WR While awaiting the fall arrival of two players who will assuredly be in the WR rotation, freshman DeSean Jackson and sophomore Lavelle Hawkins, Bear fans will be treated to a spirited competition for the other three slots in the group that will see the bulk of the available playing time. Among the players battling for a spot in the mix are sophomore Robert Jordan, junior David Gray, sophomore Sam DeSa, sophomore Noah Smith and sophomore Sean Young (who is not expected to participate in spring contact drills while recovering from foot surgery).
Jordan returns after playing a key role on offense during a season in which he was expected to redshirt. Due to injuries to all four senior receivers as well as the three redshirt freshmen and Gray, Jordan saw action in seven games. He responded by catching 24 passes for 296 yards and 2 TDs. This effort gave Bear fans a sense of Jordans considerable talent. His slight build (511" 160) represents Jordans biggest challenge the ability to bulk up without losing speed. This will enable him to make plays in traffic over the middle. Expect Jordan to receive significant playing time this fall.
David Gray returns from his third consecutive injury-plagued season ready to fulfill the enormous promise that accompanied him to Cal from McClymonds HS in Oakland. Thus far, his biggest contribution to the Bears occurred in 2002 on the first play from scrimmage in the Tedford era, when he scored a touchdown on a pass from Terrell Williams. If healthy, Gray would be an ideal compliment to the teams smaller, speedier receivers. His size (63") and strength will certainly give him an advantage over the Pac-10s undersized defensive backs. Look for him to be part of the receiver rotation.
The three remaining candidates are all members of the touted recruiting class of 2003. After redshirting in 03, they battled injuries throughout the 2004 season and wound up with a cumulative total of three passes for 19 yards. While Young recovers, both DeSa and Smith will be in a position to distinguish themselves and create an edge on the competition heading into fall camp. It promises to be a lively battle.
OL Four of the five starting positions are spoken for (seniors Ryan OCallaghan, Aaron Merz and Marvin Philip and junior Andrew Cameron). The only open competition for a starting spot is for the OG position vacated by Jonathan Giesel. The leading candidates to fill that position are junior Erik Robertson and redshirt freshman Norris Malele. Robertson is a better run blocker but Malele is a better pass blocker. If either player substantially improves their respective shortcoming, he will take a big lead in the battle to join the premier starting OL in the West. Of course, if both develop heretofore unobserved skills, their competition will probably continue into fall camp before a starter is determined.
Juniors Scott Smith, Paul Fraley and Bryan Deemer, along with sophomore Leon Drummer, will battle three members of the recruiting class of 2004, Mike Tepper, John Gibson and Alex Mack for a spot in the "Top Eight". Spring practice is a chance for any one of these players to catch Coach Michalcziks eye and separate themselves from the pack.
Another player to watch is Brian De La Puente, a walk-on sophomore from San Clemente HS. This will be his first spring practice, following an injury-plagued 2004 (he missed both spring ball and the season due to injury).
Fans of line play are alerted to watch the competition for backup positions closely. With four seniors on the first unit this season, this spring affords the reserves an opportunity to secure an edge for one of the multiple slots that will open on the 2006 line.
(Coming in Part 3: linebackers and the defensive line)
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