When Cal signed just one wide receiver for its 2009 recruiting class, it was somewhat of a sign that coach Jeff Tedford was satisfied with the young receivers in his program. As the Bears enter the 2010 season, wide receiver is the position with arguably the biggest question marks, aside from possibly the secondary.
The 2008 class of five wide receivers hasn’t yielded much. Only Marvin Jones has developed into a proven player. An injury has forced Charles Satchell to stop playing football, and he moved to defensive back in the spring anyway. Jarrett Sparks moved to tight end and Joe Washington never suited up for the Bears. And although junior college transfer Verran Tucker had some good moments at Cal, there is a maddening feeling that he could have accomplished much more.
Because only one wide receiver was signed in 2009 — and that receiver, Markish Jones, never qualified to come to Cal — the Bears find themselves thin at that position as training camp awaits. Jones is back for his junior season and is steady if not spectacular. But after that, there are no sure things.
Jeremy Ross has the combination of strength and athleticism that suggests a breakout season is ready to happen, but this is his last chance for that. Behind Jones, he is Cal’s second-leading returning wide receiver with 22 catches a year ago (for 344 yards and one touchdown). Tucker was Cal’s second-leading wide receiver last season with 29 catches.
Alex Lagemann became more part of the offense near the end of last season, but he is hardly yet a proven commodity. Lagemann also needs to prove he can make some plays after the catch — too many of his receptions end with him on the turf.
Then there’s Michael Calvin, a blue-chip recruit who came to Cal in 2007 and opened eyes of observers while playing on the scout team. His redshirt freshman season came immediately after the departure of DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan, and right away he was expected to become the Bears’ No. 1 receiver. But a series of injuries have rendered his career irrelevant at this point. If he can ever come close to fulfilling his vast potential, Cal’s receiving corps will get a major boost.
One thing is for sure: Cal’s incoming group of five wide receivers are going to get a long, hard look in training camp. There’s no reason to believe one of them couldn’t be starting opposite Jones on Sept. 4 against UC Davis. The leading candidate to do that is Keenan Allen, the No. 1-rated safety in the country who is going to play wide receiver at Cal. Allen was recruited by most schools as a safety, giving him his high rating on defense rather than offense. But Cal believes he can be just as good as a receiver, and he will get every opportunity to prove that right away.
“As far as just looking at him, he’s about as ready-made as anyone we’ve ever had here,” Tedford said today at Bay Area College Football Media Day.
It’s obvious Tedford is perfectly comfortable with the idea of one of his freshman receivers starting, because today while discussing the opportunity for Allen to play defense as well, he suggested that would have to be evaluated “if he ends up earning a starting spot.”
Of the other new receivers, freshman Tevin Carter and junior college transfer Coleman Edmond might have the best shot at pushing for playing time immediately.