I have what I call “receipts” guys.
You already know the concept, if not the exact word – the guys who you thought would be special before anyone else, the guys who you are the bandwagon drivers on; no, the guys you built the damn wagon for.
The last few days on the Cal Rivals board got myself and Trace thinking that we should present and discuss our actual “receipts” guys, rather than leave them scattered on Twitter or off in the ether. #accountability and such.
But first, a few basic rules:
Liking a player is not the same thing as having receipts on him. Receipts implies a level of confidence in their success, like a lottery ticket you’re waiting on. You’re calling your shot early.
You can have receipts on a guy only early into his career. This is not the same as picking breakout players for a given season.
You cannot have a receipt for every player in a class, nor should you. That is unreasonable, and smacks of Stephen A. Smith level take-making.
Receipts for obvious studs – Demetris Robertson, for example – are worth less. Having receipts is meant to speak to your discerning eye for talent, and when the talent is so clearly transcendent, your bragging rights are worth much less.
Now, the one everyone knows most famously about is Devante Downs. I have been enamored with his physical potential since he got to campus, and I am still hanging onto that lottery ticket tightly.
Let’s move on to some other “receipts” guys I’ve had in recent classes:
2014: John Porchivina, Quentin Tartabull, Devante Downs, Tre Watson, Aisea Tongilava
2015: Billy McCrary, Brandon Singleton, Malik Psalms, Ryan Gibson, Lonny Powell, Kanawai Noa
2016: Zion Echols, Cameron Goode
2017: Taariq Johnson
2018: Atonio Mafi.
My reasonings differ on each guy, but a lot of the players on this list had outstanding physical attributes coming out of high school, with the caveat of needing longer to develop (Downs, Psalms, Goode). Some were two way players with no clear fit, but I felt confident in their abilities to contribute somewhere (McCrary, Porchivina). Others, showed skillsets or parts of their game that I loved right away (Echols, Noa, Tongilava. And finally, in the case of one guy, I saw him live for the first time (Tartabull).
Also, shout out to Johnny Ragin and Chris Harper, the original receipts guys.
The first guy I can remember as being a "receipt" guy came back in the distant time of 2009. I got my hands on the highlight video that Cal puts together every year for their recruiting class, and a clip of running back taking a squib kick, darting in and out between defenders like a pinball, while leveling one who tried to tackle him. That was Isi Sofele. I quietly drove that bandwagon for a while, and while Sofele's tenure kinda worked out (he had a 1000 yard season in 2011), he didn't achieve the same level of success as previous Ron Gould running backs.
That being said, until around the time of the 2015 class, I hadn't paid too much attention to recruiting. In recent years, it's ramped up a lot, for the very obvious reason that this is my job, and there's been a few guys that I thought looked like future studs.
2015: Noa, Cameron Saffle
2016: Traveon Beck, Jake Curhan
2017: Mike Saffell, Kyle Harmon
My reasoning for liking players may differ a bit from Nam. I like guys where you can see the crispness of their technique in action (Noa, Saffell). Other times I'm in agreement with Nam, with having certain physical attributes, like explosiveness or size, but needing a college program to either reign in technique or put on some size (Curhan, Saffle). Other times, it's a smart player with the wherewithal and awareness to be in the right place at the right time (Harmon). Lastly, there's guys who show exuberance for the school and the sport. With Beck, he played bigger than his size and showed more excitement about going to Cal than about 99% of people that go or have gone there.
Alright, you've seen our lists. Now we're going to run through and give some quick thoughts on where each guy is specifically, before highlighting our respective 2018er.
Porchivina - didn't work out, left program, is now reportedly a Marine. Bummer (for Cal, not the Marines). In my defense, I was on the only person in on Porch.
Tartabull - finally healthy, has played himself back into the safety rotation.
Downs - still holding out hope, but is a starter.
Watson - hit on his skill set and vision being effective, but needs to hold up for a full season run, now that he will be more than a 10 carries a game guy.
Tongilava - thought that if he learned how to be more decisive on the field, his athleticism shown at OLu would shine. Hasn't really made the impact I hoped for.
McCrary - bounced around on both sides of the ball, is now a running back, but out for the year. Flashed a few things here and there in limited carries last season. Still not sure why he doesn't get the ball more.
Singleton - always saw him as a Kenny Lawler type; came in lanky and in need of S&C, but with some serious gamebreakership. This'll be his big chance to break out like Kenny did in '14.
Psalms - exceptionally rare length at defensive back that just hasn't gotten it together. If you believe the DBs board that was caught on film, he may have already been passed up for good.
Gibson - Addison Ooms has the spot that we thought might be Gibson's, a guy whose athleticism I really liked as an interior lineman. Also isn't on the two-deep at the moment, if I recall correctly.
Powell - I'm claiming credit for getting this one correct, because I always wanted him to play linebacker, which is where he is now at the JUCO level.
Noa - Trace just covered him in a long profile that you should read, but he's healthy now. I expect big things from him as well.
Echols - Probably still a bit away.
Goode - He'll be really good next year. This year is a growing pains one where he'll flash all the stuff we saw in HS.
Johnson - Not ready this year, but still intriguing size differential and potential matchup problem.
Which brings me to the 2018er who I am going to bat for...Atonio Mafi. If you watch Mafi on film, he moves with all the grace of a man 70 to 80 pounds lighter than his weight. That's my rational. He's pushing nearly four bills and doesn't carry it at all. So, given some time, I think I can see what the coaches see in recruiting him -- a ridiculous, under the radar lineman who could grow into a multi-year anchor.
Don't worry. I'll wait. I'm used to it.
Noa: Like Nam said, read about him here. In the words of Semisi Uluave, "he's like an eagle"
Saffle: Picking up playing outside linebacker quicker than I could’ve imagined when the shift to a 3-4 was announced. His pass drops look fluid, and he’s showing flashes in zone coverage, almost getting a pick in 7 on 7 work last week. He’s been a solid pass rusher, but it’s getting more consistent, along with a lot of mixing of blitz packages. Poised for a breakout year.
Beck: Played some last year, has been primarily a nickel in spring and fall, is competing with Josh Drayden at the nickel spot. Finally made the target weight that Gerald Alexander was looking for. Hasn’t entirely shown out this fall, but had a solid spring. He’ll play a bit.
Curhan: Starting to get his game under control, worked with Aaron Cochran and Steven Moore a season ago on that. Set to start at right tackle, he’s starting to use his leverage better as Greatwood works with him more.
Saffell: Already moved up to 2nd team center, with Ryan Gibson bumping over to guard. Has had an issue with snaps recently, but his technique is rock-solid in the early going
Harmon: Rawer in person than what I saw on tape, as he’s adjusting to the pace of the game. Still has the hit power that was seen on tape, just needs a bit more time to reign everything in. With Downs and Davison leaving after this year, he’ll have ample opportunity for playing time in 2018.
For the 2018 class, I’m going to bat for another South Bay commit in Mitty’s Nick Alftin. I haven’t seen a player like this come to Cal. Alftin, a legitimate 6’6”, is a volleyball player in addition to playing both ways at Mitty (tight end and defensive end), and boasts a 36” vertical, at around 240 pounds. He’s explosive off the edge, he loves football, and he can go. He’s the kind of athlete that you want on the edge, with height that Cal doesn’t entirely have at the moment, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they want him as a 3-4 DE, because Jerry Azzinaro loves tall linemen than can move. It’ll probably take a bit of time to adjust, it takes time, but I’m a believer in this kid.