Tosh Lupoi has spent 10 seasons as a player or coach at California, and right now he has the Bears making tracks - especially on the recruiting trail.
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Rivals.com on Monday named Lupoi, Cal's defensive line coach, the Recruiter of the Year for the 2010 class.
"While recruiting is a team effort and the whole staff played vital roles in our recruiting success, Tosh is worthy of being recognized as doing an exceptional job," Bears coach Jeff Tedford said. "His dedication to develop strong relationships and communicate the great opportunities that Cal provides makes him a very strong recruiter."
Lupoi was involved in signing many of Cal's top recruits, including Chris Martin, Keenan Allen, Nick Forbes, Gabe King, Cecil Whiteside and Chris McCain.
"We're extremely fired up for the class that we were able to pull in and feel like it's one of the better classes in Cal history," Lupoi said. "It's a class that we can really build on and most likely depend on as far as individuals who can compete early and be involved in the great times that are occurring at Cal and the growing success we're establishing here.
"I'm blessed for what I represent at this university. The combination of the education as well as playing ball at a high level makes nearly everyone in the country - even before this process begins - accessible."
Lupoi said he has seen considerable advancement in the program. The 2010 signing class might be that next giant step the Bears need to keep climbing up the Pac-10 ranks.
Cal made news when it received early commitments from Forbes and Whiteside, the No. 2 and No. 4 outside linebackers in the country, respectively. But the way the Bears closed was the bigger story.
Martin, a five-star defensive end, switched his pledge from Notre Dame to Cal in mid-December. In the days leading up to National Signing Day, Allen - the nation's best safety prospect - reneged on his commitment to Alabama. Cal because a serious consideration, and ultimately landed the five-star standout.
McCain, Allen's teammate at Greensboro (N.C.) Northern Guilford, backed out of his Oregon pledge to sign with Cal.
"Down to earth and cool," McCain said when asked to describe Lupoi. "Even though I was committed to Oregon, he stuck with me. He was still close with me. He told me I always had a home there. I really respected the dude. He's real young, too, and I can relate to him.
"All the other recruiting trips we always talked to those older guys and there was some stuff we just didn't understand. ... He explained stuff just better than everybody else did."
King, who's originally from North Carolina but is attending Eugene (Ore.) South Eugene for his senior year, picked the Bears over a host of other suitors. McCain and King are outstanding defensive ends.
"Every one of them has an opportunity to make an immediate impact here," Lupoi said about the Bears' top 2010 prospects. "It will be determined by how hard they work from this point on and do their job academically to continue to grow and improve. There's no question in our minds those are guys who can come in here and have an immediate impact on our program.
"These are the types of guys who can take you over the top. You can always count on Cal for competing in the Pac-10. These are the kinds of individuals we feel like that can … hopefully put us over the top in the future to really take this conference over."
Many prospects - even ones that decide to sign elsewhere - have said Lupoi is a phenomenal recruiter. He sells Cal's program, and he offers a rare personal touch.
Still in his 20s, Lupoi is not far removed from his playing days. Recruits say he understands their issues and has a unique way of developing relationships.
"He had a laid-back approach, it wasn't like he was trying to sell you something or twist information," Forbes said. "He was really helpful just sitting back. When I had questions, he had all the right answers for me. He did present information to me, but it wasn't like, 'We have the best this, or ours is better than this or that.' He was trying to aid me in making my decision.
"That took the stress out of the deciding factor. You get some coaches who are trying to overpower you with all this information that you really don't need in making your decision. It made it a lot easier to sit down and decide what I really wanted out of a school."
Lupoi indicated that when prospects get on campus, it's hard for them not to keep Cal in their top five. That may be true, but Lupoi is an incredible resource for Tedford and the program. He played at Cal. He's a young coach loaded with potential. And he is a phenomenal recruiter - as this recruiting cycle showed.
"Instead of taking the approach of offering and going after hundreds of kids, we take pride in the evaluation process and then really targeting a select, elite few," Lupoi said. "You feel confident enough about the university and yourself, that you can get in touch with these individuals and show them why they should come out to Cal.
"California, and the academics, and the coaching staff and what Coach Tedford has established here is a pretty phenomenal combination."
Lupoi may think that the Cal program sells itself, but he has shown that he can close the deal.
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