Four-star athlete Talanoa Hufanga has 19 scholarship offers, but among all of the schools who have thrown their hats in the ring for his services, only one has come calling with a whole-staff approach: California.
"I talked with the head coach, coach [Justin] Wilcox, and I had been in contact with most of the coaches, like coach Steve Greatwood, Marques Tuiasosopo, and I was in contact with coach Tony Tuioti, and talking to these coaches," Hufanga said. "They ended up having a meeting [on Wednesday], and I think they really enjoyed my film. I was able to reach out to coach Wilcox, and he made the offer, and I was just ecstatic."
That approach stands out for Hufanga.
"One thing I really like about the way they're recruiting me is that it's not just one coach recruiting me, or two," Hufanga said. "They're all reaching out, trying to see if I'm a fit for them, and that's what I like about them."
Hufanga has played quarterback ever since his freshman season for Corvallis (Ore.) Crescent Valley, but he'd never thrown a pass before that. At 6-foot-1, 194 pounds, he can play all over the field -- and does, starting at quarterback and safety -- but his athleticism is too valuable for the Raiders to waste. This last season, Hufanga -- who used to be solely a zone-read runner -- completed 36 of 75 passes for 846 yards, with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. He ran for a team-high 643 yards on 74 carries, with 17 touchdowns.
It is on on defense, though, where the Bears think Hufanga can make the biggest impact.
"They see me all around the field, whether it's from safety to outside linebacker, or even wide out," Hufanga said. "If they need me on both sides of the ball, I'll play."
The new Cal staff, given its previous sets of offers, is clearly looking at bringing in versatile athletes, without pigeonholing them into any position in particular. That's a major shift from the previous staff, which had paid lip service to playing certain prospects two ways, but never actually followed through, and with few exceptions kept "athletes" on the offensive side of the ball.
"That's how it is," Hufanga said. "When my coach asked me to play -- I came in as a freshman, not even playing quarterback -- and the next thing you know, I'm playing quarterback for my team and helping my team out that way. I'm open to playing, just whatever gets me on the field the fastest."
Never having passed a football before his freshman season, Hufanga was the starter back of center, from day one.
"We did do a lot of zone reads and stuff," he said. He's been the starter ever since, along with starting duties at safety and outside linebacker. 'I'm open to whatever gets me out there."
He has two 40 times -- a hand-timed 4.59 as a sophomore, and a 4.7 he ran at a NIKE camp. Huganga doesn't sound like a typical four-star, especially one with offers from Michigan, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Wisconsin and all but two schools in the Pac-12.
"I still go with the 4.7. It's not as fast, but I've got a lot of things to work on and improve," Hufanga said. He repeats that phrase, or some variation on it, three times in an eight-minute conversation: "I still have a lot of things to improve on."
Hufanga hopes also to start sketching out spring visit plans soon.
"I'm still trying to figure that out and plan for it, and budget for the biggest ones, because they're kind of hard, financially," Hufanga said. "I'm looking for a place that's the perfect fit, whether it's the family atmosphere, the brother bond, the great coaching staff. When it's all said and done, say football just comes to an end, would you still want to go to school there. Is that the place for you? Would you still enjoy it? You've got an injury, would you like it there? That's what I'm considering. Honestly, I'm still open to all my options right now."
Hufanga recently finished basketball, so he hadn't yet truly turned his attention to recruiting, but now, he's got more time after losing in the state quarterfinals. On the hardwood, Hufanga had around 20 slam dunks this year (thanks to his 34-inch vertical leap and long arms) but says he's more of a defensive player.
"That's what I like to do, entertain the crowd," he said. "That's what football is, too -- entertainment -- but as long as I do my part and try to get wins, that's the best thing you can do."
Academically, Hufanga's cumulative grade point average is a 3.0.
"I'm just taking it slowly, and I'm going to enjoy my senior year," Hufanga said.