California Signs 20 Football Players to National Letters-of-intent
Feb. 6, 2002
BERKELEY, Calif. - Introducing his first recruiting class at the University of California, new head football coach Jeff Tedford announced today the signing of 20 players to national letters-of-intent. The group includes 17 high school seniors and three junior college players.
Tedford, the former offensive coordinator for the nationally No. 2 ranked Oregon Ducks, recruited almost exclusively in the state of California. Eighteen of the Golden Bears' 20 new players live within the state, with six from Northern California and 13 hailing from the Southland. The lone out-of-state recruit is quarterback Steven Levy, the Bergen Record's North New Jersey Player of the Year from Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J.
'We have addressed many of our needs at certain positions, particularly at defensive back,' said Tedford. 'We feel very good about the local young men who have committed to us. Not only are they great players, but they're people of great character. We feel the same way about the class as a whole.'
Overcoming a late start in recruiting due to his December hiring, Tedford and his staff attracted several quality players to the Cal program. In fact, 15 of its 20 recruits received either All-America or All-Region designations.
'We have upgraded our athleticism throughout the entire recruiting class, especially on the offensive line,' added Tedford. 'We've also increased our speed at some positions. Our coaches did an outstanding job evaluating talent through the early part of January and were excellent in the transition to put together a successful class.'
Cal inked 12 players on offense. Besides Levy, they include: running back Marcus O'Keith (Narbonne High, Carson), wide receivers David Gray (McClymonds High, Richmond), Jonathan Makonnen (City College of San Francisco, Menlo Park) and Randy Bundy (Grover Cleveland High, Northridge), tight ends Brandon Hall (Orange Coast College, Anaheim Hills) and Eric Beegun (Palisades High, Pacific), offensive tackles Paul Fraley (The Bishop's School, Ramona) and Michael Gray (Bishop O'Dowd High, Oakland), center/guards Scott Smith (Brea-Orinda High, Brea) and Erik Robertson (Apple Valley High, Apple Valley), and placekicker Kevin Johnson (Red Bluff Union High, Red Bluff).
On defense, the Bears received commitments from eight standout players, including five highly-decorated defensive backs. They are: linebacker Andy Briner (De La Salle High, Lafayette), cornerbacks Tim Mixon (Dominguez High, Compton), Donnie McCleskey (Bishop Amat High, La Puente), David Beverly (Wilson High, Long Beach), Wale Forrester (Venice High, Los Angeles) and Nick Banks, and defensive ends Monte Parson (Los Angeles Harbor College, Compton) and Jason Miller (Beverly Hills High, Los Angeles).
O'Keith and David Gray were both named 2001 pre-season All-America by SuperPrep magazine, adding big-play athletes at offensive skill positions for the Bears.
In O'Keith, Cal has added an explosive ball-carrier which Prep Star magazine calls 'one of the best running backs in the state. Named All-West Region by Prep Star and second team 'Best in the West' by the Long Beach Press Telegram, the Carson, Calif. product ended his sterling career at Narbonne High with more than 3,300 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns. The 6-1, 190-pound brother of current Cal women's basketball star, Latasha O'Keith, he was selected to the California All-Star team that played in CaliFlorida Bowl III last month.
As one of the Bears' prize catches locally, David Gray is ranked No. 5 among wide receivers in the West and No. 25 nationally by Student Sports magazine. The 6-3, 205-pound Richmond resident averaged 30.9 yards-per-catch with 23 receptions for 710 yards and 10 touchdowns. The All-City performer-who led McClymonds to an 11-1 record and its first Silver Bowl title in 14 years-was selected All-West Region by Prep Star and 'Best in the West' second team by theLong Beach Press Telegram.
Levy, regarded as one of the top five quarterbacks in New Jersey, threaded 86 of 126 passes (68%) for 1,420 yards and 11 touchdowns with only four interceptions in propelling Don Bosco Prep to a 9-1 record last fall. The Bergen County Offensive Player of the Year (Newark Star Ledger) also rushed for more than 600 yards and six TDs in 2001. The 6-1, 220-pounder earned Madison Square Garden Network's Player of the Week in consecutive weeks when he engineered upset victories over Bergen Cathlolic (No. 1 in New Jersey) and St. Joe's of Montvale (No. 10 in nation). As the school's starting quarterback, Levy led Don Bosco to a 24-3 record during his career. Two of those losses were suffered by a combined three points. As a junior, he passed for 1,730 yards and 16 TDs with only three interceptions for a team that went 11-1 and also featured 2,000-yard rusher Ryan Grant (Notre Dame).
Makonnen, a key member of San Francisco City College's 2001 national champions, caught 44 passes for 738 yards and five touchdowns last year. He previously shined at Woodside High School, where he hunted down 62 passes for 1,246 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior, earning All-County Player of the Year and second team All-State honors. Following his senior campaign, he played in the 2000 Cal-Tex Shrine All-Star Game.
