February 1, 2012
Signing Day Central
"There is not one individual in this class. It's all good guys that all share one love, and that's the Cal Bears. Every single one of these guys bleeds blue and gold, and every single one of these guys wants Rose Bowls and national championships. They all want to achieve those goals, and it's that confidence and that commitment between all of us, it's that one love that we all share, that ties us all together as family."
Scouting Report: Zach Kline may not be a once-in-a-generation quarterback, but he is a once-in-a-generation leader. He's also not too shabby in the pigskin-spinning department, either. The Gatorade California High School Football Player of the Year in 2011, Kline has been one of the emotional focal points of the 2012 recruiting class, and is possessed of a charisma and maturity well beyond his years or station. By enrolling early, Kline has already gotten his nose into the complex Cal playbook. Combined with the fact that - physically and developmentally - Kline became arguably the most gifted quarterback on the roster as soon as he stepped onto campus on Jan. 17, that advanced knowledge of the Jeff Tedford offense should make Kline the odds-on favorite to be the Bears next starter.
Kline has been compared by many to Super Bowl-winning former Cal QB Aaron Rodgers, and not just for his leadership ability. Kline has broken eight of his father Scott's fingers, and one of his uncle's fingers for good measure, with his high-velocity throws. Kline shows advanced understanding of the game and of manipulating defenses with his eyes. He is not a runner, but he can gain yards with his legs when he has to, and is tough to bring down.
Former Tedford pupil Trent Dilfer said of Kline: "I know Jeff Tedford as well as anybody, because I was his first quarterback," said Dilfer, a Fresno State alum and former Super Bowl winner. "I can see what Jeff sees in him. He sees a kid that's going to step on the field there on Day One and not be overwhelmed … When he just threw the fastball, I know he can throw the fastball. I told him the first five minutes of camp: 'I know you're good. I've seen the tape. I'm going to challenge you today to do some stuff you might be uncomfortable with.' He responded to it, and that's what I liked the most. A lot of these guys play in offenses where everything is on-rhythm, so when you get them off-rhythm, you see how they're going to respond, because that's real-life football. He did a nice job with that … The thing that I would work on with Zach more than anything else is that he's got such a good arm that a lot of guys with good arms just want to throw everything the same speed," Dilfer said. "To make all the throws it takes to make it in big-time college football and the NFL - which, really, these guys should wrap their brain around - you've got to be able to change the arc of the ball. You've got to be able to change speed and trajectories. When he did it, that got me excited." Video.
"They gave us a tour of the campus, and they showed us the new facility, which they'll be using in January, right when I get there. That made me even more happy, because I get to break it in, be one of the first ones to use it. I thought that was pretty cool. I was really impressed with how they concerned they are with academics, and athletics at the same time."
Scouting Report: Ranked as a three-star prospect, Christian Okafor is the No. 61 offensive tackle in the 2012 class, standing at 6-foot-6 and checking in at 300 pounds. Okafor is a natural right tackle, and, physically, is ahead of the curve, and dominates due to his size. Along with Kline, he is already enrolled and is taking classes at Cal, and will be on-hand for spring practice. Okafor is also a heavyweight in the classroom, and wants to major in chemistry.
Okafor was unknown to the Bears before he took an official visit to Arizona State along with then-silent Cal commit Shaq Thompson. Thompson recommended Okafor to the staff, prompting a face-to-face meeting with Texas recruiter and Bears recruiting coordinator Kenwick Thompson. Okafor went on official visits to Tempe and to Stanford after committing early to Texas Tech, and immediately fell in love with Cal, committing on his official visit on Dec. 2. Video.
"When you commit, you've got to think beyond the coach, beyond the school, beyond the recruiter. And that's what did it for me."
Scouting Report: Freddie Tagaloa is a natural athlete with superior footwork, thanks to playing basketball for Richmond (Calif.) Salesian. A four-star prospect, Tagaloa stands at 6-foot-8, 300 pounds and is ranked as the No. 17 offensive tackle in the 2012 class. Tagaloa is a Semper Fidelis All-American, and played alongside fellow Cal commits Michael Barton, Bryce Treggs, Hardy Nickerson, Jr., Matt Cochran during the all-star game in Phoenix.
Salesian head football coach Chad Nightingale -- a two-time letter-winner for the Bears on the gridiron - offered this assessment of Tagaloa: "I've been coaching football for 19 years at this high school, and I played for five years at Cal. I played with Troy Auzenne, I played with Doug Riesenberg, I played with Keith Kartz, these are all guys who played in the National Football League as offensive linemen, and none of those guys were even close to what Freddie is, when they graduated, let alone the fact that Freddie is 17 years old and is still in his first semester as a senior in high school. In terms of physical presence, he's amazing."Video.
