[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image="2571" img_size="large"][vc_column_text]National Columnist Mike Farrell is here with the top corners landed in the portal, reasons why Cal is the sleeper to watch in the PAC-12 North and his annual list of potential steals in round two of the NFL Draft.
Finishing up the look at the top transfers committed from the portal we look at the cornerbacks.
1. Eli Ricks (Alabama)
Huge talent going from one DB factory to another. Ricks was phenomenal in 2020 as a true freshman before taking a step back last season due to injuries. If he returns to form he's a potential Top-10 pick in 2023.
2. Tanner McCalister (Ohio State)
Perfect marriage of player and coach effectively transferring together. McCalister thrived in Jim Knowles' system at Oklahoma State, where they were one of the top defenses in the country last season. He and Denzel Burke will make a heck of a duo for the Buckeyes.
3. Jay Shaw (Wisconsin)
The All-Pac 12 corner will step in and start immediately for the Badgers, who need to replace their top six defensive backs. He joins fellow transfers Cedrick Dort (Kentucky) and Justin Clark (Toledo) that will lead a revamped cornerback room. Shaw is a very sticky guy in coverage who allowed only a 47.5% completion rate when targeted last season.
4. Jarrick Bernard (LSU)
The second former Cowboy on this list, Bernard took the opportunity to replace Ricks at LSU. A four-year starter at Oklahoma State, he's a great veteran addition for a team with a lot of playing time available.
5. Greg Brooks Jr. (LSU)
The second LSU incoming transfer, Brooks was a three-year starter for Arkansas. He and fellow Razorback Joe Foucha should both be in line to start for the Tigers.
We continue to roll with the dark horses in each Power Five division with Cal in the Pac-12 North and five reasons why they could surprise.
1. Schedule, schedule, schedule
The Golden Bears had a phenomenally lucky draw - they get conference games with Oregon, UCLA, Stanford, and Washington all at home, and only have one true tough road trip to USC. Yes, they've got an out-of-conference game at Notre Dame, but that doesn't matter for conference standings.
2. Justin Wilcox
Wilcox is one of the genuinely under-rated and under-appreciated head coaches in the country. Recruiting at Cal is not easy - they run into a lot of the same issues that their cross-bay area rivals Stanford do when it comes to getting kids into school. However, Wilcox has managed to put together teams year after year that outperform their recruiting rankings. He's a great defensive mind who maximizes his players.
3. Impact Transfers
I love the fit of Jackson Sirmon in Wilcox's 3-4. He's a prototype middle backer for them. Mason Starling was a great JUCO addition of a kid who has a big frame at wide receiver. But the biggest one is obviously Jack Plummer, who comes over from Purdue after he split time with Aidan O'Connell last season. He'll have to replace Chase Garbers behind center if the Bears are going to make noise.
4. Back to Normalcy
Out of all the Power Five schools, Cal has been affected more than almost any by the pandemic and natural disasters. Between wildfires, California state mandates, Pac-12 rules, and just plain bad luck, the Golden Bears have played in fewer games and had more rescheduled than any other Power Five team. Just getting back to some semblance of normalcy will do wonders for the program.
5. Returning Offensive Line
Despite losing McKade Mettauer to Oklahoma via the Portal and Valentino Daltso to graduation, this line is going to be very good once again, and it all starts in the middle. Matthew Cindric is one of the better centers in the conference, as is Ben Coleman at guard. Brian Driscoll will step in to replace Mettauer, and he looked good when called upon last season. Tackle is a little shakier, as Will Craig struggled last season, but if the former four-star can play up to his potential, they'll have a really good unit.
— And finally here are 10 guys who will likely land in round two or later who will be steals.
S Lewis Cine, Georgia — Cine is the hardest hitting defensive back in the draft.
WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State — Lack of QB play killed his stats and chances.
S Jalen Pitre, Baylor — A superior athlete who closes as well as anyone.
OT Tyler Smith, Tulsa — He’s better than some tackles projected to go round one and is just starting to reach his potential.
WR George Pickens, Georgia — He drops less passes than anyone else in the draft.
WR Skyy Moore, Western Michigan — He tests off the charts and adjusts well to bad balls.
CB Roger McCreary, Auburn — Technically sound and rarely beaten he improved so much this past season.
DT Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma — A beast gap shooter who can chase.
LB Christian Harris, Alabama — A superior athlete with great instincts and the best closing speed at his position.
LB Leo Chenal, Wisconsin — Huge and athletic he’s a project but well worth the risk.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]