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2018 Cal Football Preview: Wide Receivers

How much of a blow will the transfers actually be?

With football season inching closer and closer, today we take an in-depth look at the wide receiver position for our California Golden Bears.

Wide receiver was a position that was very deep for us last year; it was still a relative strength, even though our top two receivers (Demetris Robertson and Melquise Stovall) were out for basically the entire season. The fact that we return most of our starters bodes well for the Bears, but we took a huge hit when we learned that Robertson and Stovall both transferred from the program. Another one when redshirt freshman Taariq Johnson—a player who was expect to have a significant role with the team—was announced to no longer be with the team.

First off, these moves left fans very confused. Justin Wilcox is revitalizing this program... why would they want to leave when they had a clear path to a starting job? It definitely is frustrating for us fans, but the most important question is: How will the departures affect this year’s team?

Sure, those players could have made an impact this season, but they also barely played last year. The only real impact receiver whom we are losing is Jordan Veasy—and I’d say we have the depth to replace him. So, even though we had some “losses”, we return most of a solid group from last year, which makes for a pretty good outlook for this season.

Now, let’s move into a more player-by-player focused approach and take a look at each wide receiver on the Cal roster and their possible impact for the 2018–19 season.

Sure Starters

These are players who, unless something crazy happens, will definitely be starting this season.

Vic Wharton III (#17, RS SR)

Wharton played extremely well as a starter last season, catching 87 passes for 871 yards and scoring five times, as well as throwing for a touchdown on a trick play. The 5’11” receiver is basically a lock to start once again for the Bears this season and I expect another big year from him.

Kanawai Noa (#9, RS JR)

Kanawai Noa was a pleasant surprise for the Bears last season. His consistency in the slot provided the Bears with 56 catches for 788 yards and four touchdowns. Like Wharton, there isn’t much to report here other than the fact that you can once again expect him to start in the slot and be a solid option in the receiving game for the Bears.

*Fun fact: Wharton and Noa rank 3rd among returning FBS WR duos with 123 combined receptions and 17th with 1,659 receiving yards

Third-Receiver Battle/Rotation Players

With the third-receiver spot open for the Bears, these three players are the favorites for the job. Regardless of the results of the position battle, they should be key pieces in the wide receiver rotation.

Jordan Duncan (#2, JR)

Despite only getting minimal results last season (10 catches for 120 yards), Duncan actually played in all 12 games last season and is a player who has a great shot to break out this season. He is in a battle for that third starting receiver role and the former 3-star recruit has arguably the best chance to win that role. Although it still is a competition, I personally do expect Duncan to be starting opposite of Vic Wharton III this season and posting some solid, albeit unspectacular numbers. However, if he doesn’t end up starting, he should still see a significant bump in playing time as a rotation receiver.

Jeremiah Hawkins (#10, SO)

I think that Jeremiah Hawkins is a great player who probably at this moment is the third-best receiver on this Cal roster. However, considering his size (5’8”) and Kanawai Noa’s success in the slot role, he probably doesn’t have the best chance of starting. However, he is definitely going to see a solid amount of playing time this year and should be out there in most four-receiver sets. Hawkins is a lighting quick receiver with solid hands who has been playing well in practice so far. He also has some game experience from last year, playing in 10 games and posting 8 receptions for 70 yards. He definitely should be a great piece for this year, but the only way he starts is if the Bears decide to play Kanawai Noa on the outside.

Brandon Singleton (#87, RS JR)

The last player whom I consider to be in the running for the third starting receiver job is Brandon Singleton. While I give him the least-likely chance to win the role, he is a solid player who will contribute in one way or another this season for the Bears. Singleton played in all 12 games last year, catching 14 passes for 141 yards. He also had a decent amount of playing time in 2016, playing in 9 games and catching passes for 110 yards and scoring his only career touchdown. While he does have a decent amount of experience, I see him more as a rotation player—and I expect him to fill that role quite nicely for the Bears this season.

Other Interesting Players

Here are the final two players I find truly interesting at this position. While they likely won’t be starting this season, they definitely have a chance to work themselves into a decent role early on.

Moe Ways (#18, RS SR)

Ways joined Michigan teammate Ian Bunting as graduate transfers at Berkeley for this upcoming football season. I think Ways definitely has a chance to play himself into a role this year. He was a four-star recruit coming into college and was able to get some (although not a lot) of playing time on a powerhouse Michigan squad. Despite only catching 8 career passes for 70 yards, he played 26 games in the past three seasons (lettering in all three). The thing that intrigues me most about Ways is his height. At 6’4”, he is the tallest receiver on the roster. With his height, talent, and experience, a change of scenery to a non-powerhouse Cal squad (c’mon, we aren’t a powerhouse, face it) may be just what he needs to have a breakout season.

Nikko Remigio (#25, FR)

Last but not least, we have the freshie. Assuming he doesn’t get redshirted, the four-star recruit from Mater Dei High School may just have enough talent to play his way into some early playing time. Remigio is more of a slot guy, standing at 5’10” and being more of a route-runner type of receiver. While that role is held down by Kanawai Noa at the moment, no one expects him to be a starter. Remigio could definitely play in a decent number of games this season and post some numbers if he is given the opportunity. No guarantees here, but he definitely makes an interesting case.

Depth/Bench Warmers

These are the guys who likely will see minimal, if any, playing time this season. A good number of these players are walk-ons and most of the freshman will get redshirted. However, you can’t predict everything and regardless of their 2018 status, some of the younger guys could certainly be future pieces for the Bears.

Matt Rockett (#30, RS SR)
Hiroaki Endo (#36, RS SR)
Ricky Walker III (#38, RS FR)
Evan King (#39, FR)
Ben Skinner (#41, FR)
Greyson Bankhead (#85, FR)
Monroe Young (#86, FR)
Ryan Regan (#88, FR)

What do you think, Cal fans? Can this group improve upon a solid season last year?