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Cal wide receivers coach Nick Edwards faces the most depth he's ever had, in a different world than Eastern Washington

Cal wide receiver coach Nick Edwards has had to find his footing while running at full speed, but now he can take a look at the roster he has, and he's marveled at the depth and talent.

Most of California's offense is up in the air. Last season, that was quite literal -- the Bears dropped back to pass 637 times, and rushed the ball 398 times in 2016.

Now, though, with a spread group of athletes, and an offensive coordinator who best describes is system as "multiple," it's tough to really put a finger on what Cal will look like in 2017. New wide receivers coach Nick Edwards still hardly has any idea what his own hotel room looks like. For the two weeks since he's been hired, he's been living out of a suitcase and the Cal football equipment room. He still needs to do laundry.

"I haven't been down here much, just been on the road, so a lot of L.A., and back to Washington to recruit some guys. I haven't been in the Bay Area too much," he said on National Signing Day. "I'll let you know in the next couple weeks how things are going." Edwards, 27, is only now just catching his breath, as his wife, Macca, is still back in Cheney, Wash., packing up their house.

"We're trying to find a place to stay," Edwards said.

Edwards is in a different world than he's been in before. After his playing career for Eastern Washington ended, he went right into being an assistant strength coach, and then became the Eagles' wide receivers coach. Berkeley -- and Pac-12 football -- are a world away. 

His opposite -- defensive backs Gerald Alexander -- marveled at how, going into a high school as a coach for Montana State, he'd get a warm greeting, but when he entered wearing a Cal shirt, he was fawned over. 

"It's just what Cal has to offer -- the academics, the life after football. There are so many resources. Cal, in general, has a lot to offer kids. Cal was the biggest thing with him and his family -- to be successful outside of football. Let's take football aside, and look at what Cal has to offer -- other colleges just don't have that to offer. Once he realized that was molded into the culture, he said, 'Yeah, I'm in.' It was a combination of the culture -- the Cal culture -- and the football culture that we're bringing in. It was a nice mesh."

In less than two weeks, Edwards has had to finish off a recruiting cycle, familiarize himself with his new roster -- one, he marvels, has more depth at receiver (14 scholarship players) than he's ever had, thanks to the previous staff's pass-happy bent -- actually get to know the people behind the highlight tapes and find his footing while running full speed.

"It is a lot, but it's exciting to see what they're doing," he said. "The guys are excited, I'm excited, they keep coming into my office, and they want to start working, and I want to start working. I've got to get the office work done first, but I'm excited to actually get into the offense, to start working with the guy, to develop these guys."

The first thing he noticed, when looking at the current roster, is that he has two primary weapons: Melquise Stovall and Demetris Robertson.

"I watched a little bit of [tape]," Edwards said on Wednesday. "The first thing that I noticed? A lot of speed. It's going to be fun to work with that much speed, because we didn't have that kind of speed at all at Eastern. It'll be fun to really start working."

That speed, plus experience at running back -- Vic Enwere and Tre Watson -- and the four-to-six tight end-type bodies Baldwin hopes he'll have by the time spring ball is over, mean that there should be plenty of hands into which Cal can put the football, in a variety of ways.

"We line them up everywhere," Edwards said. "It depends on who it is. My previous experience, we had some wideouts play running back, we had Cooper Kupp throw a lot of different passes. For us, it's just doing a good job in evaluating, once we get to spring ball, what can they do. Can they throw it a little bit? Are they good with the ball in their hands? Our offense is built, we can do everything with our terminology, and the way that we structure our offense. That's the beauty, and that's why we were so successful at Eastern, me and coach Baldwin, just because we can do anything."

Of course, the Bears don't yet have a starting quarterback -- or even one with significant game experience. Baldwin has seen more tape on Chase Forrest and Ross Bowers than either Max Gilliam or Victor Viramontes, given that the first two are the only quarterbacks on the roster to see game action, but he's going into spring ball fairly fresh. The talent at the other skill positions may help to provide stability for the nascent Bears offense.

"If you look back over my last nine years, as head coach and coordinating an offense, I've been very multiple each year, and I really think that's been a big part of our success," said offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin. "Being multiple allows you to be somewhat balanced. It doesn't mean you're balanced in every game or against every team, but it allows you to be a lot more balanced, which I think is a big key to consistently winning, over time." Bringing Edwards with him from Eastern Washington helps Baldwin immensely, when it comes to implementing his offense, and creating that sense of stability, seeing as he and Baldwin have been together for the better part of the last seven years.

"Coach Edwards is someone that I not only coached with, the last three years that he coached at Eastern Washington, but he also played for me. I got to know him then. I knew, you could tell as a player, that he was going to be a tremendous coach, with what he brought to the table. Bringing him, there's that element of someone who understands your language, who understands exactly what you're talking about, especially within the passing game, and how extensive that is -- the spacing, the reads, everything that goes with that. It's a tremendous opportunity for him, but we're obviously very lucky to have him within our staff."

The familiarity with Baldwin -- Edwards was a Football Championship Subdivision All-American for Baldwin while a receiver at Eastern -- helps at least one aspect of the transition for Edwards.

"It's a lot easier, because I know what to expect from my coordinator," he said. "The hardest thing is when you go into a coaching situation, and you don't know anybody, you don't know what to expect. You don't know his pet peeves. You don't know what is going to make him upset. You don't know what to do. The transition is just a lot easier, just because I know what to expect."

Knowing Baldwin's system also helps Edwards sell the new marriage between Cal and Baldwin. The Eagles, said Scout national recruiting director Brandon Huffman, always recruited over their heads, even convincing some prospects with Football Bowl Subdivision offers out to Cheney. Others, like Cooper Kupp, were completely unheralded. "We're a big component of actually taking a recruit, taking them as a three-star and making them a five-star down the road," said Edwards. "That's our biggest thing. We don't care what star he is. What matters is, 'What does he do on the field?' We had three good wideout at Eastern Washington that nobody knew about, but we developed them, and that's our whole goal, and our mindset. We can do a good job in evaluating, but how can we get these guys to play? That's our mindset."

Edwards is a true believer, which makes the offense easier to sell, but it was his quick orientation with Berkeley that made the sale even easier. The Cal brand -- for the mere fact that it has the likes of Robertson, Keenan Allen and DeSean Jackson behind it -- can be very powerful.

That's what gave Edwards the confidence to finally close Jeremiah Hawkins -- one of two wideouts in the 2017 class, and the only one who wasn't already in school by the time Edwards arrived on campus -- and fend off Nebraska.

"I got a good feel of Jeremiah and his family," Edwards said. "They're awesome people, and as soon as I signed my contract, I went over there and talked to those guys, and they said that it meant a lot. I think, once they got to meet me, meet coach Baldwin, meet coach Wilcox, it was a lot easier. I was confident that he was going to stay committed, but again, you're going up against everybody. It was a little bit scary, but we got him here, and now, we're excited." Top Stories