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Football: Season review — wide receiver/tight end

By Jonathan Okanes
Wednesday, December 8th, 2010 at 1:13 pm in Football, off-season stuff.

THE GOOD, THE, BAD, THE UGLY: I wrote at the beginning of the season that this appeared to be one of the Bears’ biggest holes, and I think that proved to be the case. I say that now with a caveat, however. … in fact, a few of them.

Cal didn’t get too much playmaking from its receivers this season. Marvin Jones upped his production from last year, this season catching 50 passes for 765 yards and four touchdowns. But his output dropped off at the end of the year and he also surprisingly hurt the Bears with some key dropped passes.

Keenan Allen obviously demonstrated the athletic potential to be a big-time player, but nagging injuries set him back a bit. After his huge game in the season-opener against UC Davis, Allen never had a performance  that really made you stand up and take notice. Sure, he had some productive games, but nothing like his debut.

After those two starters, the Bears got virtually nothing from the rest of their receiving corps. Part of that is because Jones and Allen received a good bulk of the snaps, but Cal clearly still lacks depth at the position. Allen was second on the team with 46 catches for 390 yards and five touchdowns. The third-leading pass-catcher among receivers was Jeremy Ross with 18, followed by Michael Calvin and tight end Anthony Miller with 13.

All that being said, it’s difficult to quantify just how much the lack of production was a product of forces beyond the receivers’ control. Clearly, after Kevin Riley went down, the proficiency at quarterback did as well. And Riley himself was playing below expectations before his season-ending injury.

The offensive line was spotty. There were some games they pass protected well, other games in which there was simply no time for the quarterback to throw or the receivers  to run their routes.

Then there’s the question of schematics. Did Cal’s coaching staff put the receivers in the best position to make plays?  Especially at the end of the year, it seemed as though the receivers weren’t really being asked to stretch the field or even get down the field for any substance. They weren’t getting open consistently enough — how much of that is their own ability and how much is it schematics?

All of these factors play a part. But even afterconsidering all that, it’s clear the Bears need improved play from their receivers. There were too many dropped passes and not enough game-changing plays.

MOVING FORWARD: The receivers that the Bears decided to redshirt this season better be good.

Even with the addition of Allen, Cal still needs an influx of talent at receiver. The Bears thought they had enough depth heading into the season so they decided to redshirt Tevin Carter, Kaelin Clay and Terrance Montgomery. Now, it’s clear they definitely need those players next season.

Cal needs Jones to cure the case of the drops he got this season and continue to outjump and outmuscle receivers down the field. The Bears need Allen to continue to develop his apparent all-conference ability.

But most of all, they need one or two more receivers to emerge. The Bears had high hopes for Calvin this season because he reportedly had a terrific summer and training camp, but it didnt’ happen. Alex Lagemann completely fell out of the picture, seeing minimal playing time and catching just one pass.

Cal can’t go into next season counting on Calvin and Lagemann. If they emerge, it will be a bonus. The Bears need guys like Carter and Clay to become a force, sooner rather than later. Of course, there are some things that are out of their control, but the things that they can control, they have to do well.

The Bears also could use more production from Miller, who earned a lot of preseason honors but was barely heard from, at least as a pass-catcher. If nothing else, Miller’s draft stock, which declined since the beginning of the year, could use a boost.

GRADE: C-

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  • milo

    I’d let Daft go as WR coach as well. Too many dropped passes that could have made a difference.

  • rollonubears

    Meyer is out at Florida again. I wonder if the 5star linebacker who bailed on us last year will transfer back after changing his mind 4 times, or if he’ll stick it out down there.

  • Uh Oh

    That’s funny, Rollon,
    however, there is no way a guy who was dumped by the coach is going to come crawling back here.

  • Bear_fan

    Apparently Clay is running track here too. He could be a little bit of lighting in our offense or on special teams.

  • Kevin

    I thought Bruce Jenkins from the SF Chronicle made an excellent point in his analysis of the Big Game when he said “Stanford’s pass catchers don’t cruise down the field, hoping the ball will be delivered on target. They go get the ball, wherever it is, and they catch it in traffic…”

    Cal’s current group of WR’s don’t seem like they try to aggresively make plays on the ball. We obviously didn’t have a QB delivering passes like Andrew Luck, but quite frankly, our WR’s didn’t seem like they fought enough to go get the ball in the air.

