus right now,” says Strickland.
Yes: You read that right. This four-star wide receiver is taking Advanced Placement Calculus. And he’s getting a B. And that’s not all. He’s also in AP Chemistry, AP Government and AP Economics.
“You’ve got to have a good blend of all the sciences – chemistry, biology, math – and being a pharmacist really intrigues me,” says Strickland. “I thought, ‘Why not?’”
Most seniors coast their final semester. Not Strickland.
“[Cal is] one of the best colleges in the nation, so that was a major plus – the education factor,” says Strickland, whose cumulative GPA is an 89 on the 1-100 scale used by his school.
“I’ve got to take them,” he says.
What Strickland is most excited for, though, about getting to Berkeley, is finally getting to put on the blue and gold.
“Shoot, man, I’m ready to put them pads on, catch some balls from Jared Goff and just ball out, really, leave it all on the line.”
Having a record-setting quarterback like Jared Goff -- who tweeted his approval of the commitment on Tuesday – certainly doesn’t hurt.
“That’s great. You’ve got to have a guy that can get you the ball,” says Strickland. “Without a quarterback, a receiver is nothing. It’s big, man. It’s big. I had a good quarterback in high school, but he also played defense, so he wasn’t a full-time quarterback. It’s great to have a guy that I know will get it to me.”