Usually the big recruiting news comes from an all-star game when a slew or recruits commit or on National Signing Day when the last remaining blue chip guys put pen to paper and make their choices. This year, the biggest recruiting news in the Pac-12 is coming on a Monday in January and it is huge news. Steve Sarkisian has poached Tosh Lupoi from Cal, which is a big get for Washington, but it is an even bigger blow to Cal that basically makes it open season on the excellent recruiting class that they were putting together in Berkeley. A recruiting class filled with recruits who were also eying UCLA and may start inching their way towards Westwood in the next two weeks.
Since being hired by Cal in 2008, Lupoi has emerged as the top recruiter in the Pac-12. There isn't even a little bit of doubt about that either. Lupoi was named National Recruiter of the Year by Rivals in 2008 for the work he did putting together that class and he was topping himself this year. The Bears had a sterling recruiting class lined up, headed by their pickups at the Army All-American Game and almost all of them were recruited by Lupoi.
Shaq Thompson, the number three player in the country? A Lupoi guy. Ellis McCarthy, the number two defensive tackle in the country? A Lupoi guy. Jordan Payton? Yup, another Lupoi guy. Michael Barton and Freddie Tagaloa? Also Lupoi guys.
Lupoi was the Golden Bears' ace, accounting for almost all of their top recruits with all speaking glowingly after committing and describing the great relationship they had with him as much as the school or program itself.
Now that Lupoi is gone, it's open season and you can bet that Jim Mora, Adrian Klemm and the rest of the coaching staff that has done a fantastic job so far will be on these Cal commits. Thompson and McCarthy are the two prizes of that recruiting class and both were considering UCLA before hopping on the Lupoi bandwagon. Payton was also considering the Bruins and all of the Cal commits could reconsider things now, getting a look at the new UCLA staff that wasn't around when they originally chose the Bears.
It's not just the Cal commits that can be had now either. The Bears were in on several top uncommitted guys that the Bruins were chasing. Now that Lupoi, who was the point recruiter on them as well, isn't with the Bears, the Bruins just got a leg up. That includes someone like Aziz Shittu, who is as high as number 27 nationally on Rivals' top 100. Considered a Cal lean, Shittu was also considering UCLA and we can already see the fallout of Lupoi's move with him.
He's not the only one surprised at Lupoi's move. Shaq Thompson tweeted something similar.
This doesn't mean either is UCLA bound or eliminating Cal. As Shaq said, he has thinking to do. I'm sure all these kids to. They have a big decision coming up and maybe they still like Cal, but if you need proof that Lupoi was a major, major part of the Cal recruiting class, you have it right there.
Of course, the other side of this is that Washington just got stronger. This is a great hire by Sarkisian. We'll have to see how Lupoi's credibility is hurt by leaving Cal after selling kids on Cal solidarity, but even if it's hurt, he's one hell of a recruiter. Combined with Justin Wilcox taking over at defensive coordinator, Sarkisian did a lot to strengthen his program in the last couple weeks.
For now though, this is about Cal and the hit the Golden Bears are going to take. Lupoi is gone and that recruiting class is on shaky ground. UCLA has a chance to pounce and More has a chance to walk away from his first National Signing Day with a gem of a class. It'll be a fun 16 days to National Signing Day in Westwood.