UPDATE 9:20 AM: David Luafatasaga will not be officially visiting this weekend. He will be visiting on Jan. 29. Now, what does that mean? That means he's not going to officially visit the school he's committed to: Ole Miss. Or he'll visit them during the week, a la Boss Tagaloa Tagaloa and Cal. That could be a VERY big deal for the Bears.
UPDATE Jan. 23: Chinedu Udeogu was caught up in the snow storm in the Northeast, and was unable to make his trip.
California currently has 24 commits, with a class that's ranked 34th in the nation, according to our Scout rankings. Head coach Sonny Dykes has said that the Bears will take 28 in this class, thanks to the nine early enrollees, plus a 10th in greyshirt Greyson Bankhead.
One of those early enrollees -- Hattisburg (Miss.) Oak Grove wide receiver Jordan Duncan -- will host one of the biggest visitors: Starkville (Miss.) four-star wide receiver A.J. Brown. Cal inside receivers coach and Mississippi native Jacob Peeler has visited Brown twice since the dead period lifted earlier this month.
"We're still maybe looking for one more wide receiver, one more offensive lineman and potentially a linebacker, or an additional D-lineman," Dykes said.
Of the current commits, Cal has four outside receivers -- Duncan, Logan Gamble, Drew Kobayashi, Matt Laris and JuCo early-enrollee Jordan Veasy. The Bears lose six receivers from this year's team -- the top six wide outs on the roster -- in Bryce Treggs, Darius Powe, Trevor Davis, Stephen Anderson, Kenny Lawler and Maurice Harris.
The addition of Brown -- who loves Cal's wide-open passing offense -- could be a game-changer. Combined with early-enrollee slot back Melquise Stovall, that would be two huge recruiting wins for the Bears at a position of great need, giving Cal two instant-impact offensive weapons to replace Davis and Treggs.
Cal is still very much in the race for Demetris Robertson, who visited during the season, and had an in-home visit on Jan. 18 with Dykes and Peeler.
With the departures of senior cornerbacks Darius White and Joel Willis, and the graduate transfer of cornerback Cedric Dozier, and the graduation of safety Stefan McClure, the Bears need another defensive back in the class. Currently committed, Cal has former Stanford cornerback commit Nygel Edmonds out of Chattanooga (Tenn.) McCallie, JuCo signee Marloshawn Franklin (who is going to wind up at safety, given his size), Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco all-state corner Traveon Beck, Corona (Calif.) Centennial corner Camryn Bynum and Dallas (Tex.) Bishop Dunne corner Josh Drayden. Drayden paid a visit to Cal practice while the Bears were preparing for the Armed Forces Bowl outside of Fort Worth, Tex., and he's all-in.
That one more DB could very well be San Marcos (Calif.) corner Terrell Burgess.
Linebacker is where the Bears need to do the most work. Linebacker commit Cameron Goode -- who's been a commit since Aug. 1 -- is coming off of official visits to Vanderbilt and Nebraska, and is one of the commits that will need shoring up.
With the graduate transfer of Michael Barton, another spot opens up, and that's where David Luafatasaga comes in. Like Brown, he's a current Ole Miss commit, but the Bears and linebackers coach Garret Chacherehave been working on him hard since the end of the season.
While Cal only loses two offensive lineman -- and one starter, in Jordan Rigsbee -- they have been doing a lot of work up front in this class, with JuCo signee Dwayne Wallace, offensive tackle Gentle Williams, early-enrollee Jake Curhan, offensive guard Francisco Perez and all-state tackle Daniel Juarez.
Williams has said that he chose the Bears because they were his best offer, but lately, Ole Miss and Mississippi State have come calling. He doesn't have offers from either, yet, but this weekend will be huge in shoring up his commitment, and potentially adding another, in former Stanford pledge Nate Herbig, a high school teammate of Kobayashi's.
Brown has gotten two in-home visits from Peeler since the dead period ended, and the Bears are facing an uphill battle. After his official visit last weekend to Alabama, Brown tweeted this:
He will be tough to pull not only because of that visit to Tuscaloosa, but also because next weekend -- the final visit weekend before National Signing Day -- he will be visiting Oxford, Miss., and the Rebels, so the team he's committed to has the last word. He will not visit Mississippi State, the hometown team, but the Bulldogs are still in contention.
"I was thinking that I might have known where I wanted to go," Brown said recently, "but I am not sure about that yet.I want to take these visits and see how I feel about the program and see where I fit in the best."
This season, Brown had one carry for seven yards and a touchdown, while hauling in 88 passes for 1,371 yards and 13 touchdowns. He's a dynamic downfield threat that could step in right away and replace Davis as the Bears' speed man on the outside.
