Jeff Tedford has continued his drive to make Cal’s football team a perennial national power with another stellar recruiting class, which, significantly, included 10 out-of-state players. Recruiting is the life blood of college football. Tedford has worked from the inside out, concentrating on keeping Bay Area stars home and then gradually widening his recruiting circle. In his previous four seasons, he had signed only 12 out-of-state players.
"We’re still looking first at California players," he said at a media gathering at which videos were shown of those who had signed a letter of intent, "but if we see a player we like who’s out of state, we’ll go after him."
With the national exposure the Bears have gotten through a dramatic increase in televised games in the Tedford regime, many more preps are aware of Cal football nationally. So, when Tedford and his assistants call, they listen — and sometimes sign. This year’s recruits span a geographical area from Florida to Hawaii.
One of Tedford’s goals was to get bigger in the secondary without sacrificing speed, and he got that with Sean Cattouse and Chris Conte, both 6-3 and 190 pounds. Needing help in the offensive line, he brought in five linemen.
The most impressive one on the videos was Todd Huber, a 6-3, 285-pounder from Palos Verdes who sometimes blocked two defenders to the ground on the same play.
I liked defensive end Cameron Jordan, a 6-4, 260-pounder from Chandler, Ariz., who is strong and athletic. And Jahvid Best from Richmond and Shane Vereen from Valencia are both very fast with great moves. Vereen also showed excellent pass-catching ability coming out of the backfield and even lined up as a wide receiver at times.
Some of the class will be redshirted, but Tedford made no predictions about that. "Everybody we signed will have a chance to play," he said.
Typically, as a program grows more successful, it’s easier for a coach to recruit because more players are attracted to the program. Last fall, Tedford said it’s been easier in one way, tougher in another for him.
"We used to be competing for players with second-tier schools," he said. "Now, we’re going after players that schools like USC, Notre Dame and Michigan are recruiting."
But those are the type of players who are needed to compete for the major bowl games and for top-10 rankings. Tedford and crew are winning enough of those battles to be in the hunt for top national honors.
Though Tedford won a battle two years ago over DeSean Jackson, Southern Cal continues to be the elephant in the room. Under Pete Carroll, the Trojans have had the most consistently successful program in the country during the last five years. That isn’t going to change soon, because the Trojans had another top-five recruiting season this year.
But there’s room for two powers in the Pac-10 Conference, and Cal is right behind the Trojans now. Though Tedford has the disadvantage of poor facilities, neither that nor the tree-sitters have slowed him down. Even the injunction halting the start of construction for new facilities didn’t hurt. "We didn’t lose one player who had committed," Tedford said.
Cal a national football power? Nobody could have thought it in the dark days before Tedford, but it’s a realistic goal now.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on . E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.