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Pac-12 Football Recruiting Profiles: California Golden Bears

Part 3 in our look at the 5-year recruiting trends of each Pac-12 program

NCAA Football: California at UCLA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to a new series in which I will be profiling the recruiting trends and habits of each team in the Pac-12 conference over the past 5 seasons. That means I’ll be including the 2014-2018 classes which concludes with the incoming freshmen this upcoming season.

The data I used does not include every single offer and commit for every program but it does include the vast majority. The cuts I made were deliberate. To see more information about what specifically is in the data set and an explanation of any metrics I used, please check out this article here which has all of the information you could want and more.

You can also look at the previous editions profiling: Arizona and Arizona State. With that out of the way, let’s look at the California Golden Bears.

Program Overview

Sonny Dykes took over in 2012 and had a major rebuilding job ahead of him after going 1-11 in Year 1. That process was sped up by turning the keys to the “Bear Raid” over to Jared Goff who showed NFL promise from day one. The Bears saw a steady climb going 5-7 in 2014 and then breaking through to 8-5 in 2015 in Goff’s last year. However, things regressed with a new QB back down to 5-7 in 2016 and that was all it took as Cal replaced Dykes with Justin Wilcox in January of 2017. Wilcox was able to hold the boat steady and maintain the 5-7 record in his first season at the helm.

General Recruiting Statistics

Average Offer: 3.52 stars, 0.896 composite rating (7th in conference)

Average Commit: 3.17 stars, 0.861 composite rating (7th in conference)

Average # of Offers: 169 (2nd in conference)

Recruiting Style: Offers- Spray and Pray, Quality- Middle of the Road

Sonny Dykes was not shy about aiming for the stars as he offered the second most prospects in the conference during this time. They were able to hit on on one of the 5-stars (see next section) but other than that things were pretty grim at the top. Cal brought in just one of their 199 highest rated offers under Dykes which corresponds to anything above a 0.935 composite rating. However, there weren’t any obvious trends in their commits/offers’ ratings. There was an understandable down year after the coaching change but otherwise things were remarkably steady.

Best Recruiting Win: Class of 2016 Demetris Robertson, WR. 5 stars, 0.9905 composite rating.

Robertson was the top receiver in the 2016 class and from Georgia so it’s kind of shocking that he ended up at Cal. His final 3 seemed to be Cal, Georgia, and Stanford and he waited until 2 months after signing day to commit while he waited on an SAT score that he hoped would get him into Stanford. But when that didn’t pan out he decided he still wanted to be in the bay area and headed to Berkeley.

Worst Recruiting Loss: Class of 2014 Koa Farmer, S. 3 stars, 0.8807 composite rating.

Farmer was a talented local commit who was the first member of Cal’s 2014 recruiting class at a major position of need. However, after 15 months of being solid to Cal he took an official visit to Penn State just a few weeks before signing day and within 24 hours flipped to head off to Happy Valley. Given how bad Cal’s secondary looked over the next few years it would have been very nice for them to have had Farmer in the fold.

Recruiting Map Profile

Cal’s propensity for offering every prospect under the sun is evident as there aren’t a lot of black spots on that map. About half of their offers go out to California and Texas and while there’s a focus on Southeast after that, no other state eclipses 10% of their total offers. The other 5 states that make up the Pac-12 constituency only get a combined 10% of the offers so they aren’t super interested in recruiting there.

Highest Success States

California: +28.32%, Washington: +5.76%, Hawaii: +1.18%

The Bears only give out one-third of their offers within their home state but Californians make up more than 63% of their total roster! While they try to maintain a national recruiting presence it seems clear looking at the actual commits that they’re almost exclusively a West Coast school. Only 20% of their roster comes from East of the Rockies. They’ve had some success in Washington, reeling in one-third of their offers from there.

