Beyond the Commitment: Zion Echols

New Cal commit Zion Echols goes in-depth on his commitment, Cal's education, how he'll be used in the Bear Raid offense and just why he fell in love with the Bears as we go Beyond the Commitment.

For the past couple of weeks, California has been on Zion Echols’s mind, and for good reason.

Over the past two weeks, the Golden Bears have scored commitments from Larkspur (Calif.) Redwood offensive lineman Jake Curhan, and from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco cornerback Traveon Beck. Since Echols was offered a month and a half ago, it’s been those two – along with Cal’s other commits – that have been doing some big work on social media in order to snag the three-star athlete from Covina (Calif.) Charter Oak.

“It was on my radar a lot, because I was talking to them on twitter the whole time,” Echols said. “They were recruiting me just as much as the coaches were recruiting me.”

The coaches have been on Echols heavily, as well, particularly inside receivers coach Jacob Peeler, who’s taken over for Rob Likens in recruiting the Inland Empire.

“That’s my dude right there. That is my dude,” Echols said. “We talk like every day, and he’s good at what he does, I can tell you that.”

So, while Echols -- who will be the first member of his family to go to a four-year university -- was planning to take a trip up to Berkeley in a few weeks, he decided to push that up to this weekend.

“For the past two weeks, I’ve been thinking about Cal. It’s been on my mind,” Echols said. “I actually pushed up the day I was supposed to visit by two weeks, because I was so excited to go. Cal was definitely on my mind, and I was interested in them a lot, so I just had to come see the campus for my own eyes before I made any decision.”

Echols brought his parents with him as he got the full red carpet treatment.

“Honestly, they fell in love with it, just like I did,” Echols said. “They loved everything about it -- the academic part, the athletic part – they love it.”

The academic part is important to Echols. With a 3.6 GPA, he said that, as long as he was going to be the first member of his family to go to a four-year university, he might as well pick the best public institution in the land. he also fell in love with offensive coordinator Tony Franklin’s Bear Raid offense.

“It was just the way that they’re talking about how they want to give me the ball in any situation,” Echols said. “Coach Franklin is a genius, a guru with the way he sets up his offense. I really like that.”

While Peeler will be coaching Echols some of the time – when he moves into the slot – it will be Franklin who will see him the most, since the offensive coordinator took over coaching running backs during the coaching staff shuffle this offseason.

“I’ll be mostly with coach Franklin and the running backs, but they want to put me at slot, too, to use me all over the field,” Echols said. “They just want to get me the ball.”

That’s why the Bears offered in the first place. Last season, Echols carried the ball 188 times for 1,141 yards and 18 touchdowns, tallying four 100-yard games on the ground. Echols also caught 44 balls for 553 yards and six more scores, averaging 50.3 yards receiving per game.

As a return man, Echols took back eight kickoffs for 167 yards (20.9 ypr) – including one touchdown -- and one punt return for 80 yards last season.

“I just want to get the ball. Wherever I can get the ball, that’s where I’ll be,” said Echols, who ran a 4.5-second 40 last summer, and said his best attribute is “being able to cut on a dime and control my speed, accelerate when I need to.”

“Basically,” Echols continued, “they said they want to get me the ball in every way possible. At the end of the day, that’s all I care about, is getting the ball. The more I get the ball, the more plays I get to make, the more points I get to score, the more we win at the end of the day. That’s big to me.”

When asked to introduce himself, to tell Cal fans everything about him, Echols had just one thing to say: “I love to win. I hate losing.”

Echols will be in the stands to watch fall camp in August.


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