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Cal Football

Part Two: A Look Back to Cal Football's 2016 Recruiting Class

May 5, 2020
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In yesterday’s look back at the last remaining Cal football recruiting class to impact the fortunes of the 2019 and 2020 seasons -the 2015 class- it was clear that the failure to bring in and retain players capable of giving the team quality play and depth over the next four to five years was lacking in many ways.

Even though it was a Top 30 recruiting class on the surface (29th overall), only nine of 24 players played out their eligibility in the program and only a handful were multi-year starters.

While better, the 2016 recruiting class -the last of former head coach Sonny Dykes’ full recruiting classes- shared many common traits with the disappointing 2015 class.

The 2016 class was Cal’s highest-rated class since 2012 and remains so today, finishing 27th in Rivals’ 2016 class rankings. The rating was heavily-influenced by the crown jewell of the the class: 5 star Georgia receiver Demetris Robertson. The 5 star Robertson was joined by four 4 star signees: Lancaster RB Melquise Stovall, Georgia cornerback Nigel Edmonds, Thousand Oaks QB Max Gilliam and Mississippi receiver Jordan Duncan.

Fast forward just three years and Duncan was the only one of the five prep players left.

Robertson burst onto the scene as one of the top freshman receivers in the country, living up to his 5 star billing and more. The U.S. Army All-American, who chose Cal over Georgia, Notre Dame and Stanford, hauled in 50 receptions for 767 yards and seven td’s on the season for the Bears. But after just one season on the field for the Bears, a serious family illness following a hand injury that sidelined him for an extended period sent the talented receiver back home to Georgia, where he’s had limited success, with 37 receptions for 403 yards and 3 td’s in 3 years with the Bulldogs.

Robertson’s commitment to Cal set off one of the all-time great internet rants, when the infamous Uncle Lou bemoaned Robertson choosing Cal over his beloved Dawgs, where he eventually wound up.

Stovall also started off fairly strong. Like Robertson, a U.S. Army All-American, the Bears pulled in Stovall after a decommitment from USC. As a true frosh, Stovall had 42 catches for 415 yards and three tds, forming a talented true frosh tandem with Robertson after moving to receiver in fall camp from running back. The future looked bright for the frosh duo. But alas, it was not to be.

After moving in and out of the dog house with the Cal staff with player and staff conflicts and academic struggles, Stovall departed after the 2017 season, first to Pima JC in Arizona, then to Hawaii, where he had 18 receptions for 248 yards and 4 tds for the Warriors.

Edmonds was an early Stanford commit but was either cut loose by Stanford late in the process when recruited over or left of his own volition. Whatever the case, the 4 star prep never practiced or played a single day for the Bears before retiring from football. According to former head coach Sonny Dykes, they were never clear what injuries Edmonds held himself out of practice with.

Gilliam spent a year at Cal before transferring to UNLV. As a true frosh and in spring ball, Gilliam looked overmatched and never really competed to be in the rotation. In his two years at UNLV since tranferring, the former 4 star has completed 125 of 226 passes (55.3%) for 1,394 yards and 14 tds with eight interceptions for the Rebels so far.

The last of the 4/5 star quintet -Jordan Duncan- was the only one of the group to play out his eligibility as a Bear. He got his feet wet as a true frosh with seven catches for 31 yards and a td and 62 receptions for 782 yards and eight tds overall in his Cal career.

The three next-highest rated recruits; high 3 star OL Daniel Juarez, QB Victor Viramontes were no more successful as a group, though cornerback Traveon Beck more than lived up to his rating.

Juarez had to medically retire with a back injury, never playing a down.

Viramontes -a Michigan decommit before signing with Cal- much as Gilliam- never found himself in serious contention for being in the QB rotation and transferred to Riverside City College before joining Gilliam at UNLV after switching to linebacker. As a junior, Viramontes had 13 tackles and one tfl on the season.

Beck was clearly the best of the high 3-star trio, playing a key role as the Bears’ primary nickel back. He played in 43 games, with seven starts, totalling 77 tackles, four interceptions, one forced fumble and a half sack for the Bears, seeing playing time in all four seasons at Cal. The diminutive but talented DB is hoping to sign an undrafted free agent contract once NFL practices resume and roster situations become clearer throughout the league. Beck and Duncan were no doubt hurt by COVID-19 in their bids to potentially be drafted or sign early.

The hit rate on the remaining mid to low 3 star signees wasn’t much better. But where they did hit, they hit big.

The best of the rest of the 3-star signees starts with 2019 consensus All-American linebacker Evan Weaver. The Spokane athlete came in as a defensive end before switching to outside linebacker then finally finding his true calling at inside linebacker. After compiling 79 tackles and 1.5 sacks in his first two seasons, Weaver came on like a storm to lead the nation in tackles for his last two seasons at MLB, compiling an amazing 336 tackles, seven sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions, including an amazing pick-six in Cal’s 2018 upset of UW in his junior and senior seasons.

