Cal Wide Receivers Preview: Who's Teaming Up With Marvin Jones?

Departing:

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Verran Tucker (Cal career: 50 catches, 815 yards, 4 TDs)

Tucker had impressive adjustment skills that allowed him to handle tight coverage by either leaping over his defender or coming back to receive the pass. He had a nice move where he stuck tight to lead his receiver, then managed to cut back and receive the throw. He showcased the ability to run plenty of routes, particularly through the flats. He was willing to go over the middle and receive passes, even if it meant getting decked.

He did have a case of the dropsies, losing a few critical balls (like in Tempe), and did seem to posture every now and then (like in Autzen). Sometimes he wasn't helped by Riley and the poor pass protection. Riley, panicked by the collapsing pocket, would lock into him a little too early and allow anxious pass defenders to blow him up upon catching the ball (especially true in the Pointsettia Bowl).

But he was a capable receiver who came into his own and made a remarkable recovery from academic troubles to earn the start in fall camp. He showed why he was worthy of being at the top of the chart all season long with his ability to run most of the routes Kevin Riley was best at throwing. He caught three or more passes in seven games and was a consistent second banana to Marvin Jones.

He might not make it in the NFL, but he could float around the edge for quite some time.

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Nyan Boateng (Cal career: 42 catches, 630 yards, 7 TDs)

Disappointing 2009 campaign after a strong debut effort in 2008. Although his catches were few and far between, he showed himself to be a good deep ball receiver and someone who could handle press coverage. He was able to play close to the ball. It would've been nice to see Boateng pick up more yards after catch, but sometimes he had to leap to make sure he caught slightly off-target throws rather than reaching his hands up and trying to run in stride.

Despite his struggles at cracking the rotation, he was missed when he suffered a fractured foot and missed the Oregon and USC games, and he could never really recover his form to crack the rotation. Moreover, his run block abilities were sorely missed; it took awhile for Marvin Jones to acclimate himself to being a solid blocker during those motion plays. When he returned he couldn't really crack the rotation, and never had more than two catches in any one game.

Still, he has all the physical ability to be a pro receiver, so look out for his name. This probably isn't the last you've heard of Nyan.

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Charles Satchell (played in 13 games mainly in special teams)

His Cal career is over after shoulder surgery.


Returning (You know their names now)

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Marvin Jones (Cal career: 44 catches, 659 yards, 6 touchdowns)

You know as much about him as I know. Cal's [currently] most skilled and talented receiver. Has some of the surest hands since Geoff McArthur (and more on that a little later); he's definitely able to possess the ball similar to the way Geoff did, securing it even when he knows the defense knows the ball is coming to him. He's able to adjust to the throw and make sure he has the best angle to secure the throw. Some defenses threw liberal double teams on Jones and he still managed to catch four or more balls in half his games.

The next thing he has to work on is getting back up his yards after catch from his high school domination days. How much this has to do with the predictability of Ludwig's schemes (sometimes it feels like the defense knows that the ball is going to Jones and they aim straight for him after the catch) or the separation Jones creates (still not sure about this one--Jones went toe-to-toe with some good corners last year) has yet to be seen. It's the only real improvement I can see him making crossing from his sophomore to his junior campaign.

But he's shown he can catch all the big routes. Posts, corners, deep posts, post corners, hooks, slants, comebacks, crosses...he's got all of them down pat.

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Alex Lagemann (Cal career: 12 catches, 150 yards)

He was our garbage receiver last year, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. Loggy would go take on Riley's somewhat erratic short/intermediate passing skills, adjusting to short throws in ways other players couldn't. He caught a few of his out patterns in the Big Game and some crossing routes at Arizona State and versus Oregon State (and a little bit of each vs Arizona). His yards after catch is probably somewhere near zero though, as he focused more on maintaining possession by falling to the ground and making sure off-target balls were caught rather than gambling for extra yardage.

Even if he ends up being the #2 receiver on the starting chart, I could very much see him being utilized as a receiver who can handle the throws Riley  has struggled to complete in the past. I don't know if he has the breakaway speed or separation ability to be a second option like Lavelle Hawkins--I feel (and this is just my dumb opinion) he's probably best suited for the slot, where he can run crossing routes and out patterns all day long and provided added dimension to the vertical passing game.

