This weekend gave the most holistic view of the prospects in attendance, and there were definitely good days and bad days from prospects of interest. Some panned out and recovered, others fell short, and some surprised.
OFFENSIVE MVP: Miles Beach, TE, Los Gatos (Calif.)
Beach came in as an unknown. He started at outside linebacker last year for Los Gatos, but was a part-time player, at best, as a tight end. He still doesn’t have any offers, but it’s hard to think that he won’t be getting ready to head to a Division I school to play football at this time next year – maybe even a Pac-12 institution fairly close to home.
Beach caught nearly every ball thrown his way, and even some that weren’t. There were only two balls I counted in competition situations – 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 – that he got a hand on, and didn’t catch. On one drive for his assigned team – the Titans – on Sunday, Beach caught five balls, including a touchdown and a two-point conversion, saving two low throws by making diving, sliding grabs. On the next drive, he made two leaping grabs to save would-be out-of-bounds incompletions, including one around a tall defensive back.
At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, with a very athletic, broad frame, he plays tight end like a wide receiver, which is where he played mostly this weekend. Not the fastest cat on the field, but he makes plays. And, speaking of making plays …
DEFENSIVE MVP: Tre Bugg, CB, Gilbert (Ariz.) Williams Field
Bugg is a playmaker, plain and simple. Last season, he had six interceptions. In three days in Berkeley, he had five, and that’s with opposing teams figuring out very quickly not to throw to his side of the field. When Bugg got the chance to make a play, he made one. I watched almost every snap he played over the course of three days, in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7, and he allowed maybe two catches, and I think one of those was in skeleton work, rather than a team setting.
He’s a 2017 recruit, and still needs to get a bit bigger, but he’s a technician and a bulldog, not to mention one of the smarter athletes you’ll ever run into, with a 4.38 GPA. Heck, he could get into Cal right now, on academics alone. There are a lot of reasons to love Bugg, but this particular pest’s ability to disrupt the passing game had the coaches buzzing. Before all is said and done, I predict he winds up as a four-star. Definitely one to watch out for.
Joey Berzins, TE/DE, Moraga (Calif.) Campolindo
Berzins is a long, lean, athletic pass rusher who came off the edge with great speed and explosion. He’s tough, and in fact had to clean some blood off of his face before I took his headshot. He’s got soft hands in the passing game, but he’s probably best suited for defense. He’s only got attention from Claremont-McKenna right now, but his body type is definitely going to allow him to put on some weight and compete at the D1 level.
He’s got a narrow waist and a strong power base, without hardly any bad weight. If he stays the size he is now, he can definitely wind up as a D1 outside linebacker in a 3-4 system, but in a 4-3, he can add about 20-30 pounds and wind up as a pass-rushing defensive end.
Kyle Harmon, LB/WR, Oakley (Calif.) Freedom
I’m going to cheat here a bit and include the 7-on-7 practice session held on Saturday that was not a part of the Cal camp, or associated with it, beyond a field rental agreement between TMP Elite and Kenion Training. Harmon was a consistent presence in coverage, picked up receivers, made tough catches and just was an overall brought-his-lunch-pale-to-work, hard-hat kind of guy, and that’s what he was all weekend.
I’ve seen Harmon enough to know that he’s just a flat-out good athlete, and maybe it’s because of that, that I don’t really notice him all that much. He’s come to be a guy you expect to be solid. At 6-foot-1, 205, he’s kind of a tweener, but I can definitely seem him as a WAC or MWC safety. He moves well, has a very good sense of the passing game and he’ll make a play for you when you need it. What really stuck out to me, and the reason I thought to include him in this list, was a diving grab he made for a first down, going parallel to the turf right after Bugg wowed the crowd on the previous series with his second pick-six of the day.
MOST IMPROVED: Aaron Banks, RT, El Cerrito (Calif.)
Banks – who has offers from half the Pac-12, including the Bears – looked so good early Saturday, during individual work and in the Circle of Life – a two-men-enter-one-man-leaves, OL-on-OL battle supervised by Cal offensive line coach Brandon Jones. Then came one-on-ones. Grant Chachere – son of linebackers coach Garret Chachere -- surprised the 6-foot-5 tackle with his speed and wrestling quickness, and Banks looked flat-out stunned.
Most high-profile recruits (Banks is a sure-fire four-star for 2017) would lick their wounds, especially since Banks was playing with a sprained right (outside) wrist. Not Banks. He came out on fire on Sunday, locking up with two of the better defensive ends in camp – Bakersfield (Calif.) Bakersfield Catholic’s Gabriel Cherry and Honolulu (HI) Punahou’s Jack-Eli Tufono. On Banks’s first drive, he recorded two pancake blocks and another pair of drive-back blocks to buy time for his quarterback and clear running lanes.
(As an aside, I was very impressed by Tufono. Good length, good speed. Still a shade raw, but Punahou has a good history of churning out linemen, and he could be the next good one.)
After camp broke, Banks was surrounded by teammates complimenting his aggressiveness. Apart from the Saturday one-on-one misadventures, Banks improved with every rep, from Friday through Sunday, and when he’s motivated, he’s got one hell of a mean streak. He may look a bit round in the face, but he’s a very athletic tackle with good knee bend and a ton of power.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Jake Foss, Merced (Calif.) QB
Foss isn’t the biggest quarterback on the field, at 6-foot, 170 pounds, but he can sling the rock. He’s got very smooth footwork, and can spin it with the best of them. Very good velocity, and superb field vision. He has some big shoes to fill with the departure of Tyrone Williams, but the 2017 signal-caller could quietly be one of the more efficient young QBs in the Central Valley, though he’ll have to battle with A.J. Stewart for the spot.