"The academics are pretty great, and then the whole campus is really nice and I like it a lot."
Scouting Report: With both place kicker Giorgio Tavecchio and all-conference punter Bryan Anger graduating after the 2011 season, the Bears are in dire need of a big leg, and 6-foot-2, 195-pound Cole Leininger certainly seems to fit the bill. Leininger was called "perhaps the best combo prospect" in the 2012 class by Chris Sailer, and averaged 45.13 yards per punt as a senior for Fruit Cove (Fla.) Bartram Trail. On 77 kickoffs, Leininger put 54 in the end zone, averaging 59.44 yards per drive. Special teams coordinator Jeff Genyk wanted to bring in two kickers in this class, and, barring any surprises, it looks like he may have gotten a two-for-one deal in the soft-spoken Leininger.
"Always being told that you're undersized, it definitely adds up, and makes you push that extra weight and get more, to push extra hard and prove the critics wrong."
Scouting Report: Inside linebacker Hardy Nickerson, Jr., wants to wear his famous father's No. 47 when he gets to Berkeley, and he has a lot to live up to, not that it matters to him.
"I think we can do big things," says Nickerson, Jr. "With the classes they've had in the past two years, and our class now, I think we could take Cal football to the next level, and hopefully that's Rose Bowls and big, BCS bowl games."
Playing for his father this season at Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd, Nickerson recorded 153 total tackles -- 96 solo -- and added a sack, an interception, three passes defended, one fumble recovery and one fumble caused. While a tad under-sized at 6-feet, 220 pounds, Nickerson, Jr., has his father's instincts and a nose for the ball. He may not blow the doors off immediately, but he definitely has room to grow into a heady playmaker in the middle of the field.
"I'm an aggressive, smart, furious linebacker, who loves to hit," says Nickerson, Jr., who's toughest critic is his father.
"I think the best thing about me coaching him, is that he understands that I'm fair, and if he makes a mistake, I'm his coach," Nickerson, Sr., says. "Sometimes I think I'm a little bit harder on him than on everybody else, but he's been a great player for me, in terms of our coach-player relationship, and of course, he's a great son. Shoot, he's just been a delight to coach and a delight to have as a son." Video.
""This class can help Cal get on the map. We'll make a run for that championship."
Scouting Report: Darius Powe is a big, physical receiver who's not shy about contact. Powe is the first of likely half a dozen wide receivers to send in letters of intent, and each of them have their own individual skill set.
"It's really nice to know that we all have our unique characteristics," said Powe. "We all do different plays and do different things in different situations."
At 6-foot-2, 186 pounds, Powe is a member of the Rivals250 (No. 226) and is the No. 35 wide receiver in the land. He hauled in 36 catches for 560 yards and nine touchdowns, and is a holy terror in the red zone and in jump-ball situations. As a defender, Powe picked off one pass, defended eight, recovered one fumble and caused a fumble.
"I'm ready to get this thing started already," said Powe, who was an Under Armour All-American, along with his future QB in Kline. "It was fun, just bonding with Zach and getting a little chemistry going."Video.
"He came to our school as a freshman, but it was after the football season, and you could just see in his demeanor that his future was to be a great student and a great football player. He will do anything and everything to make sure that takes place" -- Buhach Colony coach Sam Parker.
Scouting Report: All you need to know about Matt Cochran is that he won his league MVP award as a center. Not only as an offensive lineman; as a center. The No. 3 keystone man in the Rivals.com rankings, Cochran's three stars don't do him justice. At 6-foot-4, 340 pounds, Cochran is a straight-up mauler with a nasty disposition between the lines, but is a Godly son of a Minister and an Honors/AP student off the field.
He may not be Alex Mack, but that's only because he's outstanding in his own way. Getting Cochran solidifies a position that has been weak in recent years after Mack's departure to the NFL, and Kline says that there's no one else he'd rather have up front. And as a bonus, this likely means that the Bears are in the driver's seat for younger brother and Atwater (Calif.) Buhach Colony offensive tackle Aaron Cochran. Video.
"The running backs just said that the running back position is a lot more intense during practice than it is any of the other positions, that it's a lot of conditioning, making sure you're fit. It's hard work, but it pays off on Saturdays."
Scouting Report: Simply put, Maximo Espitia Jr., is a football player. But that's where it gets complicated for California, as the Bears decide just exactly where to play the 6-foot-2, 226-pounder. He's not quite tall enough to be a tight end, nor heavy enough to play fullback on every down. But what he does do is just play. As a senior for Salem (Ore.) South Salem, Espitia completed 84 of 178 passes for 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns to 11 picks. He ran the ball 128 times for 859 yards and 14 touchdowns. He recorded one sack and two fumble recoveries. Basically, he was a one-man gang. The big question with Espitia is: How can that translate to Division I football in general, and the Pac-12 in particular? That remains to be seen.
