BERKELEY — Cal added 14 players on national football signing day and welcomed back veteran offensive lineman Matthew Cindric.
But the Bears also said goodbye to starting quarterback Jack Plummer, who entered the transfer portal. Plummer threw 21 touchdowns in his lone season with the Bears while operating behind a sub-par offensive line.
Coach Justin Wilcox declined to comment directly on Plummer’s status during his Zoom news conference announcing the Bears’ recruiting class. But he hinted that the one-time Purdue player would be moving on while also referencing backup redshirt sophomore Kai Millner, who figures to be the front-runner for the starting job unless he exits.
“Both Jack and Kai, who’ve been great for us, those guys have individual decisions to make. It’s not my place to announce their intentions,” Wilcox said. “I’ll tell you we’re going to be very active recruiting the quarterback position — high school and transfer quarterback.”
Millner saw action off the bench in three games last fall, including against Oregon when he was 8 for 11 for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
Cindric’s return for a sixth season is a welcome development for the Bears. He has started 33 games, splitting time at center and guard, but was lost to a season-ending injury after six games in 2022. It was widely assumed he was done.
Wilcox said he continued to have conversations with the 6-foot-4, 295-pounder after surgery in the fall, and said, “This is not surprising. However, it’s great news.”
Cal did not sign any offensive lineman on Wednesday and that will continue to be a priority, Wilcox said. The Bears did land Frederick Williams III, who played receiver at Serra High in Southern California through his sophomore season before making a significant growth spurt to 6-5, 260 pounds. He will get the chance to show what he can do on both lines but may be a project.
The Bears bolstered their thin running back corps, led by returning star freshman Jaydn Ott, by signing Oregon transfer Byron Cardwell, who rushed for 417 yards as a freshman and was on the Doak Walker Award watch list before being injured in Week 2 this season.
New offensive coordinator Jake Spavital will find ways the utilize both backs, Wilcox said. “We think the world of Jaydn and he’s going to do great things for us,” Wilcox said. “Byron can have a huge impact as well and there’s no reason you can’t also run some two-back stuff.”
Cal also signed running back Jaivian Thomas, who rushed for more than 2,500 yards and 30 touchdowns this season at McClymonds High in Oakland.
The Bears’ highest-rated high school recruit is wide receiver Nyziah Hunter, a consensus four-star prospect from Salinas High.
“Really talented all-around athlete,” Wilcox said. “He’s got good size and he can really run. We feel like he’s got a really high ceiling because of those physical tools and he’s just scratching the surface.”
The 14-player class, which Wilcox said could swell to about two dozen by February, features four defensive backs, including transfer cornerbacks Nohl Williams of UNLV and Kaylin Moore of Colorado.
None of the nine high school players who signed Wednesday will be early enrollees, Wilcox confirmed.
2022 CAL FOOTBALL SIGNEES
DL Tiu Afalava (6-2, 275) Bishop Amat HS, Baldwin Park, CA
Was in an Under Armour TV ad with Tom Brady and Morgan Freeman
ILB Sergio Allen (6-1, 225) Clemson, Fort Valley, GA
Consensus 4-star high school prospect has played as a backup at Clemson
DE Zurich Ashford (6-3, 255) Arbor View HS, Las Vegas, NV
Totaled 16 sacks in his 2-year HS varsity career on teams that were 17-5
RB Byron Cardwell Jr. (6-0, 206) Oregon, San Diego, CA
Rushed for 493 yards in 2 seasons at Oregon, injured most of 2022
WR Nyziah Hunter (6-2, 200) Salinas HS, Salinas, CA
Consensus 4-star prospect caught 22 touchdown passes past 2 years
CB Matthew Littlejohn (5-11, 180) Citrus College, San Antonio, TX
Two-time all-conference in JC ball, arrives with 2 years’ eligibility
TE Ben Marshall (6-4, 220) Blackman HS, Murfreesboro, TN
Named offensive MVP for a 10-3 team that reached state playoffs
OLB Ryan McCulloch (6-2, 224) Rio Honda Prep, Duarte, CA
Colorado and WSU also recruited him, as did 3 Ivy League schools
CB Kaylin Moore (5-10, 185) Colorado, Westlake Village
Made 14 starts in 2 years at Boulder after originally being recruited by Cal
RB Jaivian Thomas (5-10, 175) McClymonds HS, Oakland, CA
Rushed for 2,528 yards with 30 TDs this season for 2-AA state finalist
ILB Cade Uluave (6-1, 230) Mountain Ridge HS, Jordan, UT
Athletic player who also was productive as a running back in high school
DB Sailasa Vadrawale (5-11, 170) Rancho Cotate HS, Concord, CA
Three-star prep was born in Berkeley; picked Cal over Washington
OL/DL Frederick Williams III (6-5, 250) Junipero Serra HS, Gardena, CA
Played receiver in HS before growth spurt – will be tried on both lines
CB Nohl Williams (6-1, 185) UNLV, Oxnard, CA
Second-team All-Mountain West pick had 40 tackles, 3 INTs for UNLV
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