One of my sneaky-favorite offseason rituals is the construction of the Long-Term Potential watchlist, which is now in its third iteration. For those of you guys who are not familiar, Trace and myself go through and select ten underclassmen (redshirt sophomore being the cutoff point) who we feel will make up the core of the program in the foreseeable future. It’s yielded some pretty decent, albeit not always perfect, results on my end:
This list figures to look significantly different, as the team is heavily senior driven now, and will be essentially rebuilding again after 2021, when the last of the COVID-returning guys is off the depth chart.
So, just some notes in reference to those 2020 guys:
-Craig, Anusiem, Johnson, and Mettauer aged out.
-Polk and Casey (sigh) transferred
-Paster is likely to play a significant role on defense this year, and ran alongside Iosefa, but the spring game made me think he needs more weight gain at the moment.
1. Jeremiah Hunter – He was #9 as a freshman, and #6 before we even saw him on the field. Right now, all we have are a handful of spring game snaps of public viewing, but I continue to hold strong to my belief that this kid will be the future of the Cal passing attack, and I’ve heard it whispered (insisted?) he would have been a starter if not for last year’s injuries. Anyway, I’m buying the stock.
2. Orin Patu – When he first signed, he was the Cam Goode Successor, and it finally looks like that comparison is going to pay off. A statistical terror all spring, Patu has completed the same weight gain that Goode did, and I don’t think the Bears will miss a beat once the 6th year senior graduates. (He’s also technically the oldest guy on the list at redshirt soph, but you know. Exceptions.)
3. Stanley McKenzie – The logic for this one is pretty simple. I wasn’t sure of this by watching the film alone from high school, but he is undeniable — bigass nose tackles don’t grow on trees, let alone ones that were set to start their first year. At one point, Benji Palu tweeted and deleted a clip of McKenzie walking back some of our starting OLs, partly to keep it a secret. But it’s out, and it’s over now.
4. Mo Iosefa – There’s a reason why it came down to the wire for Iosefa, with USC and Oregon desperately trying to pick him off at the end. Another guy it was hard to get a full feel for as a freshman, his spring performance showed length, physicality, and disruption. He should have the spot locked down in the fall, and the next couple to come.
5. Craig Woodson – As another long guy who should see serious playing time this fall — truthfully, I misremembered him aging out because he’s been in the conversation for so long — I am hoping Watson gets more out of him and the rest of the DBs.
6. Damien Moore – Don’t Sleep On Him. While limited in touches last year, he showed plenty of raw talent and vision that make him the heir apparent to Chris Brown (and quite frankly, a good guy to have in the mix even when Chris Brown is still here.)
7. J. Michael Sturdivant – The Bears have no shortage of #1 receiver candidates for the future — for god’s sake, Mavin Anderson didn’t even make the list! — but this spot goes to the guy we are currently calling a Kenny-Keenan hybrid. Long strider with an insane catch radius.
8. Myles Williams – Freakishly athletic, explosive body that is incredibly intriguing. Wish he had played as a senior to see some updated film, especially since the Bears are planning to size him up for the 3-4.8.
9. Jermaine Terry – In another year, Jermaine Terry could regret making me rank him this low. The work is very much in progress with him still, but all the raw tools, and the size particularly, are tantalizing. By 2022, if all developmental things are normal, he should be in the top 3 of this list.
10. Justyn Martin (2022) – Without the benefit of more freshmen to pick from right now, Martin gets the nod partly because there’s only one other player in the pool, but partly because he is long framed, and strong armed. I ran the Vince Young comp by some folks in the know, and they don’t hate it…
– Kaleb Higgins – I have too much at stake to abandon this now. Him and Tyson McWilliams in 2022, baby.
– Kaleb Elarms-Orr – Almost certainly would have made this list without the ACL tear, but another guy in the Goode-Patu space linebacker chain.