With the program in transition, the University of California received a bit of early good news with the commitment of 4 star Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, CA) running back Khalfani Muhammad today.
"I just thought Cal's an excellent school all-around," said Muhammad. "Of course, I'm going for football and that's a big factor, too, and they just fired their head coach (Jeff Tedford), but I had a talk with their running backs coach Ron Gould.
"He's still there but I don't know if it's 100% if he's still going to be there but I have a good relationship with him and he's gotten a lot of backs to the pros and had a lot of success with running backs. I just thought Cal would be the best place for me.
"If Coach G leaves, I'll just have to evaluate and see what's next from there. I'll take my official visit when the new head coach is in place."
Outside of any coaching uncertainty, the opportunity to attend Cal and earn a degree there was another big drawing card for Muhammad.
"Academics are big for me, too," said Muhammad. "College is about more than football. Getting a degree from Cal is outstanding and for me to get that opportunity, I'm going to take advantage of it."
The speedy 5-8/175 Muhammad runs a blazing 10.54 100 meters and 21.00 200 in winning the California state meet in both events as a junior and is one of the fastest track athletes in the nation and the diminutive but strong running back also puts his speed to good use on the gridiron.
"I'd love to win both titles again this year," said Muhammad. "Not many people win back-to-back.
"I remember Jahvid Best when he won state," said Muhammad. "He ran a 10.31 so he was one of the fastest ever."
In his senior season, Muhammad ran for 1420 yards and 18 td's to go along with another 300 yards and two more touchdown receptions, as well.
As a sophomore, Muhammad ran for 851 yards and 13 touchdowns along with hauling in 21 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown, as well.
Muhammed had a chance to take an unofficial visit to Cal in October and felt that Cal was a good fit for him.
"Cal's a young team and plays a lot of freshmen and sophomores and I think they've got good things coming up," said Muhammad."
Muhammad's teammate Koa Farmer, a junior linebacker for Notre Dame, committed to Cal last month and will be the third Notre Dame player to play for the Bears in the last half decade including offensive tackle Sam DeMartinis, who graduated this year from Cal. Both were named first team All-Serra League this season, with Muhammad also name Co-League MVP.
Farmer is close friends with Muhammad and having to tackle the shifty back in practice helps him appreciate how talented a player the Bears will be getting.
"Khalfani's one of my best friends," said Farmer. "He's one of those down-to-earth guys and he'll go to war with you. We got really close the last few years. It's crazy that we'll be able to play together and now we'll be bound for like playing at Cal.
"We talked about playing together but I couldn't count on it because Khalfani's his own guy and you never know what he's going to do but it's great that it's workng out that way. It made my day."
"That would be great playing with Koa," said Muhammad, "I've been playing with him now for two years and if I can play with him three or four more years, that would be great. He's competitive and we go at it in practice and make it fun."
As a linebacker, Farmer's spent his share of time trying to track down his speedy friend in practice and knows very well that you better strike quick if you want to bring Muhammad down.
"You gotta get him before he starts going," said Farmer. "Take a good angle cause he has world class speed and you won't catch him."
Watching Muhammad play, it's hard not to think of former Crenshaw and current Oregon running back D'Anthony Thomas, with similar size and speed.
"I actually played against Mamba when I was at Granada Hills High School in ninth grade before I transferred to Notre Dame," said Farmer. "We played them in the first round of the city playoffs and I was the starting safety.
"There's definitely similarities between them with how fast and how quick they are out there and with their similar size and strength for their size.
"Khalfani's strong, believe that. He has to be strong at his size. He's really strong."
For now, Muhammad's anxious to hear who the new head man will be at Cal.
"That would be great to find out soon in the next week or two," said Muhammad. "That way, I can get a relationship with him and move on from there."
The Bears beat out #1-ranked Notre Dame, Arkansas, UCLA, Washington and many others for Muhammad's services.
To view Muhammad's junior season highlights, use the embedded viewer below: