http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1632198-dykes-franklin-han... The recruiting dead period is over, and the California coaching staff has already hit the trail, ready to finish off the 2016 class. Head coach Sonny Dykes said in his post-season wrap-up teleconference on Wednesday that the Bears will likely sign 28, including at least nine early-enrollees.
“There might be one additional," Dykes said. "It’s just going to depend on getting some schoolwork done, but we could have as many as 10.”
Cal currently has the No. 33-ranked class in the nation, thanks to a recent bump from the commitments of Nygel Edmonds and Melquise Stovall -- the latter is part of the nine early enrollees -- and currently have 24 commitments, which means room for four more.
"We’ve got a couple of guys that we feel pretty good about, those that have told us, privately, but haven’t gone public with it yet," said Dykes. "We’re right down there, where we’re still maybe looking for one more wide receiver, one more offensive lineman and potentially a linebacker, or an additional D-lineman, so we’re kind of down to the end of the recruiting cycle, for the most part.”
When speaking of running backs during the teleconference, Dykes said that the Bears expect to sign two, with one slot already taken by early-enrollee Derrick Clark. Who could the other be? One-time Cal commit Zion Echols is the likely candidate, as he de-committed during the drama surrounding Dykes's extension. Sources have said that it's likely he'll re-commit by National Signing Day, though Cal will have to contend with Washington State, who will host Echols this weekend. He's set to visit the Bears later this month. Also on the board is Southlake (Tex.) Carroll athlete Lil'Jordan Humphrey, who has cut his list to Cal and Texas.
As for linebacker, well, there's a long list.
Along with that trio of linebackers, Dykes expects that the Bears should be completely healthy going into spring practices in early March.
"As of right now, this time last year, we had a bunch of shoulder surgeries and that type of thing," Dykes said. "As of today, I don’t think that we have anybody that’s being held out of spring practice that I can think of, off-hand. There may be one or two guys that may be held out early during spring practice, but I think we’ll have everybody, at one time or another, during spring practice.”
Receiver Kanawai Noa had meniscus surgery after the bowl game, but should be back in action, Dykes said.
Also fully healthy from a September surgery is wide receiver Vic Wharton, the transfer from Tennessee.
“Vic is feeling good," Dykes said. "He’s somebody who has that kind of potential, that I failed to talk about earlier. He’s got great speed. I think he has a chance to be special in the return game. I don’t know that anybody in high school football’s ever returned more punts and kickoffs for touchdowns than he did, so he’s a guy that can be really productive. He’s healthy. He had surgery done and feels a whole lot better. His rehab has gone well, and he’s one of those guys that I expect, this spring, to make a big jump, and to be a good football player for us.”
Dykes is also excited about the young crop of wide receivers, and we'll have a more in-depth piece on them, and Wharton, soon.
Dykes said after Goff declared that there were several players on track to receive scholarships, but those plans have not yet been finalized. Candidates likely include Griffin Piatt and Malik McMorris.
“No, not yet. We’re still kind of waiting to see exactly how many we’re going to have left over, who all has graduated, making sure that there are a few players who finish some academic work from the fall semester that can graduate, so the numbers are still not completely nailed down," Dykes said. "We hope to put some guys on, but it’s going to depend on the numbers, and those are not definite yet.”
In the past two offseasons, Cal has said goodbye to Andy Buh, Barry Sacks, Randy Stewart, Pierre Ingram,Rob Likens and Zach Yenser. That's a lot of turnover, and it's not something Dykes is eager to repeat. So, this offseason, it looks like the Bears' coaching staff will remain intact, with no major moves expected.
“There might going to be some additional responsibilities that come on, but as far as major staff changes, I don’t see anything coming," Dykes said. "After recruiting, we’ll sit down and we’ll do performance evaluations of all the coaches, staff and everybody, but I feel really strong about our staff. I think they’re great coaches that work well together, that care about young people and developing them, and they get along well together. They share the same philosophy. I’m lucky to have them. I think they feel like they’re lucky to be at Cal, and have the chance to work with the caliber of student-athletes that they have the chance to work with.”
With the graduation of Cole Leininger, the starting punter job would look to be up for grabs, but it looks like one player will have the inside track.
