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November 20, 2012
With no captain steering the blue-and-gold ship and a little more than two months between Jeff Tedford's firing and national signing day, the future of California's 2013 recruiting class carries all the certainty of a high-stakes game of rock, paper, scissors.
On Tuesday afternoon, Tedford was told he would not return to his post next season. From there, things kicked into coaching-search mode. Names were immediately tossed out and unfounded speculation began. Louisville head coach Charlie Strong's name is being kicked around, as is that of Boise State's Chris Petersen.
Men currently in NFL assistant positions have been unwillingly thrust into the rumor mill as well.
The standard post-firing hoopla never takes long to spring into action.
Whatever the case, Cal shouldn't be forced into taking a gamble on a little-known name with something to prove. According to Rivals.com West recruiting analyst Adam Gorney, there's nothing stopping the school's athletic admiration from making a splash. Backed into a corner, the Golden Bears are not. It's actually quite the opposite.
"It's not like it's bare bones there," Gorney said. "The new coach is going to have an opportunity to win early because the pieces are there for them to be successful. It's an attractive job because of things other than football, too. Kids will gravitate toward being in the Bay Area. The coaching staff will be a factor, but I don't think it's a horrible thing. Somebody can come in and build on the recruiting success that they've had."
But the situation, at least as it stands currently, is not nearly as attractive for high school players looking for a college home. Sticking with a commitment to a team void of a public face or larger direction is an act of blind faith. Such a thing is rightfully in short supply in the world of recruiting. So what will become of Cal's No. 53-ranked class?
It's too soon to make any sweeping predications. The sample size is small and the reaction to the news is muffled.
"I committed for Cal the school," three-star tight end Ray Hudson told Rivals.com just after Tedford's firing was announced. "I love the school in general, so that won't change. It's just a matter of if they bring in a guy who will change the offense. It depends on who they bring in. I'm evaluating what's going on and which direction Cal is going.
Of course there will be recruit unrest. It comes with the territory. Committed players will weigh their options. Golden Bears commits such as cornerback Darius Allensworth and offensive lineman Cameron Hunt were looking around well before the coaching change became official. Tuesday's news only provided another shove.
Allensworth declined comment in the wake of the news. Hunt, who has avoided discussing the possibility of a staff change in the past, could not be reached. Still, it's not as if anyone was taken off-guard by Tedford's dismissal. It carried the shock value of a sunrise.
"If both Coach Tedford and Coach Wes (Chandler) left Cal, I'd really have to think about things," three-star wide receiver and Cal commit A.J. Richardson told BearTerritory.net on Friday, three days before official word of Tedford's firing broke.
Then there's the other side of things -- the side that houses the half-full glass. When a new coach is named, the instability that has surrounded Cal for some time will evaporate.
"A coaching change like this, when a guy is teetering for a couple of years, can actually be a good thing," Gorney said. "At least these guys now know that, unless there is a disaster, that they'll have the same coach for the entire time they are there."
Focus is shifting, though. The Golden Bears' recruiting is suddenly more about holding on to current commits and less about growing the flock. Retention first, addition later.
"The news sucks a lot, " said uncommitted tight end Mitchell Parsons, who is slated to take an official visit to Cal on Dec. 7. "I'm thinking, 'what does that mean for my visit?' My parents just bought their tickets."
For now, uncertainty rules in Berkley (Calif.). Poachers will surface on the recruiting trail and the eyes of verbal commits will wander. While a national search rages on, drama will continue to unfold.
"It's obviously going to change things and throw everything into a tailspin," Hudson said.
That tailspin is now well underway. And how quickly the Golden Bears can pull out of it will mean everything.