BERKELEY -- Don't count on much signing-day drama from Cal, which expects to complete a 20-player class Wednesday that represents a decent comeback from a 1-11 season last fall.

"I think they've actually closed pretty well, all things considered," said Brandon Huffman, national recruiting analyst for Scout.com.

Six weeks ago, coach Sonny Dykes boldly predicted a top-3 class in the Pac-12. "I don't think it's going to be top three," Huffman said, "but probably in the top half."

Adam Gorney, recruiting expert for Rivals.com, agrees. "In terms of coming off such a bad season, they've done a pretty respectable job of getting some really talented guys in there late."

There were believed to be only a few variables at play on the eve of signing day:

  • The Bears hope to hold onto long-time verbal commit Tre Watson, who rushed for more than 3,400 yards and 48 touchdowns last season for Centennial-Corona.

    Washington and new coach Chris Petersen have made a strong, late push for Watson, but Gorney isn't convinced they will pry him away.

    "I don't think it's absolutely done, but at this point I don't see any indication he's going to change," Gorney said.

  • The Bears also would like to get one more player on the defensive line. The more likely candidate is four-star defensive tackle Marcus Griffin of Bellevue, Wash., who tweeted he will choose Wednesday morning among Cal, Arizona and Mississippi State.


    Advertisement

    Cal has gotten commitments from five defensive players since Art Kaufman was hired as defensive coordinator two weeks ago, but Huffman wonders if it was in time to land Griffin.

    "That allowed other schools to make a move on him," said Huffman, who believes Griffin will pick Arizona.

  • A longshot is four-star defensive end Nifae Lealao of Capital Christian-Sacramento, recruited by Stanford in the fall but now seemingly headed to Vanderbilt.

    The connection? Former Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason was hired Jan. 18 as the Commodores' head coach. Because of that, Huffman suggested, Lealao enjoys "a comfort level with those Vandy coaches."

    Lealao was on the Cal campus the weekend Mason made his move to Nashville, Tenn., but he visited Vanderbilt last weekend.

    Even if the Bears whiff on Griffin and Lealao, they scored with several significant prospects in recent weeks that have strengthened their class.

    A month ago, Cal's class was ranked in the upper-50s nationally, but the Bears have added seven prospects since Jan. 19. Scout and Rivals now have the Bears rated No. 43 nationally.

    In particular, Gorney said middle linebacker Chandler Leniu of St. John Bosco-Bellflower and outside linebacker Aisea Tongilava of Lutheran-Orange are "difference-makers" at positions the Bears needed help.

    The Bears fielded one of the nation's worst defenses last season, and 11 of their commits are defensive players, with at least one more likely to end up playing on that side of the ball.

    Four of those are junior college transfers who figure to compete for significant roles. In addition to three who came on board mid-year and will participate in spring ball, cornerback Darius White of Itawamba JC in Mississippi is expected to sign Wednesday.

    "They're hitting the jucos hard," Huffman said, "That shows they know they need a quick fix on the defensive side."

    Things appeared to get even better for the Bears Tuesday night. Rivals.com reported that Hamilton Anoa'l, a three-star outside linebacker from Serra-San Mateo, had an 11th-hour change-of-heart and flipped from Northwestern to Cal.

    For more on Cal sports, see the Bear Talk blog at ibabuzz.com/beartalk. Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/JeffFaraudo.