"Coach Tedford and coach Gould came over to my house once, and coach Gould came over a few more times for in-home visits, and, position-wise, all they said is, I'll be playing fullback/H-back position, and I'll be more of their motion guy who can go out to receiver, play fullback, tight end and that's pretty much it.
"We can be the team that turns everything around for Cal, along with the great defense that we already have. If we just keep that defense solid, and just make some noise on offense like we're capable of, we can do some big things. Instead of winning seven games, we can win nine or 10. The rest will take care of itself. All we have to do now is go grind, get on our grind and make sure we're working hard to push each other to get better. Everything else will be cool."
Scouting Report: As a senior, Dozier completed 17 of 20 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed 34 times for 291 yards and three touchdowns. He caught 28 passes for 479 yards and five touchdowns. He had 13 tackles and an interception as a defensive back. He returned six punts and four kickoffs for a total of 108 yards. Dozier is a speedy slot receiver and an all-around athlete, playing both football and basketball for Lakewood (Calif.) Lakes.
Dozier is not only a top-notch athlete, but a high-character individual. When Washington State came calling with Mike Leach's Air Raid offense, Dozier stayed strong with Cal. When his hometown Washington came calling with a wide receiver offer instead of the original cornerback offer, he didn't even officially visit, as it would be "doing a disservice" to both him and the Huskies. At the US Army All-American Bowl practices, Dozier was a plus blocker, and a disciplined route-runner. He can be put in the slot, put in motion or split out wide, and he'll make plays for you up and down the field, even on the goal line. Video.
"If those guys didn't want to be with us, and that's how easy it was for them to switch, then we don't want them there in the first place."
Scouting Report: One of the biggest needs in this recruiting cycle for the Bears was a whole mess of offensive tackles. After snagging Tagaloa and Okafor, Cal struck with blue-collar, hard-nosed Steven Moore from nearby Elk Grove (Calif.). At 6-foot-6, 270, Moore has plenty of room to add on to his frame and has the long arms and good knee-bend that make a solid collegiate tackle. As a senior, he was part of an offensive line that paved the way for a rushing attack that averaged 332.9 yards per game, as the Thundering Herd went 12-1 overall, 5-0 in the Delta Valley League, came out as the DVL champion, reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinal and losing their only game of the season to eventual section champ Folsom. Moore is a bit raw, but has a tireless work ethic and has a high football IQ. Video.
"Bryce told me a lot about Cal, which got me interested, and then, once I checked out the campus, I fell in love with it."
Scouting Report: It took a while for Chris Harper to get his long-awaited offer from the Bears, but when he got it, he pounced. Cal was Harper's dream school, and through the efforts of both Kline and Treggs lobbying for him, he was able to make that dream a reality.
Harper is a tough, hard worker who has flown below the radar in a bumper crop of Southern California wide receiver talent. He is a heady slot receiver who's quicker than he is fast, but he knows how to get open and shows no fear when going across the middle at 6-feet, 165 pounds.
Harper is a three-star recruit, and is ranked as the No. 61 wide receiver in the nation. He caught 37 passes for 846 yards and 13 touchdowns for Encino (Calif.) Crespi. Video.
"I'm strong with the #CalGang, and I can't wait to get up there. We've got a bright future. We're going to do big things."
Scouting Report: 2013 Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Valley quarterback Cameron Birse said of Damariay Drew that, "He is probably one of the best athletes I've ever seen. He's probably a five-star player at a two-star price. I don't know how anybody's not heard about him. He's had some amazing plays when he's played against my team, when he's playing with my 7-on-7 team. He's just a stud. Overall, just a stud."
The leading tackler in the EBAL last season -- Ray Hudson -- said that he was impossible to bring down, likening his legs to tree-trunks. Drew only emerged on the recruiting map after a Christmas all-star game between players from Sacramento and players from the East Bay, but the Bears were able to jump on him and offer Drew as an athlete, with an eye towards playing safety.
"Just being together, feeling that family bond -- that's one of the reasons I chose Cal in the first place." -- Michael Barton, on his official visit this past weekend.
Scouting Report: Concord (Calif.) De La Salle inside linebacker Michael Barton is nearly the exact same size as 2011 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Mychal Kendricks was as a high school senior, and he brings the same kind of intensity as the former Cal linebacker.
Barton is a four-time state champion with the Spartans, leading De La Salle with 103 total tackles as a senior, registering three sacks, two passes defended, one fumble recovery and one blocked punt. Barton is a very intelligent player with boat loads of leadership intangibles, which helped to keep the 2012 class together in the wake of another De La Salle Spartan -- former defensive line coach Lupoi -- bolting for Seattle. Instead of being shaken, Barton became a rock for much of the class.
