It's been a mixed bag for the wide receivers and tight ends over the past couple of years. Although Jones and Allen have had moments of brilliance, we've also been plagued by drops, inconsistent separation, and route issues. The tight ends were underwhelming last year. Even though you can point to the Oline and the need for the TE's to say in and block, you also can't deny that the tight ends failed to make an impact in the passing game in their limited opportunities. Some of this you can lay at the feet of the QBs or the Oline. But wherever you point fingers, the fact remains that the Cal passing attack has been woefully anemic in comparison to previous standards. Will new WR coach Eric Kiseau make a difference? Will Genyk Year #2 be any different? Let's take a closer look:
Michael Calvin(Sr) - Highly touted as a prospect, it seems like every year we hear promising reports from practice only to have him hurt himself. Emerged as a bit of a bright spot last year as he regained his confidence and started showing some of potential we had been waiting to see. Has good size, so will probably continue to see the field for his blocking if nothing else. Not a speedster, but actually has a knack for getting open deep. He'll need to take the next step in his development if he's going to hold off all the young talent. Here's hoping Coach Kiseau can engineer a MacArthur-like quantum leap.
Coleman Edmond(Sr) - Like most JC transfers(Hawkins, Tucker), it took a whole year to learn the offense and adjust to Pac-10 play. Has a nice blend of size, elusiveness, and track speed. Didn't really get a chance to see what he can do last year, but Tedford expects his JC guys to challenge for snaps. Might be used in the return game.
Marvin Jones(Sr) - Was our #1 guy last year, but could be #2 or #1a this year. Although he made his share of brilliant catches, he also had some inexplicable drops. Everyone who knows him feels that he has great hands and considers last year's struggles to be a fluke. Style of play reminds you a little of a cross between Dameane Douglas and Ihani Uwaezoke. Faster than Douglas, more physical than Ihani, he's more smooth than quick. He's been working hard all off-season and everything is set up for a great senior year.
Keenan Allen(So) - Not a bad player...Yeah. Had some bad luck with injuries and the QB/Oline situation or it might have been a coming out party for the ages. More of a long-strider than a burner, he has amazing elusiveness for his size. Just needs to be more consistent, but that should come with increased familiarity in the offense so that he can play fast instead of needing to think about things. With an off-season to work on his strength, speed, and route-running, I fully expect him to be the man this year.
Tevin Carter(Fr*) - One of our bigger receivers, but also one of our fastest. Had good reviews from last year's camp and scout team. Has the potential to challenge for time in the WR rotation. Tweaked a knee in spring workouts, but seems to be okay.
Kaelin Clay(Fr*) - Could have been the hidden gem in last year's receiver class. Quick, fast, and has great hands. Looks tailor-made for the slot and going in motion like Vinny Strang used to do. Tedford calls him our fastest WR. He's my dark horse bet for being our 3rd WR.
Terrance Montgomery(Fr*) - Called out by Tedford for his conditioning in fall camp last year. Has a lot of work to distinguish himself with all the talent around him.
Darren Ervin(Fr) - Incredibly versatile athlete who could play RB, WR, or in the slot. Will probably redshirt, but might challenge for time simply based on his playmaking ability. Already participating in spring workouts.
Maurice Harris(Fr) - Big body, but incredibly soft hands. Could redshirt, but might also be too good to keep off the field. Will enroll in the fall.
Projected Depth Chart:
Allen - Starter
Jones - Starter
Overview: Don't bother with the pencil - just stamp KA and Marv as starters and laminate the form. However, the #3-5 spots are completely up for grabs. Calvin has playing experience, and Edmond is expected to produce. But, Carter, Clay, and Harris are all playmakers and will make a run at demanding snaps. In the classic Tedford offense, the receivers can block downfield and are clock-like in their consistent execution. We've had too many mental errors involving drops or routes over the past few years. Kiseasu did a great job in his previous stint developing players such as MacArthur, Makonnen, Strang, Toler, Lyman and that Desean guy. Reports from spring workouts are that the receivers are already showing noticeable improvements in their route-running and in getting separation. It would be great if one of the speed-burners could step up and provide a consistent deep threat to help open up the field. Historically, we've favored game experience. But if Clay and Carter are as dynamic as advertised, Calvin and Edmond might find themselves squeezed out. I would consider this position group to be in solid shape. If Marvin Jones puts it all together as a senior and Keenan Allen stays healthy, this could be one of the strengths of the team. CGB Roundtable here.
Biggest Questions: Who is going get playing time in the #3, #4, and #5 WR spots?
Solomona Aigamaua(Sr) - A great ukele player, will most likely provide special teams depth.
Anthony Miller(Sr) - After showing great promise as a frosh and soph, last year's lack of production was disappointing. Some of that can be attributed to our O-line constantly requiring TE help in pass protection. But some of it has be attributed to the player himself. I'm hoping he's Coach Blasquez' new roommate, tenant, or god-son. I think we're all eager to see this position return to prominence.
Spencer Ladner(Jr) - A 4-star recruit and one of the top TE prospects nationally, his Cal career has been slowed by injury. Has great height (6'7) and is supposed to have great hands. However, he hasn't shown the ability to play "big" yet and to use his body to make tough catches in traffic. He played a lot of WR in HS, so his inconsistency with blocking is understandable. Showed some improvement last year after sitting out with injury, but we need more from him.
Jarrett Sparks(Jr) - A converted WR, we used him last year in passing situations. A bit undersized still as a blocker, he needs to bulk up and get stronger, or he'll continue his specialist role as a receiving TE.
Jacob Wark(Fr*) - It was a huge blow to lose Wark to injury early last year. Easily the most physical blocker of our TE's even as a true frosh, he also displayed great hands and a good feel for getting open. Might still be recovering and could be limited in spring ball. If healthy, I'd expect him to compete for starting snaps.
Richard Rodgers(Fr) - Has receiver-like hands and speed. In fact, he often lined up wide in HS. Would be best redshirting to gain strength and to work on his blocking. Might be needed sooner because of depth issues. Reports in the fall.
Overview: Last year's TE play simply didn't look like anything resembling a Tedford offense. Forced to stay in to block in most passing situations and inconsistent with getting open or catching the ball even when they released, to say this position was disappointing is a bit of an understatement. It's hard to determine how much of this can be attributed to new TE coach, Jeff Genyk. Considering that we also had O-line and QB issues, I'm willing to give him a pass. At this point, I'm not greedy enough to demand great blocking and a consistent receiving threat from the TE position. I would be content if each guy could find a role and do it well. Unfortunately, the word from spring workouts is that only Miller and Ladner have been healthy enough to participate. This position is so thin that Beau Sweeney has been taking reps as a backup tight end. So, it's unlikely that there will be any changes to the depth chart here during spring ball. We'll just hope to make it through without anyone else getting hurt. CGB Roundtable here.
Biggest Questions: Can we expect a bounce-back year from our tight ends? Will the door be left open for a younger player to move up the depth chart this fall?
Next up: Tailbacks and Fullbacks