College football season is winding down and will soon come to an end. While some teams had a bowl game to look forward to, the Bears only have the future — a future that lies, in part, in the first 18 fresh faces that the program has brought in as a part of its 2018 recruiting class.
Cal head football coach Justin Wilcox stated that recruiting players who know how to win is important, and that they will help “build and maintain a winning culture.”
On a national scale, Cal’s recruiting class has been ranked thus far in the top 50 by Rivals (38), 247Sports (39) and ESPN (49). According to both Rivals and 247Sports, Cal has the fifth-ranked recruiting class in the Pac-12. The Bears’ incoming batch of players includes a few four-star recruits, but the bulk of the athletes have three-star ratings.
When Wilcox was brought into Cal, one ideal that he stressed, most publicly supported by alumnus Aaron Rodgers, was to bring the Bears’ locale of recruiting back to the West. When former head coach Sonny Dykes was in command, Cal’s roster largely strayed from its California roots.
Of Cal’s 49 recruits in 2015 and 2016, only 26 came from programs on the West Coast, but in the latest lineup of incoming Bears, only one does not hail from a program in the western part of the country.
Of Cal’s 18 recruits, only offensive lineman Will Craig received a unanimous four-star rating from Rivals, 247Sports and ESPN. Craig stands at 6’5’’, weighs 270 pounds, and is likely to have an immediate impact on the Bears’ roster. Craig played on both sides of the ball in high school and was ranked in the top 40 for all players in California.
Wide receiver Nikko Remigio is the next highest-rated Bear and received four-star ratings from Rivals and 247Sports and three stars from ESPN. The 5’10’’, 170-pound receiver finished his high school career with 111 receptions, 1,695 yards receiving and 19 touchdown catches.
Remigio joins a fully stacked roster as Cal only graduated two wide receivers. Remigio will join rising redshirt junior Kanawai Noa, redshirt sophomore Demetris Robertson, junior Jordan Duncan and redshirt senior Vic Wharton III, all of whom have proven to be viable assets for the Bears. The receiving core isn’t set in stone, save for Robertson who missed this season with an injury, and Remigio could potentially work his way into the starting rotation.
Defensive back Chigozie Anusiem, running back Christopher Brown Jr., tight end McCallan Castles and offensive lineman Matthew Cindric all received one four-star rating from one website and three stars from the others.
Anusiem is a defensive back who is projected to play either cornerback or safety. He ended his high school career with 139 tackles, five interceptions and 28 passes defended.
There is no shortage of cornerbacks nor safeties on the Bears’ roster as the positions run both deep and wide. At corner, rising juniors Josh Drayden and Traveon Beck along with rising sophomore Elijah Hicks all saw action on the field in 2017 and will not be quick to give up their playing time. At safety, rising redshirt senior Quentin Tartabull and rising redshirt junior Jaylinn Hawkins are likely to see a starting spot come next season.
Recently-graduated Vic Enwere was often called a bowling ball when he was handed the ball because of his 6’0’’, 245-pound hulk of a frame. And with one bowling ball gone, Brown could look to fill his place. Brown is 6’1’’ and 220 pounds — just 5 pounds shy of Enwere’s build as a freshman. Once Brown is on a training regimen with Cal, he may bulk up and gain a few pounds.
There is ample competition at the position, however, and playing time won’t be easy to come by; breakout star Patrick Laird will return for his senior year and rising redshirt senior Tre Watson, who suffered a knee injury early in the season, will be back and ready to eat up all the yards he can.
The running back position runs deep, but this season Cal showed that it likes a one-two punch in backs that can move swiftly and back that move with power. One thing is for certain: Wilcox will have options, and he and the players will have to find out which chefs put together the best cooking.
When Wilcox came to Berkeley, he revived the tight end position, and that’s music to the ears of Castles. Castles was the lone tight end in his recruiting class, but he’ll have plenty of competition. Castles totaled 102 catches, 2,027 yards receiving and 27 touchdowns in his junior and senior years of high school, and the 6’5’’, 235-pound tight end fits right in at Cal in terms of size and stature.
All in all, the Bears wrestled in five offensive linemen, which is a smart move as Cal’s offensive line allowed 35 sacks — the fifth most in the Pac-12 — in 2017. They also brought in four linebackers, hopefully one of which can attempt to replicate the impact that Devante Downs had on this season before his injury. Downs was a defensive monster who proved stoppable only by a season- and collegiate career-ending injury; he leaves behind big shoes to fill.
Five-star recruits are targeted by the powerhouses of college football, so it is not a surprise that the Bears did not wrestle in that caliber of athlete; USC is the only Pac-12 team to bring in a five-star thus far. Cal also is sparse in four-star recruits, whereas the house name Pac-12 teams (Washington, Oregon, USC, UCLA) all have six or more.
With 2018 just on the horizon, Cal will continue to move forward and develop. Perhaps the 18 new recruits and a few more that will come in at a later time can help achieve the Bears’ potential New Year’s resolution to produce a winning record in the 2018-19 season.
Christie Aguilar is an assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].