Poutasi Poutasi

Analysis of Cal's 2017 National Signing Day recruiting class

Cal headed into the 2017 home stretch of recruiting with a few glaring needs, given the fact that the new coaching staff is set to completely transform both offensive and defensive schemes. How did the Bears do?

This was going to be a small class for new California head coach Justin Wilcox, no matter how you slice it, so the Bears had to do a lot with a little, especially once it became clear that both the offense and the defense were going to need an overhaul. The small size of the class also allows Cal to put two key contributors -- Addison Ooms and Malik McMorris -- on scholarship, with one or both possibly already having happened (more on that as it develops).

http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1750535-2017-cal-signing-d...Once it was known that Da'Quan Patton was going to be an academic casualty, Cal had to go out and get another linebacker, and they did, in Harmon. Flip Funches from defensive end to linebacker (he's currently even lighter than Kyle Harmon), and the Bears now bring in a prototypical 3-4 inside guy and an outside, edge-rusher type to bolster what's been a depleted linebacking corps. I think I would like one more linebacker in this class (given the paucity of scholarship players at that position), and that's where Cal was trying to go, but we'll see what happens by the end of the day. Whether or not they add another linebacker, they've certainly put a few more fingers in the dyke at that position.

The offensive line class may seem small -- with just Michael Saffell and Poutasi Poutasi, but don't forget to add big Daniel Juarez, who delayed enrollment. While Juarez signed as part of the 2016 class, he enrolled this spring, and will be a full part of spring football. At 6-foot-6, 305 pounds, he's going to be in the same spot Jake Curhan was a year ago -- a tackle in waiting -- and I expect some of the same results. I can definitely see him and Curhan as the right and left tackles in 2018. I think you always want to get at least three linemen in a class, no matter what size constraints you're working with, and with Juarez, Cal hit that mark.

As for defensive backs, this is a very good class. Daniel Scott, Elijah Hicks and Branden Smith (who will announce his choice between 2 and 3 p.m., on FOX Sports) shore up the ranks of both safeties and corners, giving Cal a potential lock-down corner for the next four years in four-star Hicks, who flipped from Notre Dame.

"Cal, their class, they've got a lot of guys already on campus. Obviously, their big steal was getting Elijah Hicks, kind of out of nowhere," said Scout national director of recruiting Brandon Huffman. "[Hicks] flipped from Notre Dame to Cal and ended up signing with Cal -- didn't just flip; he signed with them -- to enroll early, the day after, or two days after Sonny Dykes was let go, so there wasn't even a coach at Cal. But, Hicks, who's an excellent student, flipped from Notre Dame to Cal, and I think that was a big get for the Bears. He's a versatile player, can play corner, he can return kicks and punts, athletic player."

I really would have liked to have seen a greater defensive line presence in this class. Gabe Cherry is a good add (especially since he'll get an extra spring to sharpen up), and while the Bears are dropping one lineman to get to a 3-4, I do think they needed to sign a true 3-4, run-stopping nose tackle. They didn't get that, unless Cherry or Chinedu Udeogu can become that. Right now, both are a bit on the stiffer side, and very raw. 

As for tight end, getting Gavin Reinwald and potentially Ben Moos helps to solve a glaring need. The Bears were going to have precisely one true tight end on scholarship (Ray Hudson), and one walk-on (Kyle Wells), and if Cal wants to be more dynamic out of the pro set, they're going to at least need a pair of tight ends to either run out together in two-TE sets, or rotate.

This class, notably, also has just two current wide receivers -- Jeremiah Hawkins and early enrollee Taariq Johnson. That was the focus of the Sonny Dykes-helmed spread system for three years, and the focus on defense and bigger athletes shows that this roster is starting to shift.

All but three signees (four, if Moos signs) will be from the state of California. That's a huge win for this staff. There are no signees from anywhere east of Texas, and only one (not counting Patton) from even that far, and even that one (Alex Funches) was born in California. Another, Poutasi, has family in the Bay Area, where his father was born.

From 2003-06, arguably the heyday of Jeff Tedford's success, 43 of his 101 total signees were from the so-called Triangle of the Bay Area, Sacramento and Fresno. In the 2014, 2015 and 2016 classes, his three complete recruiting cycles, Dykes signed 12 players from that triangle, out of a total of 75 signees. This class, Cal has Harmon, Cherry and Reinwald out of 12 known pre-NSD commits or signees. Two of those were Wilcox's doing.

Wilcox came in and immediately wanted to create a greater, local focus, and he's already gotten a start on doing just that.

"You've got to recruit the Bay Area," said Huffman. "USC went in there and got two of the best players in the Bay in this class (Je'Quari Godfrey and Alijah Vera-Tucker), and that doesn't even say anything about Aaron Banks and Najee Harris. Cal fans, you've [now] got a coaching staff that understands the importance of recruiting the Bay Area, and California."

Looking forward, next year's class is key, and the coaching hires that Wilcox has made certainly set up an interesting cycle. He's got a fine mix of old (Steve Greatwood and Jerry Azzinaro) and young (Gerald AlexanderMarques Tuiasosopo and Nick Edwards) hands that all have big-time recruiting chops, as well as a dynamic offensive coordinator in Beau Baldwin, who's a very good recruiter, in his own right. If what we're hearing about the running backs and special teams spots proves true, this staff is only going to get stronger, and they all have deep histories on the West Coast.

Here's as good a spot as any to remark on the intangibles of some of the members of this class. Harmon and Poutasi are huge locker room pluses. Harmon is a grinder who will bleed for this team, and Poutasi, given his background, is incredibly easy to root for. Cherry is a no-nonsense customer with Cal bloodlines stretching back to Joe Roth. Garbers and Saffell have a relationship bordering on brotherly. Saffell, himself, has a 4.3 GPA, and Harmon has a 4.0. Biaggio Ali-Walsh is immensely talented, but as humble as they come, a lesson learned from his Poppy -- Muhammad Ali. The character of this group is sky-high, and it's only going to augment and strengthen an already very solid culture in the Bears' locker room.

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