An All-West Region choice by Prep Star magazine, Bundy made 35 receptions for 713 yards and six TDs for a Grover Cleveland team that completed only 69 passes all season.
Hall, an All-State selection and honorable mention All-America, snared 26 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns for Orange Coast College.
Beegun, a two-time All-West performer at Palisades High, caught 45 passes for 921 yards and 13 touchdowns combined during his junior and senior seasons. In 2001, the 6-3, 230-pound tight end corralled 20 passes for 300 yards and four TDs.
Another All-West Region selection by Prep Star was the 270-pound Fraley, a two-time All-CIF selection who played on the 2000 Coastal League champions and Division IV runner-ups that posted a 12-0 regular-season mark. He also starred in baseball at The Bishop's School, setting a CIF record with 13 RBI in one game in 2000.
Michael Gray, the largest recruit at 6-6, 285 pounds, is a late bloomer who only played football his senior season at Bishop O'Dowd High in Oakland.
Smith is a two-time team captain for Brea-Olinda High School, which won its first CIF Division II Championship in 38 years in 2001. The 6-4, 275-pound lineman was named first team Orange League and All-County as a key member of the 13-0 Wildcats.
Another 275-pounder, Robertson was named first team All-Desert/Mountain Region by the Los Angeles Times as an offensive lineman at Apple Valley. He also was named San Bernardino County Offensive Lineman of the Year and was voted All-County first team.
Johnson, who was listed as one of the nation's Top 100 prospects and a 2001 pre-season All-America by Street & Smith's and Student Sports, kicked a CIF North Section record 19 career field goals during his three seasons at Red Bluff. He set a CIF North Section mark by kicking two field goals of 50 yards or more in one game, converting on 53- and 51-yarders.
A starter on back-to-back national championship teams at nearby De La Salle High School, Briner is a two-time first team All-Bay Area prep team linebacker who racked up 75 tackles and 7.5 sacks last season. SchoolSports.com named him one of the nation's Top 100 prospects, while the Contra Costa Times listed him as one of the Top 15 football
Union High. Six of those field goals came from 50 yards or beyond, with his longest kick a 53-yarder. A three-time first team All-State selection, Johnson also booted a career 106 touchbacks on kickoffs-a new national high school record. recruits in the Bay Area. His breakout year came in 2000, when he led the eventual national champions with 17.5 sacks.
Mixon, a multi-talented star who played defensive back, running back, wide receiver and return specialist at Dominguez High, was named to the Long Beach Press-Telegram's 2001 Dream Team. He made seven interceptions this past season, while his versatility was best illustrated by the breakdown of his 13 touchdowns in 2001-six rushing, four receiving, two on kickoff returns and one via interception.
Projected as a cornerback by Cal coaches after enjoying a remarkable prep career at running back, McCleskey rushed for 2,236 yards and 29 touchdowns, and caught 11 passes for 331 yards (30.1 avg.) and three more TDs at Bishop Amat last year. He also pocketed 55 tackles at strong safety, gaining him San Gabriel Valley Region Player of the Year honors from the Los Angeles Times.
Beverly, who once rushed for 262 yards and four touchdowns in Wilson's homecoming game against Long Beach Millikan High, is another quality athlete who will be converted to cornerback. A Los Angeles Times first team All-South Coast Region pick, the 6-0, 190-pound Long Beach product ripped off 951 yards and 13 touchdowns on 113 carries and snagged 21 passes for 216 yards during his senior year.
Forrester, another star running back who will be converted to cornerback, rushed for 1,350 yards and 13 touchdowns for Venice High last year. He averaged 9.7 yards per carry as a senior.
Yet another running back projected at corner, Banks averaged 103 rushing yards per game as a senior at Kearny High, churning out 721 yards in seven games. The 5-11, 185-pound speedster was rated one of the Top 10 players in San Diego County last year after earning second team All-Western League notice as a junior.
Parson may be the most intriguing player signing today. After a gilded career at Carson High School, the 6-3, 270-pound lineman enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1994 and served more than 100 days on a battleship in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Strike. The Compton, Calif. product returned to football in 2000, earning first team All-America (JC Gridwire) and Western States Conference Player of the Year honors last fall at L.A. Harbor. He undressed opponents for 57 tackles (including 12 for losses), seven sacks, 19 quarterback hurries, nine QB knockdowns, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and three pass deflections. The 25-year-old Parson was rated the third-best JuCo defensive end nationally, as he contributed greatly to a rushing defense that ranked first in California and second in the country.
Reeling off 60 tackles, five sacks, two pass deflections and three field goal blocks in 2001, the 6-5, 215-pound Miller earned second team All-Bay League accolades at Beverly Hills High.