Perhaps no position will be more important this spring than wide receiver, where the Bears are trying to sift through a collection of players that includes just one that has ever caught a pass in a game (LaReylle Cunningham, 8 career receptions).
Despite his inexperience, redshirt freshman Michael Calvin appears to be etched in stone at one wide receiver spot. Calvin came to Cal as one of the top prep prospects in the country and didn’t disappoint in 2007, opening eyes on the scout team and setting himself up nicely to be a major contributor immediately in 2008. Calvin stood out as early as fall camp, where his potential to become a star was almost immediately evident. Calvin may not have the speed that the Bears’ recent crop of receivers had, but he’s a 6-foot-3, 200-pound, athletic player that catches everything.
Who plays alongside Calvin becomes a more murky question. Cal has listed sophomore Jeremy Ross as a starter opposite Calvin. Ross, who will be a redshirt sophomore, was a part-time player on special teams last season who obviously lacks experience. Ross didn’t come to Cal with headliner credentials but is an athletic specimen and the Bears seem high on his potential. A couple of days ago, the Bears held a special weightlifing session where players really tried to max out and possibly set some school records, and Ross reportedly squatted 525 pounds.
The x-factor in the receiving corps could be Nyan Boateng. Boateng has rejoined the team after being suspended for the fall semester because of his role in a domestic dispute in Florida. Boateng, who transferred to Cal from Florida, had to sit out last season anyway because of the NCAA transfer rule, but it would have been nice if Cal could have had him around to practice. In spite of that, the Bears really are counting on Boateng to be a contributor. Coach Jeff Tedford said Tuesday that Boateng is doing well and he was looking forward to watching him this spring (the legal charges against Boateng for the incident last summer in Florida were dropped).
“Nyan is doing fine,” Tedford said. “Nyan is a guy who we’re anxious to see how he responds in the spring time. He’s worked hard in the classroom and he’s worked hard in winter conditioning.”
Boateng may be behind the curve a little bit because he wasn’t around last year, but there’s no questioning his talent. He went to Florida as one of the nation’s top recruits. When he participated in spring practice for Cal last year, he sometimes looked like the most talented athlete on the field.
Cunningham should also be in the mix, although his status this spring is unclear because he recently underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. Tedford said Cunningham will at least miss the first week of the spring. The team breaks for 10 days after that because of spring break, and Tedford said Cunningham may return then, but wasn’t sure.
Tedford said it was almost a sure thing that at least one of the incoming wide receivers will have to make an immediate impact. Recognizing that is where they were hit the hardest by departures this year, Cal brought in five new pass-catchers as part of its 2008 recruiting class. None of them will be on campus until the fall.