“We think Dylan Klumph," Dykes said. "I think Dylan has the talent to be an elite punter. He’s got a big leg, he came in and he needed to get in a little bit better shape. He’s done that, so we expect Dylan to win the job. Now, he’s got to go out and do it, but we recruited him with the idea that he has tremendous upside, he’s got good size, he’s got good strength, he can really punt. I think he’s got an opportunity to be one of the elite punters in our conference, and maybe in college football, if he continues to develop. My expectations are that he’ll win the job, but like anything else, he’s got to go out and do it.”
On offense, Cal returns four of its starting five offensive linemen -- left tackle Aaron Cochran, left guard Chris Borrayo, center Dominic Granado and right tackle Steven Moore. The race will be on this spring to see who replaces left guard Jordan Rigsbee.
“We’re going to look at everybody," Dykes said. "That’s the good thing coming in. There may be one or two other kids that all of the sudden get in the mix, that people aren’t aware of, right now. Kam Bennett is a guy who’s gotten better, that’s currently on our roster, that we think has a chance to compete for that job. Patrick Mekari really had a great year as a freshman, and he’s someone who certainly can do it. We expect really all three of those guys to compete.”
Mekari played in six games, including three of the final six. Despite getting a lot of early playing time in four of the Bears' first five games, freshman Semisi Uluave did not play in the final eight games, and when talking about the open spot, Dykes did not mention him. There has been talk of him going on his Mormon mission, as he had pondered during his recruitment, but nothing that has been substantiated.
“We’re always moving guys around and trying to figure out the best place for people to play. We’ll see," Dykes said. "The good thing is, we’ve got more depth than we’ve had. We have these freshmen coming in. We’ll see how they do, and some of them, physically, are probably a little bit bigger than we’ve actually recruited in the past, which, when they’re bigger, that usually means that they might have a bit better chance to get on the field early, but we’ll see how that plays out, as well. As I said, the good thing is, when you sit down and look at our roster, we feel like we’ve got eight, maybe nine linemen in the spring, that have an opportunity to be pretty good players for us. Vinnie Johnson did some good things last year, so all those guys will be competing and will be adjusting and moving around to try to find the best five, because that’s one thing we always try to do: Figure out who are the best five linemen, and make sure we’ve got those guys on the field, and go from there.”
With Daniel Lasco revealing on Tuesday that he's been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, the race is on to replace him in the backfield.
"You saw this year, we started I think four different running backs at different times, and a lot of that was, who was healthy, who was playing well and who was contributing and what kind of game plan we had and who we were playing against," Dykes said.
The front-runner for at the very least the nominal title of starter is Tre Watson. Over the last four games of the season, the tailback out of Corona (Calif.) Centennial averaged 89.75 yards per game, and a staggering 6.9 yards per carry.
Watson finished the season with 504 yards (with 359 of those coming in those final four games). Big Vic Enwere played in all 13 games, and gained 505 yards on 106 carries and scored eight touchdowns. The Bears' leading rusher was speedy Khalfani Muhammad, who played in 12 games, started five, and gained 586 yards on 87 carries (6.7 ypc), with one touchdown.
"I think all the guys are a little different," Dykes said. "They each bring a little something different to the table. I like that at running back. I like that when guys can do different things, because it gives you a little bit more versatility. I don’t know who the starter is going to be, but if I had to pencil somebody in based on performance at the end of the year, it might be Tre, but I was pleased with all of them. I thought Khalfani had a good year, I thought Vic had a good year, but we’ll see what the two new additions will do, coming in. We anticipate signing two guys. Derrick will be here, going through spring football, and we anticipate signing one more running back. They’ll get in the mix and see what happens.”
Farewell to Arm
While it's assumed that junior quarterback Jared Goff -- who declared for the NFL Draft on Dec. 31 -- will participate in the NFL Scouting Combine, it's still not publicly known whether he will throw at the Indianapolis event, though one source close to the situation has said that he will not.
READ MORE: Where Will Goff Go?
“I haven’t talked to Jared about any of that stuff," Dykes said. "I think that’ll be a decision I imagine he and his agent will make, based on conversations with pro personnel people and all that type of stuff, who’s interested in him and who wants him to throw, how’s he feel, is he healthy – all that kind of stuff. I think those are all decisions that will be made down the road.”
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