Cal Football: Recruiting Success in Contrast to Grim College Sports Landscape

Photo by Kelley L. Cox, USA Today

Jeff Faraudo

Well, that was a train wreck of a week.

College sports has rarely experienced anything like the past seven days, during which four of 10 FBS conferences — including the Pac-12 and Big Ten — shut down their football seasons, and the NCAA canceled all fall championship events in every other sport at every level.

On top of everything else, we are experiencing a brutal heat wave in Northern California, with a projected high temperature of 108 in my town today.

But if the COVID-19 pandemic has made everyone in college sports miserable, as SI’s Pat Forde writes, there has been a sliver of encouraging news for Cal football.

The Bears won’t play a game until (at least) January, but their 2021 recruiting class is shaping up as the best in coach Justin Wilcox’s four years on campus.

Yes, there is a long way to go before the early letter-of-intent signing period begins on Dec. 16, but Cal is assembling a very nice class. The Bears have received verbal commitments from 18 high school prospects — seven of them from Northern California and 10 of them since July 1.

Some recruiting experts — a title I do not claim — have theorized that the pandemic has prompted high school players to choose a school earlier than usual. In the case of California kids, whose season has been shut down by the CIF, they may feel an urgency to accept an offer they like rather than risk waiting for something better that may not happen, given that they will have no new game tape this fall to impress recruiters.

But that doesn’t explain why Cal appears to be doing so much better than the bulk of the Pac-12. I don’t expect Stanford’s recruiting class to wind up at No. 93 or No. 96 as it currently resides in the rankings of two major recruiting services. But that’s where the Cardinal is now.

Cal, meanwhile, is getting high marks:

No. 21, according to 247Sports

No. 23, from ESPN

No. 28, by Rivals

For comparison purposes, Cal's final national rankings from 247Sports were No. 39 in 2020, No. 43 in 2019 and No. 42 in 2018. The Bears haven't landed a Top-30 ranking from 247Sports since their 2012 class, which was No. 30.

Those listings rank the Bears as having assembled, so far the consensus third-best class in the Pac-12, behind Oregon and USC. The Bears barely sit above Arizona State and Washington, but they are comfortably ahead of anyone else in the conference.

Cal fares best in the 247Sports rankings, which identifies five future Bears as four-star prospects: WR J. Michael Sturdivant, TE Jermaine Terry, WR Mavin Anderson, QB Kai Mlilner and DE Akili Calhoun.

Here are the Top-5 ratings from three services:

ESPN: 1. Ohio State; 2. Alabama; 3. Tennessee; 4. Clemson; 5. North Carolina

247Sports: 1. Ohio State; 2. Alabama; 3. Clemson; 4. Oregon; 5. Tennessee

Rivals: 1. Ohio State; 2. Florida; 3. Tennessee; 4. Oregon; 5. USC

By and large, it’s the usual suspects at the top, with the Buckeyes currently holding the No. 1 slot in all three. It’s noteworthy that Alabama is not in the Rivals’ top-5 (the Tide is No. 6) but this is August, not signing day.

Here are the rankings of Pac-12 teams (with only top-50 schools shown for ESPN):

ESPN: 7. Oregon; 9. USC; 22. Washington; 23. Cal; 25. Arizona State

247Sports: 4. Oregon; 8. USC; 21. Cal; 25. Washington; 26. Arizona State;

45. Arizona; 54. UCLA; 61. Washington State; 66. Colorado; 89. Utah; 93. Stanford; 95. Oregon State

Rivals: 4. Oregon; 5. USC; 24. Arizona State; 28. Cal; 32. Washington

38. Arizona; 50. UCLA; 62. WSU; 70. Colorado; 80. Utah; 96 tie. Oregon State and Stanford


Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo

Click the "follow" button in the top right corner to join the conversation on Cal Sports Report on SI. Access and comment on featured stories and start your own conversations and post external links on our community page.

Comments (3)
No. 1-2

Also looking forward to the season. Great new class!


Only bright spot since pandemic hit. Looking forward to 2021 season (hopefully).