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Jeremy Ross (Cal career: 16 rushes for 110 yards, 1-1 for 30 passing yards and a TD, 9 punt returns for 192 yards and a touchdown, 39 catches for 554 yards and 3 touchdowns)

Ross is perplexing because he's probably the most naturally gifted athlete of all the receivers and definitely has shown ability to drag defenders in space. But for some reason he doesn't quite fit anywhere. He's not strong enough to be an every down possession receiver, but he's also not quite precise enough to be a strong intermediate route runner. Most of his bit catches came in the flats, on either comebacks, or post corner routes.

His biggest moment of 2009 was catching the two balls from Kevin Riley in Minnesota, running what looked like a fade for the crucial 3rd down conversion, and then a corner route that put Cal in the red zone to set up Jahvid Best's "go-ahead for good" score.

This could be the year Ross has a breakout season if all the receivers find more defined roles. It wouldn't surprise me if he settled into the Robert Jordan position, making plays when the other receivers are blanketed with double coverage. He could be called upon to utilize his reverse capabilities to try and keep the defense honest and prevent them from playing inside the box. If that doesn't work out, he'll likely be the primary punt returner and make noise there.

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Michael Calvin (Cal career: 9 catches for 112 yards)

Calvin has sadly yet to pan out, and it’s a shame, because he definitely showed ability when he seemed about to break out in 2008. After he tore his ACL midway through 2008, he just hasn’t been able to get onto the field, whether due to injury (he's had his right knee scoped twice) or inconsistency. In 2009, he dropped two potential game-changing Big Game passes and only had one catch all season.

"You have to. If you don’t, you’re going to come out here and second-guess yourself, you’re going to second-guess your technique, you’re going to second-guess everything you do on the football field. I personally can’t afford it. I have a spot to work for."

...

"I got injured but I really didn’t lose anything. The mental part of it is the toughest. Everything else physically I do probably better than how I did it before. That never crosses my mind."

~Calvin during spring practice

Still, the potential is there. Calvin does provide more of a physical dimension to the receiving game, and if he can put the ability he showed in 2008 back out on the field, he could be a pleasant surprise.

Update: Calvin got injured in fall camp again. The frustration must be palpable for both him and Tedford.

Incoming (You'll know of them soon enough)

Pay attention to most of these guys. You'll probably be seeing a lot of them this season.

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Keenan Allen: From the little butterflies that flutter through Strawberry Canyon, I've been told Allen put quite a distinctive mark on summer camp. As in "I'm good enough to start, right now" buzz. So there's your exciting news flash of the day.

He was so good, it would be hard not to see him gaining significant playing time. Tedford admitted as much at the Pac-10 Media Day--we've never really had anyone like him.

"As far as looking at him, he's about as ready-made as anybody we've ever had here at that position," Tedford said. "He's a great-looking guy. He's much bigger than Lavelle (Hawkins). His legs, he's put-together. I'm not sure we've had anybody like him. It would have to be one of the taller receivers because he's 6-foot-3, has great range and leaping ability. Him and Marvin (Jones) are really becoming close. They're highly-competitive, both those guys."

Just from their debut music duet, you get the feeling Allen and Jones are already tight as can be and will happily support one another in a big brother/little brother sort of way. If Jones returns for 2011 they could form the deadliest receiving duo in the conference.

Right now though? It depends a lot on how quickly Allen can get acclimated to the offense. Because raw talent can only do so much--how well he can run all the routes, connect with his new quarterback (who already has several targets on this team he's probably quite comfortable with), block downfield for the running backs, etc. will all be big factors too.

Nevertheless, Allen's upside is off the charts. It should be a fun ride to see how far he grows over the next few seasons.

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Coleman EdmondWe interviewed Edmond, so we have a soft spot for him. Soft spot or no soft spot, he showed some pretty impressive stuff at the Juco level that makes you think he could compete for time in the slot. His highlights show a good ability to adjust to the throw (whether it be underthrown or overthrown) with either a good leap or a solid comeback move.  Also seems to play well with screen routes and is pretty good at shedding tacklers.

