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Cal football recruiting: Bears land top safety. The next step? Recruit better up-front

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There's a lot of reason to be optimistic about the future of Cal football with how they have recruited at the skill positions and in the defensive backfield. Now the Bears need to bring in better players up front to compete at the top of the Pac-12

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This might be strange for some people to read, but it's an exciting time to be a Cal football fan right now.

No, really, it is.

The Bears had their obvious struggles the last few years on the field, but next season has the potential to be a breakthrough year for Sonny Dykes. They have maybe the top returning quarterback in the Pac-12 coming back next season in Jared Goff and they should at least have the talent to outscore a lot of teams next season on their way to a return to a bowl game. Considering where they were when Goff was a freshman, that's quite an accomplishment.

The future is looking brighter as well with the way they finished strong in recruiting by adding potential impact skill position talent in wide receivers Carlos Strickland and Jaylinn Hawkins to go with Elite 11 quarterback Ross Bowers and an underrated talent at running back in Lonny Powell. Add in recent commitments from quarterback Armani Rogers and 4 star safety Marquel Dismuke and the Bears are starting to make some waves in recruiting despite their recent struggles.

The big hole missing from all of that talent is fairly obvious. Although the Bear Raid has been able to help attract some very good skill talent, offensive and defensive linemen are the missing piece of the puzzle for the next step back to respectability for the Bears.

Other than 4 star interior offensive lineman Semisi Uluave, who may be absent from the program for a couple of years if he takes a religious mission, the majority of the linemen that Cal have brought in over the last three recruiting classes have been developmental players. The kind of players that need to add quite a bit of weight and/or strength in addition to the technique work that every young football player needs to compete at a higher level.

It's not just that a lot of these kids aren't ready to plug and play in the Pac-12 North. It's not even that some of these players don't have a high ceiling. It's that the top teams in the conference are signing talent up-front that far surpasses the kind of talent that Cal is landing.

Since 2012, Cal has landed two 247Sports composite 4 star players on the offensive and defensive line (Uluave and offensive tackle Erik Bunte in 2013). As a comparison within their division, Washington has signed seven, Oregon has signed ten, and Stanford has signed eleven over that same time. When you consider that those three schools have also been bringing in higher ranked skill talent at the same level or better than the Bears during that same time, that makes for a fairly significant deficiency in overall raw talent.

I really like how the Bears finished up with 2015 recruiting and I'm excited by what I've seen from them so far in 2016 with Dismuke and Rogers. It will be even more exciting to see them add more players like Uluave and creep closer to the top of the conference by having more talent up-front.