They say programs feel the effects of a bad season more in the next recruiting class than they do for the current cycle. Most of the time I feel that is definitely the case and I think it's the case with Cal's 2015 recruiting class.
Yes, there is significant improvement on the field this season and the Bears have a very good chance of becoming bowl eligible with two games left in the season, but that doesn't mask the stink of 1-11 with that 1 win coming against an FCS team the previous year. That 2013 season left a bad first impression with a lot of kids. When you think of it in those terms, 12 current commits and tenth ranked class in the conference sounds about what should be expected.
The Bears coaching staff was digging themselves out of a hole in recruiting this year and have done a decent job of landing some solid prospects even though they were working from behind. Making a bowl this season would help them immensely to finish out the class strong and do a much better job of building a class in 2016.
Instant impact commit
I know the name Bears fans want to see here is 3 star defensive lineman Russell Ude. Ude is considered one of the highest rated players committed to Cal and he is coming in to a position where Cal badly needs warm bodies to step in and play. Unfortunately, I don't see Ude being someone who can come in and be an effective player immediately. He may be from SEC country, but that's not an automatic qualifier that makes him an SEC caliber defensive lineman as a freshman.
I had some questions about his explosiveness as a junior and watched three games from his senior season as well. I'm not sure if he was injured or if there was more to it behind the scenes, but Ude did not start those three games and didn't grade out very well. He flashed a couple of times, but he struggled to get off blocks and hold the point of attack versus the run. He didn't look like a player who is ready to step in and make an impact in the Pac-12, but the size and potential are still there for him to develop later down the line.
The recruit in this class who really jumped out on film to me is 4 star running back/linebacker Lonny Powell. He's rated as a 4 star by 247Sports and ESPN and I think he's in that category of prospect. He's big enough (230) to play right away and plays physical too. As a linebacker, he's hitting through people and he plays with a nasty edge to his game. He can run physical with the ball as a back as well, but also shows really good feet for a player his size and has skills as a receiver too.
I think his best fit is ultimately on defense, but he's talented enough to play on either side of the ball. I think he'll find his way onto the field and do some good things next season for the Bears.
Don't sleep on ______
He may not have the physical tools to make him stand out next to most prospects, but 3 star wide receiver Greyson Bankhead is a heck of a football player.
He first jumped out to me when I watched Centennial (Corona) play Bishop Gorman earlier this fall and he just kept getting open. He is explosive out of his breaks and runs great routes. The only thing holding him back is his size. He is listed at 5'10" 160 and that may be generous. Regardless of that, he can flat out play. I feel he's going to eventually be a heck of a slot receiver in the Bear Raid.
Big fish still on the reel
If Cal can close out at 7-5, there may be some more big names that pop onto the radar. For now, there just isn't that huge get sitting out there for them that they seem to be in serious contention for. One intriguing name that Cal is still in on is 3 star tight end Daniel Imartorbhebhe. He's got very good ball skills and a ton of potential, but what really makes him an important target is that fact that his younger brother, Josh, is a highly coveted 2016 wide receiver recruit. They have expressed the desire to play together at the next level.
I don't think Daniel is a consolation prize. He's got a chance to develop into a very good player at the college level. But adding his brother along with him would be huge for the start of next year's recruiting class.
When you are working at a disadvantage after suffering through a brutal season the previous year, it's never going to be easy to attract top talent to your school. This recruiting class, unfortunately, was never destined to be great because of that.
I do think there are several players in this class who are going to help Cal be better in the next few years in addition to the players I mentioned above. 3 star cornerback Malik Psalms has the ideal size and aggressiveness that every team covets in a player at his position and should be a good one once he refines his technique. I like what I see from 3 star guard Ryan Gibson from Missouri as well. Like most offensive linemen, he's going to need some time to develop, but he plays mean and finishes his blocks.
Most importantly, the Bears have their quarterback of the future in Ross Bowers. I really liked his film and what I saw from him in person at the Elite 11 and The Opening. He's probably the most underrated quarterback on the west coast.
This isn't going to be a recruiting class that is going to get Cal fans too hyped up about the future. I'm sure they would have preferred a lot more impact defensive linemen, but so would just about every other program. The arrow is pointing up though with the results on the field from this season. A strong finish should mean better things to come at the end of this class and in 2016.