The Arizona Cardinals were the fortunate receipient of Weaver’s talents in the 6th round of the 2020 NFL draft. There’s a destroyed dresser somewhere bearing testament to Weaver’s motivation to prove the doubters wrong according to his post-draft comments.

Beyond Weaver there were three other 3 star standouts include Redwood HIgh three-year starting RT Jake Curhan, fellow three-year starting CB Camryn Bynum (169 tackles, 6 TFL, a ½ sack, five interceptions, 27 pass breakups and 32 passes defended), and DeSoto, TX CB Josh Drayden (39 games with six starts, with 64 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and two interceptions, including a pick-6 vs OSU). Arizona JC transfer Marloshawn Franklin (60 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack and nine pass breakups in 14 starts) and Minnesota JC transfer DT Rusty Becker (26 games, six starts with 24 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, a half sack and one fumble recovery) rounded out the remainder of the three-star selections.

The remaining 3 star signees: RB Derrick Clark, receivers Drew Kobayashi, Matt Laris and Logan Gamble, DT Chris Yaghi (rated 4 stars on 247), WR/RB Zion Echols and OL Dwayne Wallace all barely saw the field before all retired from football or transferred.

As was the case with the 2015 class, much of the top production came from 2 star recruits.

Houston OLB Cameron Goode has compiled 106 tackles, 19 1/2 tackles for loss,, 11 sacks, two interceptions returned for 70 yards and a pair of touchdowns, five pass breakups, seven passes defended, two forced fumbles and six quarterback hurries in 22 starts in his first three seasons, despite missing 16 games to injury.

2019 grad and current Carolina Panther Jordan Kunaszyk played in 34 games with 19 starts and contributed 273 tackles to rank eighth on Cal's all-time list while adding 18 tackles for loss, 7 1/2 sacks, four interceptions, three pass breakups, six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four quarterback hurries in three seasons at Cal after transferring from American River College.

Fellow JC transfer Jordan Veasy had 13 starts with 63 receptions for 797 yards receiving and nine touchdown catches in his two seasons with the Bears before signing with the Washington Redskins last year.

Austin, TX OLB Tevin Paul has compiled 90 tackles, 17 1/2 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, five pass breakups, five passes defended and five quarterback hurries in his 22 starts. Paul’s played in 35 of Cal’s 28 games in his three seasons after redshirting.

OG Gentle Willams settled into a starting role at offensive guard in 2018 but missed the 2019 season due to injury. He could be a strong candidate for a 6th season in 2021 with two medical redshirts like DEs Luc Bequette and Zeandae Johnson this year.

The only 2 star signee from 2016 who hasn’t seen the field as much is DE Chinedu Udeogu, who put his name in the transfer portal this spring. Udeogu compiled 20 tackles so far as a Bear and had moved to TE and FB of late.

Of the 27 signees in the 2016 class, only 13 played out their max eligibility or remain with the team today, just 48%. Eight were or are multi-year starters. Notably, five return as presumed starters in 2020 in Goode, Paul, Drayden, Bynum and Curhan, joining 2015 signees Bequette and Johnson as presumed starters in 2020. Importantly, those seven redshirt seniors will be joined by a trio of fransfers over the past three seasons as redshirt seniors -OG Valentino Daltoso (Oregon), WR Kekoa Crawford (Michigan) and MLB Kuony Deng (JC) in the starting lineup, with fellow transfer QB Devon Modster (UCLA), and JC running back tranfers Marcel Dancy (Laney CC) DeShawn Collins (CCSF) in the rotation - a very healthy 10 fifth or sixth year senior starters and three in the rotation for depth, joined by walk-on OT Henry Bazakis in the rotation.

While only 48% of players in the 2016 class even stuck around to complete their eligibility, what the best of the bunch gave the team in their years in the program may just be the saving grace of the 2016 class.

More stories:

A Look Back at Cal Football's 2015 Recruiting Class

SoCal OL Austin Barry Excited About Cal offer

Discussion from...

Part Two: A Look Back to Cal Football's 2016 Recruiting Class

2,261 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 27 days ago by 91Cal
burritos
How long do you want to ignore this user?
I recall based on the recruiting videos that DRob and Evan Weaver were going to be the most impactful players.
concernedparent
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Would love more information on the Nygel Edmonds saga. The guy literally never practiced a single day in the two (?) years he was on the team?
91Cal
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I recalled that Cameron Goode looked good or was it simply his splashy debut RS Freshman season when he got the pick 6 and the game exclusion for a bogus blow to the head at home????
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