    Anyway, here’s hoping we improve next season. I agree that a lot of our offensive woes seem to start with the offensive line…hasn’t been the same since the coaching change two years ago.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/11/21/SPR21GF2R5.DTL

  • Picard

    I agree with JO and Kevin. The poor schematics combined with a lack of aggressiveness in making plays hurt the productivity of our WRs. I’d like to point out that both of the preceding are coaching issues. I think Jones and Allen are great talents that need solid coaching in order to truly realize their potential. They are not getting the coaching they need right now. Tedford needs to get a new WR coach now!

  • David

    Marvin aggressively makes plays on the ball. I remember some under-thrown passes by Riley where he repositioned himself and went up and fought off a DB to get. His problem this year was dropping passes.

  • Calduke

    RollOn

    Meyer will probably be back in a couple of months
    AFTER his gets his alumni love and ego boosting.

  • Mike

    Mediocre players produce mediocre results. JT’s recruiting has equaled his coaching. The Bears caught lightening in a bottle eight years ago with the accidental enrollment of young Mr. Rogers. Damn, that was a long time ago.

  • thisiscal

    Dropped passes come from lack of focus, lack of ability, or fear of getting hit. I know Marvin Jones does not suffer from the last two. A coach can help fix lack of focus. A good coach, that is.

  • Picard

    From USA Today:
    “Jeff Tedford can receive increases in his $1.575 million annual talent fee for all subsequent years of his contract — up to $1 million worth of increases over the contract’s term, which lasts until Dec. 31, 2015 — if the team meets any of five goals involving the Pacific-10 Conference championship, a BCS appearance or the national championship game.

    He will receive a $250,000 bonus if he is head coach when the team fully occupies a new training facility (expected in late summer 2011) and another $250,000 if he is head coach when Cal plays its first home game in renovated Memorial Stadium (expected for the start of the 2012 season).”

  • milo

    Picard…Tedford gets that kind of money because: a) he turned around the football program BIG TIME, b) he got team academics back on track, c) he outlasted the tree-sitter and d) he was willing to stay

    Cal has made back all the salary he earned at Cal and more. Football ticket sales funds a big chuck the AD. It wouldn’t/couldn’t do that losing.

    If JT fails to produce winners he will be replaced but he has some time he’s earned. At the very least he deserves to see the SAHPC for 2 years. Few other winning coaches would have the patience or fortitude to do so.

  • Calduke

    If Marvin Jones gets any hint/suggestion/sniff that he could be drafted in the first 5 rounds he should to the NFL.
    Staying at Cal another year is definitely not going to improve his status.

  • todd nizzle

    A. Miller was impossible to try and evaluate this year b/c he had to stay on the line and help block 80% of the time since our line was so bad…Our WR’s were constantly open…Keenan broke most of Desean’s true frosh WR records…Kid is a stud..get an accurate qb, some protection and the wr problem will fix itself.

  • konamike

    The major factor in our receiving corps having a mediocre yr. was the inconsistent play @ QB. Schematics a close second.Very few short routes(5-10 yds./slants, hooks,etc.) that quickly pick-up 1st downs and are hard to defend.

  • H8sRed

    Calduke — Have to disagree with your analysis re Jones. With the dropsies he had this year, the NFL is not going to take a realistic look at him. I think he and other receivers have a huge potential upside next season with a new QB. Just an average QB will make the offense click. I have to believe that among 6 players vying for the position, at least one of them will show the stuff we’re used to out of a Cal QB.

    Milo — I know I’ve disagreed with some of your comments in the past, but your analysis of Tedford is spot on.

  • edoggle

    Mike, I don’t think its fair to blame the quality of the players. Cal has just as many players in the NFL as any other team short of USC and Florida. Cal had 2 first round picks last year and and 1 more this year. JT can recruit with the best of them. Riley and Mansion were both highly touted coming out of HS.

    The real question rests on the coaching staff, are they getting the most of the players? Are they maximizing their talent week in and week out. Clearly the answer is no this year. For example, they shouldn’t have let Mansion play vs. UW and instead just let Allen run the offense all day old school wishbone style.

  • noduck

    “Stanford’s pass catchers don’t cruise down the field, hoping the ball will be delivered on target. They go get the ball, wherever it is, and they catch it in traffic…”

    lol. right. wherever it is. inch to the left, inch to the right- those stanford receivers chase ‘em down.
    luck’s throws are incredible. it only looks like they chase the balls because luck and his receivers have a trust that routes will be ran accurately and balls will land where they are supposed to, when they are supposed to.

    cal lacks ability from the qb and trust all around.

  • Golden Bear

    I’m going to kill somone if I see another game with 5+ bubble screens from the wide receivers

  • rotfogel

    I couldn’t agree more Golden Bear. A child defensive coordinator could figure out Andy Ludwig’s offense. It’s brutal to watch. That said I like our receivers, it just that SOMEONE has to throw them the ball.

