For the third time in the last three weeks, the Bears picked up a commitment from a 6'4"+ defensive line commitment -this time from 6-4/270 Manteca High School (Manteca, CA) defensive lineman Justin Kakala over the weekend on his visit to Junior Day.
The rising junior stood out on both sides of the ball for Manteca's 12-2 NorCal finalist squad in 2016 but is slated to play defensive end for the Bears, with the ability to play inside, as well.
Cal's proximity and academic reputation, as well as family atmosphere were enough to sell the versatile junior to commit to the Bears.
"I've always wanted to stay in California for college and Cal is the perfect distance from my home," said Kakala. "I love the area, with the school being by the water, and love the environment there.
"The coaches made me feel at home there, too. It just feels like the right place for me and a perfect fit.
"All the coaches, it feels like they've been my coaches all my life already. I just feel that family vibe over there."
On the academic side, Kakala noted that he'd one day like to be an orthopedic surgeon and saw Cal as an excellent academic fit, as well.
"He's a very good student (3.9 gpa) and that makes Cal that much more of a natural fit for Justin," said Manteca head coach Eric Reis. "He loves their mixture of athletics and top academics."
"We're very excited about his commitment to Cal. It gets the juices going for people in the valley, too, with Cal being so close to here.
"A cool story about Justin is his family actually has roots in the Palo Alto area. His family were kind of Stanford people a little bit and his family helped take care of a guy who was a Stanford guy and they had a lot of Stanford stuff.
"When our season was over, I sat down with Justin to see what he was thinking. He'd gone to a lot of big name camps like USC, Cal and Stanford last summer. I asked him what his number one school was and he said, 'I want to go to Cal.' I said, 'Really, more than Stanford?' And he said yeah, Cal was his dream school.
"Lo and behold, just a couple weeks later, he got a call from Cal, real straightforward. They put the offer out not long after and they were the first ones.
"That made a big impression. Colorado and Syracuse offered soon after.
"So many schools wait for others to offer to validate a prospect before they offer. No one wants to be the first one. But you need to trust your instincts.
"If Cal would've waited and played the game, they might've lost him. But now that he's committed, he's not going anywhere else. That's a credit to Cal that they see a guy they really like and they don't wait for someone else to tell them that he's good. If they like him, they'll offer.
"I think kids respond to that. He already liked Cal a lot then when they thought enough of him to not wait on others, it was a clear choice.
"They know what they're looking for and Coach Wilcox has a great reputation so I know he'll be in a good spot for him."
Kakala put together a strong junior season, compiling 56 tackles, 11 sacks plus an additional 10 tackles for loss along with three fumbles caused, one fumble recovered as well as two blocked punts and a blocked kick in addition to playing offensive line for the Buffaloes.
As strong as Kakala is on the gridiron, however, basketball was actually his first passion in athletics, as it is with his sister Loretta -a Top 50 national recruit who signed to play with Louisville in 2017.
"My sister is really happy for me," said Kakala. "She knows Cal is my dream school and she always encouraged me to pursue them. She told me if they offer to commit right away."
His coach echoes the sentiment regarding Kakala's basketball prowess and athleticism.
"My relationship with Justin goes all the way back to 6th grade," said Reis. "His dad had a travel ball basketball team and he asked if my son would like to play with their team and I said, 'Yeah, as long as Justin plays on my Pop Warner team.' That's how we got to know the family so well.
"Even from an early age, you could see the high ratio of size, strength and athleticism. It was off the charts.
"He thought he was a basketball player for years. I told him, '6'5" with your frame is not a basketball player,' that his future was in football with his skill set.
"Every year, he's gotten more aggressive and become more of a natural football player. You can see his footwork and agility that comes from basketball that carries over to football.
"Last year, we won the state championship in basketball and he was a big part of that as a sophomore."
Kakala became the Bears' fifth overall commit, joining QB Adrian Martinez, linebacker Omari Harris and defensive end/outside linebackers John Henry Tevis and Nick Alftin.