He'll make his decision on National Signing Day on Feb. 3.
Luafatasaga has been committed to the Rebels since mid-February, and raved (as much as the softspoken linebacker does) about his official visit last weekend to Utah.
In 2015, Luafatasaga racked up 93 tackles, four sacks, 16 tackles for a loss, forced two fumbles and recovered a fumble to earn First Team All-Conference and All-region honors.
Luafatasaga is a Hawaiian native, and with two other Islanders on the visit -- Herbig and Kobayashi -- as well as two Islanders who just finished their first seasons -- Semisi Uluave and Kanawai Noa -- Cal may very well give him a taste of home while he's in Berkeley.
"A versatile linebacker prospect with a rare combination of size and running ability. He really gets after the quarterback from a stand-up backer position, but could also be scary if you put him on the edge of the defense and let him pin his ears back and constantly put pressure on the opposing offense. He reads plays and diagnoses very quickly, which allows him to make a good amount of plays behind the line of scrimmage." - Greg Powers
Herbig -- named a first-team all-state lineman by Cover2 -- paid an official visit to Stanford last weekend, and that's significant for several reasons. Sources have said that the reason he de-committed from the Cardinal on Christmas was because he was under the impression that he was not admitted. This past weekend, he was told, according to sources, that he was in fact admitted, and he still did not re-commit. That means he's going to give the Bears a chance, and that's huge for Cal.
Like Rigsbee, Herbig is an absolute mauler, with heavy hands and great pad level. He's a road-grading interior lineman of the highest order. He's listed as a center, and between him, Addison Ooms and freshman Ryan Gibson -- who redshirted this season -- that gives the Bears another option after the graduation of Dominic Granado, who came into his own in the second half of the season.
Herbig talked about his official visit exclusively with BearTerritory last week, and had an in-home with Brandon Jones this week. His relationship with Kobayashi played a big role in him deciding to take the visit, and having him by his side could be the push he needs.
Burgess visited Arizona and Utah officially back in October (he raved about his trip to Salt Lake City), before taking a visit to Boise State last weekend. Nevada is also hanging on after an official visit, he told our Greg Biggins, but they're falling behind. He took in-home visits from the Bears, Broncos, Wildcats and San Diego State over the past two weeks.
Burgess is also a track athlete, running the 100, 200, 400, and the 4x100, and participating in the triple jump.
This past season, Burgess played all over the field, completing one pass for 38 yards, rushing five times for 92 yards and a touchdown, catching 61 balls for 1,162 yards and 16 touchdowns, piling up 170 kickoff return yards on nine take-backs and 52 punt return yards on five returns, and tallying 21 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss and three interceptions.
Long story short: He's a dynamic playmaker who can make an early impact on special teams. He'll make his decision on Jan. 29, and he'll be hosted by fellow San Diego native Derrick Clark, the early-enrollee running back.
Echols committed to the Bears on May 23, but de-committed on Nov. 9, in the midst of the uncertainty surrounding Dykes's contract extension. He visited Washington State last weekend, and is being recruited there as a running back/slot receiver. He'd be a true tailback at Cal, and, along with early-enrollee Derrick Clark, would help shore up a stable that loses senior Daniel Lasco and parted ways with Lonny Powell in the middle of the season.
He's that second running back to which Dykes referred in his postseason comments, and with the extension now finalized, multiple sources have said that he and Cal are back together, or at least, will be very soon, perhaps as soon as the visit concludes.
This past season, Echols rushed 249 times for 2,147 yards and 37 touchdowns for Covina (Calif.) Charter Oak, and caught 28 balls for 306 yards and four touchdowns.
He received a final in-home visit this week from Peeler.
Need a Little Push
As we covered earlier, Gentle Williams could be poached by some in-state contenders. His relationship with offensive line coach Brandon Jones is key, as is his relationship with Peeler, who played offensive line in the Tony Franklin System at Louisiana Tech. He got an in-home on Jan. 18 with Dykes and Peeler.
Perez made an official visit last week to UCLA, and the Bruins have a lot going for them. Perez is very close to his family, and UCLA is close to his Baldwin Park, Calif., home. He called the visit "overwhelming," and his relationship with Adrian Klemm has been blossoming in recent weeks. The line from the Bruins coaching staff was that he could play right away, while in Berkeley, he may have to wait a bit, though if he's pressed into service early, he has all the tools to succeed, much like we saw from Patrick Mekari this season.
Goode has become so much more important to Cal since the end of the season, because of Barton's departure. There are other linebackers that the Bears are targeting in case he flips, with recent Stanford de-commit Beau Bisharat potentially being one of them (although sources say that the Bears would take Bisharat as an athlete, and find a way to work him in, given that prospects like him don't just come open at this point of the cycle).
