Joe Camporeale / USA TODAY Sports

From Vic Wharton's position switch to Melquise Stovall's emergence, we break down inside receivers with Cal coach Jacob Peeler

BERKELEY -- Jacob Peeler's inside receivers have been at the center of game plans the last two weeks, and on Saturday, given the deep zones Oregon State will play, Cal fans may very well see more out of the likes of Melquise Stovall and Vic Wharton.

Jacob Peeler, what's your review of Vic Wharton's first two weeks back on the inside? "He had a couple big catches, obviously picked up a third down. Then, obviously, the big corner route [in the fourth quarter]. That was a pivotal point in the game. We needed to score, obviously. A couple plays later, we hit D-Rob [Demetris Robertson] for a touchdown. I think some excitement built from that. Melquise [Stovall] had the big catch, and then D-Rob's touchdown, so we had some really good plays, within a few plays of each other on that drive. I thought he played well. Obviously, moving from outside to inside, he had just made that move a few days before. He did a great job of coming in, getting that extra work when he could, to make sure he was ready and prepared. I thought he was."

So it's like vanilla and chocolate, with him and Stovall -- same idea, but different flavors? "The thing with Vic, Vic was with me all last year, obviously, when he was hurt. In the spring, he moved to the outside, but last year, the entire year, he was inside with me, in the meeting room, so he was familiar with it. It wasn't a complete change, in terms of the way we're teaching things. obviously, it's concepts with coach [Jake] Spavital, that are a little bit different. The way I'm teaching routes and the things of that nature, he already knew, coming in, so it wasn't just a complete slap in the face of new stuff."

So, it wasn't a shock to the system. "Exactly. Again, I thought the fact that he came prepared every day, came prepared at practice, there were some little things here and there that he would maybe have a bust or something, but he knew immediately that it was one of those.

"He'll be a guy, again, at that spot, he fits perfectly. He has the ability to make plays after the catch, when it's tough, physical, and he brings a toughness dimension to it. That's something that he knows that I demand from guys. I'm excited to have him." moving him inside a way to get him, Robertson and Chad Hansen, or a trio of Robertson-Hansen-Stovall on the field at the same time? "I think so. I think, when you look at it, at that position, right now, the position he's at, you've got three guys that can run, between him, Mel and Bug -- all three guys that have the ability to make plays after the catch, pretty decent runners, and again, it was just a move we made based off of just losing a couple guys, and having another guy."

"Kanawai [Noa]'s banged up right now, [Matthew] Rockett's banged up right now. Zion [Echols], we moved him inside, and he's just got a little hamstring deal, nothing big. He's just a little deal, nothing serious."

But you're not going to us Echols this year, right? "I think you train him and get him ready, and you've got a guy that's game-ready, has played before here and here, and he brings an extra guy to the room that has that experience. I think that's important. It pushes all the other guys, as well."

Over the last three games, Stovall has 16 catches for 190 yards. What's he doing so well? "He's a guy that he's exactly who we hoped he was going to be. Obviously, the receiver thing is new to him, still. People forget that he played running back. It's like Demetris. He's having to learn the flow and the stems and how to play the position, and I thought this last week, that catch he made in the fourth quarter, I joked with him on the sideline, I said, 'Hey, man, that was all me,' which was a joke. I think he climbed six ladders to get up there to catch that. I thought he made a phenomenal play on that. That was a huge first down. His athletic ability, I wish I could claim all that's coaching, but that's not from me. The fact that he's continuing to work, and again, the big thing he knows, like all those guys, is that it's just being consistent, gaining the trust of Davis. I think that's the one thing, that, as you're working your guys in, especially with a new quarterback in a new system, you want to have that guy who's always going to be in the right place at the right time. He's starting to do that, and I think that's something that, as you see the season move on, finding different and unique ways to get him the ball and let him do what got him all the scholarships."

Putting Robertson and Stovall in the backfield, using the chest passes, was that a way to intentionally take advantage of their running back roots? "It goes back to both of those guys, what are easy ways to get the ball in their hands and let them do what got them here? I think that's what it comes down to. They're safe, easy plays, and regardless of what the defense is doing, we can maneuver and make ways, scheme-wise, to get them balls, and again, just let them make guys miss and pick up yards that most of us couldn't."

We've been seeing more Jordan Duncan in practice the last two weeks. "Yeah, he knows right now that he's rotating at the spot with Veasy and Ray. He's one snap away. Mostly at that position, so far, this year, we've only had two guys, and it just kind of comes down to the way we've been playing, and obviously, this last week, we only played 40-something snaps, whatever it was. It was just a weird game. Normally, we've had those at halftime. He is, he's a guy that I couldn't say enough great things. He comes to work every day, is prepared. He's such a great person to have in the meeting room, because he's always focused. He's always going to bring an excitement, a smiling face. That's something that, when you're grinding through camp, and you're grinding through a season, it's always fun to have that guy that brings out that deal, but at the same time, he's a guy who's improved dramatically, because he was learning to play the inside position, like this guy over here (points to Watson) wishes he could."

When is the last time you were involved in a game where his offense only ran 49 plays in a game? "Uh, high school? No, I played in junior college, I played in a double-wing offense. Probably then, because even when I was playing at Louisiana Tech, before coach Dykes, we had more than 49 snaps. That was different, but that was fun. When I went home Saturday night, I mean, I remember for the last four or however many minutes it was, I was sitting there I was squatted down, and I said, 'This is what you sign up for.' Now, he gets that extra yard, we probably say something different, but I think the way, to watch the defense, the way that they just stayed the course and did what they did, that was fun. As an offensive coach, watching coach Dykes push all our chips to the middle, and saying, 'We're not calling time outs,' they were looking at him like, 'When are you going to call time outs?' It was a chess game going between both of them. That was fun. I think the whole offense, every single person that went in, was almost on the field, because they were so excited. That's what you work for. That's what they all said.

"When we got to go in the locker room, they got to see all that stuff we preach to them about finishing, and taking one play at a time, and how important that is, especially offensively, when you're only playing 49 snaps. One snap is a big deal. You can't afford those missed plays, holding penalties or offsides, things that put you behind the chains. I think that was a great way to emphasize some of those things, through a win, versus a loss."

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