BERKELEY — The Cal football program is desperate to earn on the recruiting trail what eluded the Golden Bears during coach Sonny Dykes' debut season: A few big victories.
Cal's 1-11 record this fall stole much of the momentum generated when Dykes was hired a year ago, and it threatens to torpedo the Bears' recruiting efforts.
Signing day is Feb. 5, and the early returns aren't encouraging. Cal already has lost two top committed high school players, several more are wavering and the Bay Area's No. 1 prospect hasn't decided where he'll go.
Brandon Huffman, national recruiting analyst for Scout.com, says the Bears' belly-flop season is the culprit.
“You can probably put a lot of it on that in the sense that it had the potential to be so much better,” Huffman said. “There was a lot of traction when Sonny Dykes was hired, with NorCal kids especially. Now those kids aren't even thinking twice about Cal.”
Scout rates Cal's current list of 11 oral commitments as the No. 58 recruiting class in the country. Over the past five years, the Bears have finished no worse than No. 39 nationally. Dykes, just as surprised by the Bears' winless Pac-12 record as anyone, understands there has been some recruiting fallout as a result.
“It makes it a little more difficult. Everything's easy when you win,” he said, adding that the message to recruits remains the same. “Come to Cal, get the best education in the world, play winning football, live in the Bay Area, be part of a family atmosphere.
“The winning football part . . . they have to have a little bit of faith in us.”
Dykes was hired to replace Jeff Tedford after a 3-9 season in 2012 and generated initial buzz because of his high-scoring teams at Louisiana Tech. So far, it hasn't translated. The Bears not only lost their final 10 games, they rarely were competitive.
Most first-year coaches who inherit rebuilding jobs show some early progress, providing validation to recruits. Since 2009, new regimes at Washington, Arizona, UCLA and Arizona State made first-year improvements ranging from two to five victories.