Pass Catching Skills on Display

When you analyze the California Golden Bears from last season most people would agree that wide receiver was a position of strength. However, this season Cal loses 97% of its production from a year ago. Eight days into fall camp, the inexperienced but talented 2008 receiving corps is coming together…

At the end of each season fans look at all the players who have graduated or left early for the NFL and try to figure out what their teams' strengths and weaknesses will be. When a team losses excellent talent at certain positions that talent is not always easy to replace.

In 2007, California's wide receiver trio of DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan combined for 184 catches, 2,323 yards and 15 touchdowns. It is understandable why fans would wonder how the Bears would get anywhere close to that production with the number of current receivers that lack experience.

The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Jackson in round two and the Tennessee Titans drafted Hawkins in round four of the NFL Draft. How easily can they be replaced? They cannot per se.

Is there a player on the roster that is capable of the punt return Jackson executed against Tennessee last September?

Do the Bears have a receiver on the roster that can return kickoffs and make tough catches across the middle the way Hawkins did last season?

To expect one or two first time starters this season to equal the production of DeSean and Lavelle is a tall order. What is a possibility is that as a group the 2008 receiving corps can be productive. If three or four receivers step up and produce, it will be hard for opposing defenses to key on three or four capable targets. As a unit, thus far in practice a number of players flashed a different set of skills.

Tight end Cameron Morrah has made a number of tough catches over the middle. He has showed that he has the speed to run away from defenders. Sixth-year senior Sean Young has just three career receptions. However, he has made some tough catches on the sideline. At Saturday's practice, he made a diving catch on the sideline, where he managed to get his feet down in bounds. On another play, Young was able to break free deep down the sideline for a 50-yard catch.

Marvin Jones at 6-foot-2 and 189 lbs has good size. He has had a stellar camp thus far, arguably the top performing true freshman in fall camp. Moreover, he has showed on more than one occasion that it might be difficult for one defender to take him down in one-on-one situations. Jones is very elusive in the open field.

Michael Calvin has shown a willingness to maintain his concentration and make catches in traffic. Calvin is by far the most consistent performer in camp. If Calvin is the most consistent then Nyan Boateng is the most physically gifted among the wideouts. He has made a number of tough catches. In addition, he has the ability to catch balls at their highest point.

It would not be surprising if three or four receivers including Morrah will be able to bring different elements to this year's offense. If Cal continues their tradition of having a strong running game then there will not be too much pressure on the receiving core. It is very likely that as a unit the receivers will produce more than most fans expected.


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