Cal coach Justin Wilcox singed 19 members to the class of 2021, which is ranked 20th nationally according to ESPN. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
BERKELEY — Only four of the 19 football players Cal signed Wednesday were able to play their high school senior seasons this fall. None of them were permitted to make campus visits.
Yet against that COVID-19 backdrop, the Bears came away with a 2021 recruiting class that has a strong Bay Area base, adds size and versatility to the roster and earned a No. 20 national ranking by ESPN.
“Overall, a very good class,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said. I think the physical traits are there, the want-to and the character are there, and the academic profile is there. We are really, really encouraged by this group.”
The Bears experienced “no drama” on early signing day, Wilcox noted, with every player who had previously committed finalizing paperwork by early afternoon.
The recruiting website 247Sports ranked the Bears’ class at No. 25 nationally (behind only Oregon and USC in the Pac-12) and Rivals listed Cal at No. 41.
Wilcox credited the program’s support staff for having the technical know-how to create virtual tours of the Cal campus and football facilities, allowing prospects and their parents to get an close-up look at what the program had to offer.
With the pandemic restricting face-to-face interaction, Wilcox said Cal’s recruits became heavily engaged with one another and the coaching staff on Zoom and FaceTime.
“We’ve got some big personalities in this group, which is great,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s that or if it’s that they’re at home and they’re using Zoom for their classes and that’s how they’re talking to their friends. They are really connected as a group.”
Continuing to solidify their recruiting base in the Bay Area was again a priority. And Cal got several of the top local talents, led by tight end Jermaine Terry of Kennedy High in Richmond and defensive end Akili Calhoun of Liberty High in Brentwood.
They are among six East Bay prospects headed to Cal, along with eight from Northern California and 11 from within the state.
“We’re always going to start here,” Wilcox said. “We are really fortunate this year — there’s great players in the Bay Area and they’re great fits for us. We want to keep all these guys home.”
Among the top players the Bears landed from outside the area were four-star wide receivers J. Michael Sturdivant from Flower Mound, Texas, and Mavin Anderson from Mission Viejo. The Bears hope they provide some deep-threat capability that has been largely absent.
Quarterback Kai Millner of Gilbert, Arizona, was among the four Cal signees who had fall seasons. He passed and ran for nearly 5,400 yards and accounted for 59 touchdowns in two varsity seasons.
📛 Kai Millner
🏠 Gilbert, AZ
🏫 Higley HS pic.twitter.com/OFr5wSVcbr
— Cal Football (@CalFootball) December 16, 2020
Cal signed almost an entire starting defense — three linemen, four linebackers and four defensive backs. Seven of those players stand at least 6-foot-3 and a couple of them — defensive lineman Derek Wilkins of Irvine and linebacker Patrick Hisatake — measure 6-5.
“Absolutely,” Wilcox said when asked whether adding length and height was by design. “When all things are equal, the bigger guys usually beat the little guys.”
Eight of the newcomers plan to enroll in January, including Terry and Calhoun.
Here are Cal’s signees from Wednesday:
WR Mavin Anderson (6-0, 195) — Mission Viejo HS, Mission Viejo
Cal’s first 2021 commit, Anderson played for teams that were 21-3 in 2018 and ’19 and earned 4-star ratings from ESPN and 247Sports Composite.
Saf Hunter Barth (6-2, 205) — Queen Creek HS, Queen Creek, AZ
Rare three-sport athlete totaled at least 45 tackles each of the past three seasons.
DE Akili Calhoun (6-4, 265) — Liberty Union HS, Brentwood
A significant local recruit for Cal, which sees potential in Calhoun to play multiple positions on the defensive line.
DE Kaleb Elarms-Orr (6-3, 225) — Moreau Catholic HS, Hayward
Earned 4-star status from ESPN and 247Sports. Cal views him as a versatile D-lineman with pass-rush skills. Mom is a Cal grad.
CB Lu-Magia Hearns (5-10, 165) — De La Salle HS, Concord
A productive wide receiver for NorCal powerhouse De La Salle, Hearns is projected as a DB for the Bears. Played in state title games as a sophomore and junior.
CB Kaleb Higgins (6-2, 173) — Folsom HS, Folsom
Consensus 3-star prospect who spent his first two years of high school in Texas.
OLB Patrick Hisatake (6-5, 250) — Westview HS, Clackamas, OR
Native of Kalihi, Hawaii, has great length and projected as a rush-edge player at Cal. Plans to enroll in January.
Saf Fatuvalu Iosefa (6-0, 185) — Mililani, HS, Mililani, HI
Younger brother of Cal freshman linebacker Mo Iosefa. Cal coaches think he has the speed and physicality to play either safety or corner.
OG Dylan Jemtegaard (6-4, 305) — Yelm HS, Yelm, WA
Believed to be the first football player from his high school in a Washington town of 9,300 people to attend a Pac-12 school.
OT Ryan Lange (6-6, 330) — Pittsburg HS, Pittburg
The consensus 3-star prospect was a first-team preseason All-State selection before fall season was canceled.
TE Keleki Latu (6-6, 210) — Jesuit HS, Carmichael
Comes from a family of rugby players. Cal likes his length for both setting an edge as a blocker and being a downfield threat as a receiver.
QB Kai Millner (6-2, 195) — Higley HS, Gilbert, AZ
Millner comes to Cal from the same high school as redshirt freshman QB Spencer Brasch. Became a social media sensation when he completed the “bridal bouquet” touchdown pass, which he tossed over his head with his back to the line of scrimmage.
LB Moses Oladejo (6-3, 235) — Cosumnes Oaks HS, Elk Grove
Young for his grade, Oladejo impressed Cal’s coaches with his high motor and enthusiasm.
LB Nate Rutchena (6-3, 225) — Monte Vista HS, Danville
Played WR, safety and LB at Monte Vista, graduating last spring and “gray-shirting” this fall. Will enroll at Cal next month.
WR J. Michael Sturdivant (6-3, 185) — Marcus HS, Flower Mound, TX
A consensus 4-star prospect and one of Cal’s top signees, Sturdivant teamed in high school with quarterback Grant Nussmeier, who planned to sign with LSU.
OG Bastian Swinney (6-6, 290) — Edina HS, Edina, MN
Swinney’s talents in basketball hinted at his athletic versatility.
TE Jermaine Terry (6-4, 255) — Kennedy HS, Richmond
A consensus 4-star prospect is Cal’s highest-rated local player. Was a two-way star at Kennedy, but will play tight end in Bill Musgrave’s offense.
DE Derek Wilkins (6-5, 270) — Santa Margarita Catholic HS, Rancho Santa Margarita
Versatile athlete also has played baseball, basketball and track and field in high school. ESPN and 247Sports Composite gave him 4-star rankings.
DE Myles Williams (6-3, 250) — Bishop Alemany HS, Woodland Hills
Has played only three years of football but has the versatility to play on the edge or inside on the defensive line. Had 15 sacks as a junior in 2019.