BERKELEY — Despite numerous obstacles, Sonny Dykes landed a top-flight recruiting class in his first go around as Cal’s football coach.
The Bears are coming off the program’s poorest showing since the 2001 season and the team performed even worse in the classroom, but Dykes managed to haul in a top 30 class on national signing day Wednesday by championing the Cal brand.
“The value of a Cal education I think sells itself,” Dykes said. “These kids know they have an opportunity to get a special education and get a degree from some place that’s going to take care of them for the rest of their lives.”
The Bears signed 25 players to national letters of intent, including nine who received four-star ratings by the major recruiting services.
Dykes’ top recruits are defensive end Takkarist McKinley (Kennedy High School, Richmond), quarterback Jared Goff (Marin Catholic, Kentfield), running back Khalfani Muhammad (Sherman Oaks), defensive back Darius Allensworth (Romoland) and kicker Matt Anderson (San Ramon Valley).
The first-year coach said Muhammad could make his presence felt in the backfield as early as next season.
“He’s not a real big guy, but he’s a really physical runner,” Dykes said. “He obviously has great speed being the 100-meter champ in the state.”
Cal struggled on both sides of the line last season, so adding size and talent up front was the point of emphasis for the 2013 class. The Bears nabbed a combined total of 12 linemen.
“We addressed exactly what we needed to address in this class, which was depth on both the offensive and defensive lines,” Dykes said.
The Bears coach credited his staff for overcoming a series of obstacles in recruiting period that started in December.
“That’s something that people used against us this year,” he said. “A new coaching staff, uncertainty associated with that, the 3-9 record, academic issues — all of those were negatives that we had to address.”
In October, news came to light that Cal finished last among Pac-12 Conference schools in graduation success rate (48 percent) for the 2002 through 2005 freshmen classes. Dykes said his top priority was signing players who are as committed in the classroom as they are on the gridiron.
“For us, it’s about improving our program and bringing the right kind of kid to Cal,” he said. “I think we all know that there’s some academic issues around here that we got to get fixed.”
Dykes said his long-term strategy is to target local talent rather than getting bogged down trying to compete nationally. He expects an even stronger class next year.
“We have to recruit well in our own back yard,” he said. “We’ve got to do a great job in the Bay Area.”