RETURNING STARTERS: Marvin Jones, Keenan Allen, Anthony Miller.
WHO TO WATCH OUT FOR: Tevin Carter
POSSIBLE SURPRISE: Jacob Wark
THE BREAKDOWN: The Bears have a good deal of experience coming back this spring. Now, it’s a matter of making more plays.
With Jones and Allen returning to their starting roles, Cal has a good starting point with its receiving corps. But both players need to become more consistent. Jones has developed into a dependable receiver, most of the time. But he had a surprising number of crucial drops last season and still needs to do a better job of getting separation from defensive backs, especially down the field. Allen, meanwhile, simply needs experience. He demonstrated enormous potential as a true freshman but struggled to stay healthy at times. But there doesn’t seem to be any question he has the athletic ability and instincts to develop into one of the conference’s top wideouts.
Cal needs more depth, however. And they need different kinds of receivers. As good as Jones is, he’s not the kind of reciever that keeps defensive coordinators up at night and forces them to game plan around. Allen could utlimately be that kind of player, but he’s not yet.
Who else could be that explosive wide receiver? Jeff Tedford has very high hopes for Carter and fellow redshirt freshman Kaelin Clay. Tedford called Clay the fastest player on the team and he demonstrated much potential last season while redshirting. Carter is big and fast and should be in the mix to be in the rotation, along with Clay.
Where does that leave others such as Michael Calvin, Coleman Edmond and Terrance Montgomery? They should be given every chance to make a run at playing time. After the two starters, there are no sure things. And it would be a good idea for them to play well, because incoming freshman Maurice Harris, Allen’s cousin, is arriving in the fall and could make an immediate push.
What will be interesting to watch this spring is how new wide receivers coach/passing game coordinator Eric Kiesau impacts the position group. Kiesau coached at Cal during the first few years of Tedford’s tenure and moved on to Colorado, where he ultimately became offensive coordinator. He’s a respected coach who could have a positive influence in terms of the receivers’ improvement.
The Bears appear to be in good shape at tight end, where Miller is back for his senior season with one last chance to improve his NFL draft stock. With Spencer Ladner and Jarrett Sparks backing him up, the Bears are set. And watch out for Wark, a redshirt freshman who was going to be in the playing rotation last season before breaking his ankle one week into it.