California has had some pretty good fortune down in Georgia over the past year and a half. From snagging future top-five pick Jaylen Brown for basketball to five-star receiver Demetris Robertson just last month, the Peach State has been good to the Bears, and it got even better on Friday, as linebacker Jaylen Griffin made his pledge.
"I've seen Demetris at camps, and I've been looking up to him for a while," said Griffin, the day after he committed.
Going across the country without having seen the campus (he'll remedy that at some point in June), Griffin put a lot of faith in the coaching staff.
"Really, it was my biggest offer, and they showed the most interest in me, and they like me a lot. I've developed a good relationship with them. Truthfully, I know it's the school I want to go to."
California, Griffin said, is one of the places he's always wanted to go.
Defensive quality control coach Carlos Alvarado has been the point man for Griffin, but defensive coordinator Art Kaufman went down to Georgia to visit during the spring. The staff knew a week before Griffin announced that he would be joining the 2017 haul for the Bears, who now rank 37th in the nation, a modest jump of two spots.
"I can read plays. I know exactly what they're going to run before they even hand off the ball, as far as the guards pulling and all that stuff." -- Jaylen Griffin
Griffin is the first of what's expected to be a very large linebacker class, owing to the graduate transfers of Hardy Nickerson and Michael Barton, and the injury retirement of Jake Kearney thinning the field this year (all would have run out of eligibility after this season, anyway), and the necessity of re-stocking a bunch that will be all juniors in eligibility this season, save for redshirt sophomore Aisea Tongilava.
"They said that I'll probably be able to come right out there and play," Griffin said. "They have a hurtin' for linebackers, and this was their class to find linebackers. They said that I was one of their top priorities, as of right now."
Griffin admits that football wasn't his first love. Up through sophomore year of high school, he was a basketball player, by trade, though he did play both sports for as long as he could remember.. The 6-foot-3, 219-pounder was a center on his basketball team at Rome (Ga.). But, then he tried out for the Georgia Stars AAU team.
"Basketball was my thing, and I didn't have too much interest in football," he said. "Then, something changed, and I was just football, football, football. I tried out for the Georgia Stars, and I thought I was a dominant center, until I met their center, who was about 6-8, and could handle the ball, who I couldn't guard, and it was then that I realized I should try something different."
Griffin still plays varsity basketball, and definitely sees a crossover benefit to playing the two sports.
"It's conditioning -- it keeps me in shape, helps with my jumping ability -- and overall, it helps me be more athletic than anybody else on the court, and football makes basketball easier for me," Griffin said.
Griffin is also a weight room warrior, bench pressing 345 pounds, squatting 500 pounds and power cleaning 285 pounds. He's been hand-timed at a 4.58 in the 40, but laser timed at a 4.7.