NSD Analysis: No Winners or Losers Yet

Zach Kline

California lost out on many highly-regarded recruits, but quarterback Zach Kline and receiver Bryce Treggs will determine the success of the Class of 2012.

BERKELEY, Calif. – There are no winners or losers on signing day.

There will be 10 months from now because a handful of schools will have signed a Sammy Watkins, De'Anthony Thomas, or Marqise Lee, a game-changing true freshman that helps push a team into the rarefied air of a BCS bowl.

But with a miniscule number of exceptions, the reality of the players signed to letters of intent Wednesday won't be known for three or four years.

So why does California feel like a loser at day's end, flogged endlessly in the national media? The Golden Bears were so close to landing several four and five-star recruits, the kinds of players that tend to have that transcendent immediate impact.

If safety Shaq Thompson leads to an immediate turnaround for the putrid Washington defense, if defensive lineman Arik Armstead becomes a terror for Oregon, if wide receiver Jordan Payton and defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy are the architects of a UCLA resurrection, Cal will feel it.

If they don't live up to the billing and Cal's recruiting class exceed the meager expectations associated with it, no one will mind.

Instant Impact – WR Bryce Treggs
It's not all doom and gloom on the five-star front, as Cal held onto the Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco standout. The Pac-12 has been inundated by similar freshmen capable of making a major splash from day one – Keenan Allen, Marquess Wilson, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee – the past two seasons.

With gaping holes in the Cal receiving corps apart from Allen, there were five newcomers signed in this class. All will be given a chance to contribute, but Treggs' mix of size, speed, route running and maturity all but guarantee he will be no worse than the third receiver in 2012.

With Allen expected to enter the NFL draft after this season, Treggs should be the man Cal quarterbacks will be looking to for in his absence.

Make or Break Player – QB Zach Kline
Said it before, say it again – Cal has been a black hole for quarterbacks after Aaron Rodgers' glorious 2004 campaign. But with Kline, Cal appears to finally have the signal-caller to break through that malaise.

Famed quarterback tutor George Whitfield worked with Kline at the Elite 11 in Malibu last summer and came away more impressed with the Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Valley product than more touted players like Gunner Kiel and Connor Brewer, praising his arm strength and competitive spirit.

If Kline delivers, Cal can reclaim its spot in the upper-half of the Pac-12 and challenge Oregon for supremacy in the North. If he doesn't, it will be difficult for Jeff Tedford to stage the comeback needed to shake off the grumblings.

Hidden Gem – CB Raymond Ford
Gardena (Calif.) Serra has produced plenty of recruiting star power over the past few seasons, as receivers Woods and Lee (USC) and Paul Richardson (Colorado) have become standouts in a conference full of elite pass-catchers.

But Ford, the private high school's top senior this year, was only a three-star prospect, not nearly as sought after as his former teammates. Perhaps his size, generously listed at 5-foot-11 in the Cal press release, scared teams off.

Don't be fooled. Ford could end up the absolute steal of 2012. In a camp last March, I saw him go toe-to-toe against USC recruit Darreus Rogers, a physical 6-foot-2 four-star prospect. It shouldn't be a surprise, given Ford started as a freshman at Los Angeles (Calif.) Jordan and even intercepted Matt Barkley in his fourth-ever varsity game.

Ford understands how to use his long arms to frustrate receivers and can make his presence known once the ball is caught.

Factor in Serra's track record of producing dedicated standout student-athletes and Ford should easily out-produce his status.

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