Recruiting class gets high ratings from observers
Rusty Simmons, Chronicle Staff Writer
Two years ago, receiver/return specialist DeSean Jackson provided the letter-of-intent-day drama by appearing on cable TV that evening, sitting at a table with caps from Cal and USC and choosing to wear the blue and gold one. This year, coach Jeff Tedford was the mastermind of the signing-day surprises. He announced Wednesday a solid 25-player class that includes a standout defensive back who had reportedly de-committed from Cal three weeks ago and a sought-after defensive end who was a late arrival to the recruiting radar. When adding Florida-transfer Nyan Boateng, a 6-foot-2 receiver who will be eligible in 2008, the class grows to 26 players and climbs as high as a national top-10 ranking, according to some Web sites. "I'm very excited today. It's been a great day for Cal football," Tedford said. "The 2007 recruiting class, we feel like, is a huge success." The trends of the group are players with sprinter speed and top-notch linemen. The surprises of signing day provided one of each.
Chris Conte, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound defensive back from Loyola High in Los Angeles, told Scout.com on Jan. 20 that he had withdrawn his summer commitment to Cal and decided instead to attend UCLA. Somehow, between then and now, he decided to go with his original gut feeling and bring his tenacious pursuit and speed to Berkeley. "We found out (he was signing with us) for sure officially this morning," Tedford said. "We were going back and forth, and I think he was struggling a little bit with his decision." Ernest Owusu, a 6-5, 250-pound defensive end, enjoyed a meteoric rise on recruiting radars after a year at The Hun Preparatory School in Princeton, N.J. As he added 35 pounds, he also added interest from colleges, going from a couple of Division II offers out of high school to more than 20 from Division I-A schools this season. The list includes eight All-Americans, 12 others who were all-regional selections and 13 players rated in the top 100 in California by Rivals.com. There are 13 offensive players, 11 defensive players and a punter. "All of these players have earned a lot of personal awards and recognition," Tedford said. "They have had great high school careers. We are looking forward to them bringing the same success that they have had on the field, as well as in the classroom, to our program." The class is ranked No. 12 in the nation by Scout.com, marking the fifth straight year that Cal has had a top-20 recruiting class, according to the site. The Bears' past classes, however, are an indication that grading recruits is an inexact science. The 2005 group included four five-star players who have had varying degrees of success: Jackson is the Pac-10's most dynamic player; Desmond Bishop led the conference in tackles; Lavelle Hawkins has showed glimpses and Joe Ayoob never lived up to the billing. Two years earlier, Daymeion Hughes, who is expected to be a first-day NFL draft pick, graded out as a three-star prospect, and J.J. Arrington, who is already in the NFL, was deemed a two-star running back.