Don't sleep on Edmond. He might not be the sexy name, but Cal's offense has always valued intelligence as much as ability, and with so many years of junior college experience, Edmond looks like a very intelligent receiver. Tosh Lupoi mentioned at the recruiting event he was always challenging things in the gamefilm, always looking at all the info in front of him. If I were to give you my dumb snapshot opinion, he looks like a more compact version of Verran Tucker.

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Tevin Carter: Although he's probably a year away from becoming a primary contributor, the future looks bright with Carter. Lupoi said to thank Coach Gould for hitting up as many schools in the state as he could (including those without a track record for good athletes), and he might have found a gem here.

One individual who watched Carter at Santee emailed me and had this to say about his athleticism.

As a player he’s one of the most exciting players I’ve ever seen.  If he got his hands on the ball, the people in the stands just got up on their feet because he was going to go all the way.  He is also very hard working, the played offense, defense, and special teams.  He was on the field all game long, all season long.  He snuck up on people his junior year but everyone knew about him by the time his senior year rolled around.  He still did his thing and had a monster season even though he was double teamed and always had a safety shading him on every play.  When he played defense he was all over the field and had the hardest hitting tackles I’ve seen in a high school game in a long time.  I hope he gets to play at Cal quickly, because he’s one of those players that get better as the game rolls along.  I can only imagine how well he’ll do if gets to focus on one side of the ball, and special teams (OF COURSE).  Gotta have him out there on kickoff returns, TRUST ME.

I’m gonna be honest and say I don’t know too much about him off the field.  But a good friend of mine, who works at Santee High School, was somewhat of a mentor to Tevin.  All I ever heard was good things.  He worked really hard to make sure his grades and SAT scores were up to par.  He also showed maturity by choosing to NOT run track to focus on staying healthy for Cal football.  It must have been a very tough decision because he was one of the favorites in the state in the 100 and 200.  From what my friend tells me Tevin is a very polite young man that has his priorities straight.

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Kaelin Clay: Damn. He's fast. Do all Long Beach Poly athletes train on the beach a la Chariots of Fire? Where else could this inherent ability to zoom past other football players come from?

(Unofficially, he clocked a 4.33 in summer practice. Also unofficial is he raced a cheetah and the cheetah tapped out.)

At the recruiting event, Lupoi mentioned a return to the speed dynamic that's been missing in the receiving corps since the departure of Desean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan (last year's recruiting cycle was all about finding track guys who ran better than 10.6), and Clay seems to epitomize that return to form.

It looks like Long Beach Poly utilized him mainly for his speed in every aspect of the game (running, receiving, returning). Lupoi did mention him as a possibility for fly sweeps in the same way Oregon State uses James Rodgers, so he could be used as a playmaker when he first cracks the rotation.

Also, this dude has future kick/punt returner written all over him. I would not be surprised to see him fielding punts in the next season or two.

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Terrance Montgomery: A project, but a good project. He's on the short side (which is why his 40 time isn't too impressive), but he's got a pretty quick motor and has some intangibles that might cross up Pac-10 defenses.

Kodiak posted a little bit of stuff on his ESPN Insider article (this looks like it was a paid article, so I'm going to hold off on posting all of it).

Montgomery is an under the radar prospect for the 2010 class and can really scoot. He is not very big and lacks bulk and overall strength, but he is your quintessential scatback/slot receiver with huge upside in the return game. He is reminiscent of UCLA’s Terrance Austin only this guy may be a bit more physical and plays with nice toughness and great awareness.

He is a "space" player that thrives on making people miss in a phone booth. Has excellent feet and the ability to stop and start on a dime both as a route runner and with the ball in his hands. At the next level will best be utilized as a slot player on underneath and intermediate routes where he can get the ball in his hands quickly and do what he does best. He possesses terrific lateral agility and balance in the open field.

All in all, these young receivers could do quite a bit of damage immediately. After all the love for the linebackers, it might be Cal's new batch of pass-catchers that make the biggest mark from the 2010 class.

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