Chinedu Udeogu is a commit that Cal certainly needs to firm up, given that the defensive line already lost ends Puka Lopa, Jonathan Johnson, Kyle Kragen and Todd Barr to graduation, and will have DeVante Wilson leaving after next season. You can expect youngsters Cameron Saffle and Noah Westerfield to step up next season, but beyond them, Zeandae Johnson, Russell Ude and Trevor Howard all redshirted last season. Bringing in a talent like Udeogu who could, like Saffle, potentially get early snaps, will help ease the transition for a defense which saw vast improvement last season.
Complicating matters with Udeogu is the potential for him to play alongside his brother at Iowa State, and he's already visited the Cyclones (last week), and will visit Wake Forest before National Signing Day.
The Solid Commits
Traveon Beck came on our Bear Republic Podcast last week to talk about the weekend, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen's hot tub, 2017 target Wyatt Davis's nickname, and his selection as a USA TODAY All-State second-team cornerback. Beck tallied 45 tackles this season, including 2.0 tackles for loss. He also hauled in seven interceptions -- a single-season school record -- for 55 return yards, and batted away 10 passes. Beck was named first-team defense on the Long Beach Press-Telegram's Area Dream Team, as well.
Camryn Bynum's Corona (Calif.) Centennial came up just short in the state title game against Concord (Calif.) De La Salle, losing 28-21, but Bynum had a huge season on the defensive side of the ball, racking up 70 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, three picks, nine passes defended, two fumble recoveries and one blocked field goal.
Josh Drayden was Homecoming King for Bishop Dunne this year, and as a junior, took home first-team All-District honors, first-team All-State, and Academic All-State. He repeated as District 1 All-District First-Team Defense this season, and added the TAPPS Division I All-State First-Team Defense plaudit to his resume.
Nygel Edmonds, a one-time Stanford commit, flipped his pledge earlier this month. He's a corner Stanford was not happy to lose. He was a preseason all-state selection for Division II, and played in seven games for the Blue Tornado this past season with 26 tackles, one interception and had five kickoff returns for 135 yards.
Birthday boy Logan Gamble will be bringing the party to Berkeley. He's a Cal legacy many times over, one of the Bears' most solid commits and a versatile weapon on offense. This season, Gamble caught 67 balls for 1,136 yards, averaged 103.3 yards per game and hauled in eight touchdowns. On defense, he tallied 35 tackles and 9.0 sacks to lead Long Beach (Calif.) St. Anthony's, and added an interception, three passes defended, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Gamble was named to the All-Area Dream Team, First-Team Offense by the Long Beach Press-Telegram
Like Beck and defensive tackle Chris Yaghi, Corona (Calif.) Centennial tackle Daniel Juarez was named an all-state lineman by USA TODAY. He joined the Bear Republic Podcast earlier this week to break down the wavering commits, the guys the Bears have to close on, and more, so be sure to check out the biggest of the Buffet Bros.
Drew Kobayashi earned a second-team all-state nod in an injury-hampered senior season, after earning first-team honors as a junior. One of the fastest receivers in Hawaii, Kobayashi and his Crusaders got to the state title game, but couldn't overcome longtime nemesis Kahuku in a 39-14 loss.
Washington state champion Matt Laris caught 67 balls this season for 1,098 yards and 10 touchdowns, and was named first-team all-state by KING5.
Tevin Paul was named to the District 14-6A All-District Team, taking home the Defensive MVP, as well, for a Lake Travis team that got to the state title game against Katy, where they fell short, 35-7. Paul had 65 total tackles on defense, including 10.0 tackles for loss, racking up 8.0 sacks and six quarterback hurries. He also broke up one pass and forced two fumbles.
Evan Weaver was named the Washington state Player of the Year by The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., finishing with 122 tackles and 23.5 sacks, and leading Spokane (Wash.) Gonzaga Prep to the 4A title game win over vaunted Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline. On offense, he added nearly 800 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. He also had two blocked kicks -- one returned for a touchdown -- and had a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown in the state quarterfinal against Woodinville, a game where he also ran for three touchdowns. He's probably the biggest, most powerful, most dynamic athlete in this class, and he's going to wreak havoc on the outside as a defensive end, if he doesn't get big enough to play on the inside. It's been said before: He's the J.J. Watt of Washington high school football.
Second-team All-State defensive tackle Chris Yaghi turned a camp performance into an offer, and shortly thereafter, a commitment. He saw time at both defensive tackle and fullback this season, and tallied a blocked punt. He had an in-home visit with Fred Tate on Dec. 10, and then again this week.