BERKELEY, California — Stricter academic standards at California forced coach Sonny Dykes to broaden his search for recruits.
When Cal revealed its class of 24 recruits on national signing day Wednesday there was a decided southern flavor to the group. Seven of the recruits come from either Texas or the Southeast.
The raised academic standards are in response to a report issued last fall by a task force on academics formed after years of low graduation rates by football players and other athletes. Chancellor Nicholas Dirks accepted the recommendations from the task force, including making sure that the school only admits recruits it believes will graduate.
"For us, this is a pretty distinct shift going on with the direction of our program from maybe where it's been in the past," Dykes said. "We're at the point now where if we bring in 100 transcripts, probably 20 will be what we're after. As a result we have to look at a whole lot more kids."
That led Dykes to recruit more nationally, with a special emphasis this year on the South. Among the top Southerners in the class are four-star receiver Carlos Strickland out of Dallas and highly regarded defensive lineman Russell Ude of Atlanta.
Cal also signed recruits from Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Dykes said this class that analysts rate in the middle of the pack in the Pac-12 and top 50 nationally proves that the school can recruit top players without sacrificing academic standards.
"I believe that more strongly today after seeing what this football class is about than when I took this job," Dykes said. "I don't see it as a negative. The only thing that's negative is a bunch of plane flights that I'm not that jacked about."
The class does include 12 California players, including star running back Lonny Powell of Sacramento.
While Cal lost out to Michigan on defensive back Keith Washington of Alabama on signing day, the Bears did close the deal on Hawaii offensive lineman Semisi Uluave and athlete Jaylinn Hawkins of Buena Vista on Wednesday.
Top 25 Class: No
Best in class: Carlos Strickland, WR, Dallas.
Best of the rest: Russell Ude, DE, Atlanta; Lonny Powell, RB, Sacramento, California, Jaylinn Hawkins, ATH, Buena Park, California.
Late addition: Semisi Uluave, OL, Honolulu
One that got away: Keith Washington, CB, Prattville, Alabama.