Lowest Success States

Texas: -7.75%, Florida: -7.7%, Georgia: -5.78%

Cal has at least been able to grab a couple of recruits out of Texas and Georgia but they’ve been completely shut out going after Florida players. Just 4.5% of their offers to Texas players actually come to Berkeley and the rate is even worse for Georgia (2.8%).

Out of Conference Profile

Non-Conference Rival- BYU Cougars, 41.67%.

It’s slightly disappointing that no one really fits the bill for Cal in this category. There’s only one team with at least 10 players that had concurrent offers choosing one or the other where Cal’s win percentage was between 30% and 75%. Their place in the recruiting universe is generally pretty concrete. They out-recruit the non-power conferences handily but struggle anywhere outside of California against other power conference schools. Cal’s won 5 of 12 against BYU but lost out on all the 4-star players in that time.

Non-Conference Big Brother- Texas Longhorns, 3.57%.

Texas is the recruiting boogeyman for a lot of the Pac-12 and Cal is no different. 28 players went to either Cal or Texas with offers from both and only a single one made it out to Berkeley. In 2015 the Golden Bears were able to snag 4-star receiver Carlos Strickland out of Texas but otherwise they’ve been completely stonewalled.

Non-Conference Little Brother- Boise State Broncos, 86.96%.

Cal has done what they’re supposed to which is out-recruit a MWC school whenever they’re going after the same player. All 4 recruits with Cal offers that went to Boise State were rated a 0.8315 or lower which means they were fringe Pac-12 prospects to begin with. The Golden Bears ended up with the 18 most highly rated prospects with Boise State offers and 20 of the 24.

California Pac-12 Recruiting Win % (2014-2018)

Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
2014 7.00% 11
2015 6.62% 10
2016 9.09% 7
2017 4.85% 12
2018 10.08% 5
Overall 7.46% 8

This table shows how often Cal is able to secure a commitment when at least one other Pac-12 school has offered the player. The drop to last in the conference in 2017 shouldn’t have been totally unexpected given the coaching change to Justin Wilcox which always dampens recruiting. But the necessity for Dykes’ dismissal is more evident with the 11th and 10th place finishes in 2014 and 2015. That inability to secure local talent set the stage for the dip in results which was held aloft by Jared Goff’s excellence. Cal fans have to be encouraged though to see that Justin Wilcox was able to get it done with a full year to recruit and leapfrog both the Arizona schools.

California Weighted Pac-12 Recruiting Win % (2014-2018)

Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
2014 14.00% 8
2015 10.51% 8
2016 22.73% 6
2017 12.34% 9
2018 26.87% 6
Overall 23.17% 7

The weighted numbers are much more favorable to Cal although they’re still not great. Sonny Dykes probably sees the 6th place finish in 2016 and is sure that it means he was on the path to stabilizing the program. Essentially half of Cal’s commitments over the past 5 seasons had 0 or 1 other Pac-12 offers.

Early Outlook for 2019 and Beyond

Cal is certainly not waiting to try to get their 2019 class put together. They already have 6 commitments for 2019 which is among the highest in the conference. 3 of those commits are from Arizona which is new for Cal as they only had one commit from Arizona in the previous 5 seasons. With both Arizona schools coming off coaching changes it isn’t a bad strategy to try to raid the state this year.

Cal scaled back their number of offers substantially under Justin Wilcox and that trend appears to be continuing this season. They’ll likely end up in the middle of the conference in that regard. The average rating of the players they’re offering is in line with previous seasons but the 6 recruits they’ve gotten so far are a tier below their average class under Dykes. That’s not necessarily unexpected this early in the recruiting cycle as guys who don’t think they’re going to get a better offer than Cal will hurry up and make sure they grab a spot before it’s taken.

Justin Wilcox was able to bring in 6 players in 2018 that had offers from at least half of the conference. Sonny Dykes only accomplished that feat 9 times in the previous 4 years combined. That bodes well for the future as Cal tries to move into the top half of a very loaded Pac-12 North where Oregon, Stanford, and Washington don’t appear to be going away any time soon.


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