Football: Training camp storylines — will the Bears find a dependable group of receivers?

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.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • Bears07

    I really think Lageman has a ton of potential and don’t quite understand why we haven’t so far incorporated him more into the offense. He seemed to get more touches towards the end of last season so hopefully that’s a sign of things to come.

    I’m all for competition at the receiver position, especially with all the new talent we have coming in, but I remember thinking to myself last year that we needed to go for more short-yardage passes and that Lageman always seemed to be the go-to man for those routes. Here’s hoping we see him on the field more often this year.

  • Bears

    I like Lageman too but he does need to improve. A little more YAC is a good starting point. But, he’s solid and should have a role in the offense.
    Only way our offense will be consistently good is if everyone excepts their role no matter how large or small and excels at what they do.

  • Kevin Thomas

    Of all last season’s receivers, Alex Lagemann proved he was the best at getting open. He always seems to find a way to get open. He is very good at running patterns. The other receivers were more athletic, but they couldn’t get open. Troy Taylor said Marvin Jones is great at catching the ball in traffic, because he never seemed to get separation from the defenders. Receivers unbable to get open was one reason Riley had to run for his life most of the time.

    Who cares if Lagemann can’t run much after the catch? Like Steve Rivera of the Joe Roth era, Lagemann is a possession receiver. When it is 3rd and 12, Lagemann is the receiver who will go down 13 yards, get open, and make the catch. I say, unless these incoming receivers are lights out better, then Lagemann deserves to start and stay there until some one else proves they are better.

  • bearupthere

    Lagemann should be slotted for the slot receiver in my opinion. He should be our over the middle zone-buster like Hawk was a few years ago.

  • heyalumnigo

    Seemed like Lagemann was always on the ground because Riley’s throws were very low. Most of his catches I remember seeing were on throws right above the turf.

  • calbear

    i agree with Heyalumnigo. Lagemann constantly adjusted to Riley’s throws, resulting in his falling. There are a few missed opportunities though-maybe he lacks the pure speed to make a catch without falling.

  • Meep.

    I consider Lagemann a Welker-type receiver. He may not have burning speed, but he plays quick and never drops the ball. Great to have him in the slot for a quick first down pass that’ll give us second and short-to-mid to work with. Like others have been saying, him being on the ground seemed to have had more to do with Riley’s passes than his incapability to get YAC. And on that end, the offensive line never gave Riley a chance to really fall into a rhythm once we got into the meat of our season. Even when he did have time, his internal clock was already screwed up and he ended up rushing passes and not getting in that better throw. I think if we have an improved o-line and a less predictable rushing game, Lagemann should improve his YAC drastically since he won’t be diving for catches as much. The question is really who will play opposite Jones.

  • Tom S

    Get the ball to Allen and Jones,period.

  • n8Bear

    I know you get paid for this, but it’s all just speculation. It’s actually a very exciting season. We have no idea what to expect. I have yet to hear any pundit feel confident about his opinion of the bears. It all reeks of “not too sure, we’ll see.” So, let’s see. This must be what football was like back in the days without facemasks.

  • I got a feeling you Cal fans better not forget about that WR Michael Calvin, as your go to guy for this year. Riley and Tedford have both said in recent interviews that “Calvin has been the wide receiver to really step up for us big time in the WR position during summer training camp for this 2010 football season”……..GO BEARS!