If the recruiting pipeline from Greensboro, N.C., to Cal seems rather unusual, it was all created by a coaching change in Kansas after the 2009 season.
It has led to the Bears recruiting five players from Greensboro over the last two years. Three are related, and all five have been playing together for years. Quarterback Zach Maynard, wide receiver Keenan Allen and linebacker Chris McCain are starters.
"I never would have thought we'd all be on the same team," Maynard said. "It's incredible. We're like a family together. We don't have our parents here, so we can all lean on each other."
Maynard and Allen are half-brothers, and freshman wide receiver Maurice Harris is their cousin. McCain has been close friends with all three since childhood, and defensive end Gabe King assimilated into their group when he moved to Greensboro from South Carolina for his sophomore year of high school.
The "Greensboro Five" fantasized about playing college football together, and they are making it happen close to 2,700 miles away from home.
It was Maynard who opened the door for them to play together. After attending the University of Buffalo, he decided to transfer when coach Turner Gill left to take the Jayhawks job. Allen, one of the country's top recruits who had made an oral commitment to Alabama, then decided to play where Maynard chose to go. They previously had visited some West Coast schools, and Maynard was intrigued by coach Jeff Tedford's reputation for his work with quarterbacks. They decided to come to Cal.
McCain, who had orally committed to Oregon, already was thinking about changing his mind after the Ducks made news for some off-field transgressions.
"When Zach got released (from his scholarship at Buffalo), it was like, 'We might as well all ball together,' " McCain said. "Cal was already in my top three. That wasn't a problem. I called Keenan and asked him what he was going to do. He said he just might go to Cal. I said, 'I'm in, too.' "
King was planning to attend Cal no matter what the others did. Four of the five players -- Maynard, Allen, McCain and King -- got together for a signing day news conference at a Greensboro restaurant.
"Me and Keenan were sitting next to each other and I said, 'I can't believe we're about to go to the same school,' " McCain said. "It was very emotional. You say stuff when you're just a kid, but when it happens, it's unbelievable."
Harris, with one year of high school remaining at the time, made his pledge to Cal that summer.
Some have questioned how the five players wound up at Cal. Allen and Maynard were taken on their West Coast visit by Otis Yelverton, their former high school coach and friend of Allen and Maynard's father, Scott Lang. Yelverton paid for the visit out of his own pocket.
But that hasn't prevented some from asking if Yelverton possibly steered the players toward Berkeley.
"Absolutely not," Yelverton said. "People keep wanting to make an issue of this. The bottom line is those kids wanted to play together, and that's that -- nothing more and nothing less."
Maynard and Allen started playing youth football in elementary school. McCain moved to Greensboro at age 7, and a few years later he, Allen and Harris were all on the same team (Maynard, a few years older, was always in a different division growing up). McCain and Allen attended Ranken Elementary School together and became fast friends.
"I'd always go to his house," McCain said. "We'd always hang out. He lived right around the corner. My mom would take me over there, and we'd just talk junk and play video games."
The group grew when McCain and Allen were sophomores in high school and Maynard was a senior. King moved into the area and joined McCain at Page High. Allen and Maynard went to rival Grimsley.
As they negotiated their high school careers and college scouts came calling, they wondered if they could actually wind up at the same college. LSU, Oregon and Clemson were among the schools recruiting Maynard, but he went to Buffalo after taking awhile to get eligible. It was obvious that Allen, King and McCain would be offered by bigger programs, and initially they made commitments to part ways.
The infusion of Greensboro talent has greatly benefitted the Bears.
Allen has established himself as one of the nation's top receivers, and McCain is starting as a true freshman. King has barely played but is expected to have a bigger role next year because starting defensive ends Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu are seniors. Same goes for Harris -- he and Allen could be the only two scholarship receivers coming next season.
The pilgrimage from Greensboro might also allow Cal to improve its recruiting in that part of the country.
"Anytime people come from a certain area and are comfortable, that allows you the opportunity to pass it along to those guys and talk to those people about things that they have in common," Tedford said. "We have a familiarity with the North Carolina area now, so we'll recruit there."