It’s nearly 5 p.m. in a scheduled 4. p.m. press conference, and head coach Jeff Tedford is nowhere to be seen. But when wide receiver and Cal commit Bryce Treggs comes live on television to make his decision, Tedford shows up just in time.
Treggs, who called himself “a man of my words,” stuck by his commitment by donning the Cal hat, and Tedford gave away a slight smile of relief. Now the press conference could start.
“I was waiting for that to begin,” Tedford said.
Treggs was the last player on the Bears’ verbal commitment list to declare on Wednesday, and finally, the long National Signing Day came to a close. Sixteen players in total committed to play for Cal, but the day was not about congratulating the players in completing their move to Berkeley.
It was about the people that were no longer part of the Cal football community.
There were many elephants in the room during the press conference, but none were bigger than former defensive line coach and star recruiter Tosh Lupoi. Lupoi, who played under Tedford, was the glue that formed Cal’s top-10 recruiting class. But with 14 days left before National Signing Day, Lupoi bolted to Washington alongside wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau, luring top recruits like safety Shaq Thompson away from the Bears to join him at Seattle.
After a bombardment of questions regarding Lupoi, Tedford had to cut the conversation short.
“This is not a trial about Tosh,” Tedford said. “This (conference) is about our recruiting class. So can we please talk about the recruiting class?”
Despite losing highly coveted commits like Thompson, defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy and wide receiver Jordan Payton, the Bears are still bringing a talented class into the newly renovated Memorial Stadium. The crown jewel of this class is quarterback Zach Kline, who’s already attending Berkeley this semester. Tedford said Kline will get a chance to prove himself in spring practice.
“Zach has fit in well already,” Tedford said. “He’ll compete this season, and we’ll see how it unfolds.”
With Kline being heralded as the quarterback of the future, a talented corps of wide receivers including Treggs, Cedric Dozier and Darius Powe are coming to replace the shoes of graduated seniors Marvin Jones and Michael Calvin.
Despite a well-rounded collection of players on the offensive side, the class is very thin on the defensive side of the ball, with only two linebackers and one defensive back. After a strong defensive class last year that featured defensive tackle Viliami Moala and safety Avery Sebastian, the defensive quality has been downgraded with outside linebacker Michael Barton leading the trio.
Overall this is a thin class due to the rapid succession of late decommitments. To Tedford, the downward spiral since the departure of Lupoi and the vitriolic hooplah afterwards was a recruiting experience unlike any year in his decade-long tenure at Cal.
The biggest lesson that Tedford learned in this recruiting whirlwind was the impact that the internet and social media have in the process. As a light Facebook user and a Twitter novice, Tedford was surprised at how much attention and passion the players and the recruiting media outlets generate.
“It’s the times we live in,” Tedford said. “I’ve never seen such entitlement of 17 or 18-year-olds typing four words on Twitter in the morning that sends everyone in a tailspin.”
Tedford realized that the old-fashioned ways of recruiting, such as phone calls with recruits and how verbal commitments actually meant something, is no longer the same. It’s 2012, the age of Twitter, Facebook and televised announcement, and Tedford learned this lesson the hard way.
But as Tedford, the old-school coach, feels the generation gap, he was left asking one big worry about this new recruiting system
“My concern is this: when do these kids have a chance to go to school and be a kid?” Tedford said.