"I'm most excited just about moving on to the next chapter in my life, and being on my own for the first time," Barton said the night before signing. "It's going to be exciting, as well as a new chapter in my life, and I'll get to experience that college life and playing in the Pac-12. Being able to start next year would be a really nice goal, too. It'll be a good competition."
Coming from a winning tradition at De La Salle, Barton will settle for nothing less than championships.
"As far as what the program can expect from this class, they an expect a really hard-working class," Barton said. "I've been with most of these guys, and all of these guys are really mature young men. They all have a good work ethic, and we're all hungry, too. That's what we're here for, and we all have the same goals in mind: Win a Rose Bowl and get to the National Championship. The next four years, expect a really competitive Cal team, and expect a lot of good things happening - I can tell you that, for sure. I know the guys that are there now, just being with them this weekend, that they agree, guys like Isi Sofele, Chris McCain -- who was my host -- those guys, they're hungry, and they really want it. I know some really special things will be happening at Cal in the next four years."
"We can go to the top. I'm looking at us being No. 1. We've got all the right commits. We'll be big, big, really big."
Scouting Report: Jeffrey Coprich, Jr. is a largely unknown commodity, but even as a late offeree, he does bring a few things to the table, the least of which is his 4.46 speed. Coprich was nearly killed in a car crash when he was three years old, but his older sister was not so lucky. Coprich has a big heart and takes nothing for granted. As an emotional leader and a member of the community, there's just about none better. At 5-foot-9, 182 pounds, he's solidly built and is not afraid to hit a hole hard, or to plow through defenders when he has to. Observers say that he's faster than his highlights and runs with good power. He has the ability to make the cut, but he won't knock your socks off in that regard. Opposing coaches have called him a "warrior" and a "workhorse," and he can easily handle 25-plus carries. Video.
"Zach Kline, he's an awesome quarterback. I got a chance to play with him at The Opening. He was my quarterback, and Zach Kline, he just throws a great ball. He knows coverages, puts the ball where it has to be, and for me to make a catch on it."
Scouting Report: Less than an hour before four-star wide receiver Kenny Lawler made the call on national television that he was going to sign with Cal, he was actually leaning towards Oregon State.
His final change of heart was all but assured, as he had de-committed from Arizona State two months prior because of - you guessed it - a coaching change. Even without his previous recruiter - Kiesau - Lawler formed enough of a bond with fellow recruits on his official visit on Jan. 27 that he felt comfortable becoming a Bear.
Lawler adds another physical possession receiver to the mix, standing at 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, and as a bonus, he's already had Kline for a quarterback during July's The Opening, in Beaverton, Ore. Lawler is long and rangey, and comes from good bloodlines. His father -- Kenny Lawler, Sr. -- played at Oregon in the late 1970s. Video.
"We're going to shock the world."
Scouting Report: They used to call his dad 'Trigger.' He'd make a diving catch, hit the deck, then spring up and talk more trash. Like father, like son. Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco wide receiver Bryce Treggs -- son of Cal luminary Brian Treggs -- has just as much propensity to open fire with his mouth -- even while in the middle of running a route. But, those routes are still the very definition of textbook perfection. Having trained his whole life under Brian, Bryce Treggs is both a skilled technician and the consummate entertainer. He yaps because he's flat-out better than just about every corner covering him. He's not the fastest receiver on the outside, but he'll bat defenders by being more disciplined, more studious and more tenacious. Beyond his technical precision, he's also a tireless worker and a master manipulator when it comes to getting inside the heads of opponents.
Perhaps most importantly of all, Treggs and Kline are very close friends, and share a very special chemistry that will undoubtedly wind up producing a prolific touchdown duo.
Before he signed his letter of intent, Treggs sent BearTerritory a simple text: "We're going to shock the world." That just about sums up Bryce Treggs. Video.
Scouting Report: Defensive back Raymond Ford has had the unenviable task of following George Farmer and Jason Gibson and Marqise Lee at Gardena (Calif.) Serra, but the three-star corner has emerged as a dependable defender this past season.
As a receiver, Ford hauled in 14 receptions for 203 yards and one touchdown. As a cornerback, he notched 34 total tackles, made one interception and defended eight passes.
Ford stays low and balanced during his backpedal, allowing him to make plays on the ball. He has good ball skills and loose hips. He's added a lot of muscle mass and strength over the past year, and now stands at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds. He's a shade taller than listed, and he's got a big skill set, along with plus athleticism, playing hoops and running track.
According to one four-star wide receiver recruit, Ford is the "most underrated player in the 2012 class, by far." Video.
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