  • Meep.

    I agree Bears should drop Daft, but not because of dropped passes. You can’t really teach a guy to catch passes, there are just guys that can do it and those that can’t. You can drill a guy and make sure he watches the ball into his hands and finishes the play instead of looking ahead, but it’s still up to the player to execute and make that catch. I want to see Daft go, but if Cal was to only let go one coach, I’d rather he stay and we get rid of Marshall. There has been a definite drop in all facets of offensive play since he’s joined.

    Offensive line play has just been completely uninspiring, which leads to:

    1. Less than stellar QB play. They never have time to make their reads, and when they do, they don’t think they do because they’re used to taking the hit. I’m not going to say this was the sole cause of Brock Mansion’s mockery of the position — the guy just wasn’t ready after all these years — but they sure didn’t help him adjust to the real speed of the game.

    2. Decrease in running back productivity. Gould is a great coach that gets the most out of his recruits. We know this because we STILL have a decent running game even when our backs are making their first jukes/stiff arms in the back field. I rarely see a play where they have time to be patient, find a hole, and then break. It’s usually dodge a guy, lower your shoulder, find a hole, and then break. So 60 yard TD’s become 20-30 yard gains, but more commonly 3-4 yard gains.

    3. Lack in play calling freedom. Once again, I’m not going attribute everything to the poor offensive line play, but Ludwig really is working with his hands tied behind his back. Another one of those guys that I’d rather have gone, but would keep him if we were limited in the number of coaches we could fire. Everyone’s saying “He’s too predictable, his plays suck!” But with the current situation, going high risk, high reward plays would probably hurt us more than help us. We’re taking screens, play actions, solid plays and barely getting anywhere. Running a double reverse would work every once in a while, but would result in a 10 yard loss more than not because our offensive line is non-existent. I agree we need to not TELEGRAPH the play, but the calls themselves usually aren’t too bad. The problems start when the line gets penalized on first down and we continue to shoot ourselves in the feet. How many times this year have we seen positive plays called back for holding or illegal formations, erasing 40 yard gains for 1st and 20? There really just aren’t many plays that are designed to get you out of those; you have to go traditional and see if you can get back into the drive one piece at a time. It’s not that I like Ludwig, but I feel that we have coaches (read: Marshall) that have shown us that they are much more deserving of the boot. The offensive line is just so integral to every other facet of our pro-style offensive play that we cannot afford to accept mediocrity at a position that we used to excel in.

  • Calduke

    HBsRed
    Cameron Morrah was in the same situation as Jones.
    He saw what was coming and bailed out.
    Tedford thought it was too soon for Morrah, but, Morrah couldn’t take the chance of a bum system or injury..
    I would dearly love to see Jones return, but, my comment was what my mindset would be if I was in Jones’ shoes.

    I hope your expectations for next year’s QB is correct.
    You must know something, as there is no apparent QB with the ‘stuff’ we are use to at Cal. I know the ‘stuff’ I’ve seen the past 4 years

  • Calduke

    HBsRed;
    As a follow-up – if Jones has a huge upside the scouts will have identified this and will jump to get him for future. It will all depend on what the scouts think of him; not what you and I ‘perceive’.

  • http://www.cleancutmedia.com Clean Cut Media

    I feel really bad for Marvin. He is always contorting his body, slowing down, jumping high to catch Riley’s passes. It is incredible he can grab so many of them. So many times he is ripping them out of the defenders hand. Outside of desean jackson, he is one of the best receivers we’ve had in a while.. clearly a notch above the others.. yet because of inaccurate throws, it’s hurting his stock. So many times he was wide open to catch for a TD but had to slow down to catch. If we had an accurate quarterback, i have no doubt he would make it into one of the all pac10 teams.

  • milo

    Meep…your take on Ludwig is pretty right on. If all the weapons are working and the o-line gives you protection and holes for the RBs, then the play calling selection opens up greatly. However once the passing game fell (combo of line, QB, WR), you literally have half the plays….and the D knows what you’re going to do. Very unlikely you can win.

    Unfortunately that’s been the problem the past two seasons…the passing game has been off because of line, QB and WR. Fix 2 of those and you’re probably running at 75% rather then 50%…enough to get you 7 wins in a season, more if you’re lucky.

    Frankly I’d like to see Ludwig call plays with a fully operational offense. I think he could light up the score board. OTOH, say you have Aaron Rodgers, Desean Jackson, Marshawn Lynch (or any of those guys) plus a good o-line, NFL caliber FB and TE and you’re probably going to look like a genius or at least very good.