2022 Cal Football Positional Preview: Wide Receivers
Young, fast, and hungry
Wide receivers get a ton of publicity for the show they put on the field and rightfully so. From the smoothness of Davante Adams to the physicality of Calvin Johnson to the speed of DeSean Jackson, there are a plethora of characteristics that wide receivers can carry. This new Cal wide receiver room is no different, with a variety of creators who each provide their own slice of the pie. To say it’s a new crop of receivers is an understatement, with Trevon Clark, Kekoa Crawford, and Nikko Remigio all graduating or transferring after last season. Let’s take a look at just how much the receiver room has changed as a whole over the years(in terms of people who saw the majority of snaps and receptions).
2015: Kenny Lawler, Maurice Harris, Bryce Treggs, Trevor Davis etc.
2016: Chad Hansen, Demetris Robertson, Jordan Veasy, Kanawai Noa, Vic Wharton III etc
2017: Veasy, Noa, Wharton, Jordan Duncan etc
2018: Noa, Wharton, Duncan, Jeremiah Hawkins, Moe Ways etc
2019: Duncan, Je.Hawkins, Nikkio Remigio, Kekoa Crawford, Trevon Clark, Monroe Young, Makai Polk
2020: Remigio, Crawford, Clark, Young, Polk etc
2021: Remigio, Crawford, Clark, Young, Jeremiah Hunter, Justin Richard Baker (minimal)
2022: The New Crop
As I mentioned earlier, Remigio, Crawford, and Clark are all gone and with them the 1,409 receiving yards they brought with them (there were 2,659 receiving yards across the whole team). The Golden Bears lose 53% of their total receiving output in a thanos snap, not to mention that this stat encompasses running backs and tight ends, so this may look worse depending on how you look at it. Hunter, Young, and J.R. Baker bring back 489 receiving yards or 18% of the total receiving output. That’s a lot to replace so let’s see what Cal can muster up in this new receiving room under the guise of Golden Bear legend Burl Toler III.
#18 Mason Starling (College of San Mateo) (Click for Starling Preview)
#84 Jaiven Plummer (Episcopal/Massaponax High School) (Click for Plummer Preview)
The “Old” and very much still New:
#3 Jeremiah Hunter
6 ft 2 in, 205 LBS
2021 Stats: 9 Games Played, 21 rec, 388 yds, 1 TD
The Northern California product has earned the role of the lead returning Cal receiver from last year, and as you can see there still is a lot to prove. Jeremiah Hunter thoroughly impressed during his time at Central High School in Fresno, CA but this is simply a different man now. After a season ending injury during his first season on campus, Hunter has slowly acclimated towards the outside, where he found his groove early in the season against Sacramento State and Washington, where he had 11 receptions across the two contests and scored his only touchdown of the season on a 45 yd dime from Chase Garbers. It’s odd because after those two games he had 6 total receptions the rest of the season which was really puzzling, even if part of it was the offensive staff deferring to the more experienced players. With those guys gone, Hunter is the inherent favorite to take over one of the starting outside receiver spots, but he will be in a fight with the next two people I will be previewing for the majority of snaps.
#7 J.Michael Sturdivant
6 ft 3 in, 205 LBS
2021 Stats: 3 tackles (yes you read that right)
Well now that’s awkward isn’t it, three solo tackles as the output for J.Michael Sturdivant last year. However, both myself and Cal are putting a lot of stock in the raw talent this man possesses. A 4* composite recruit out of Texas, Sturdivant lit up the field at some of the highest levels Texas High School Football has to offer, setting the record at Marcus High School for career receptions (188 rec). By the end of last season, Sturdivant was earning more and more special teams snaps and even saw the field in a wide receiver capacity in the early goings of the UCLA flattening as seen at the 1:26 mark here. He’s able to turn his hips, high point the football and if not for the throw being a bit high plus the peskiness of Jay Shaw, he comes down with a spectacular catch. His athletic tools are off the charts and its quite clear why he earned snaps over the course of the season and why he’s also in a good position to be the next face of the Cal receiver room.
#11 Mavin Anderson
6 ft 0 in, 200 LBS
2021 Stats: None
The next candidate for Cal’s outside receiver slot is Mavin Anderson, a redshirt freshman from Mission Viejo, CA. Much like J.Michael Sturdivant, Cal is investing in the raw athleticism and playmaking that Anderson provides. In the spring, Anderson was used on the outside thanks to the afterburners he has, logging a touchdown in a spring scrimmage on a pass over the top. There are some rumblings that Mavin will be used in a versatile sense, along the lines of jet sweeps and push passes if you will. It remains to be seen if the Golden Bears will roll with that but it’s clear they want Mavin Anderson on the field in some capacity, just how much is unknown. Regardless, the raw talent and athleticism is there and something Cal fans should be savoring at yet not go overboard with. Installing a whole new receiver room takes time.
#14 Monroe Young
6 ft 0 in, 210 LBS
2021 Stats: 4 rec, 57 yds
By far the most experienced wide receiver on Cal’s team is Monroe Young. Truthfully, his role during his first 3 seasons was extremely limited, where he was mainly sent out on special teams and to run block in 13 personnel. Over the course of the shortened 2020 season and last season, Young started to see the field more in a meaningful capacity. His big highlight last season was hauling in a 30 yard pass from Chase Garbers to move Cal to the goal line in the Big Game, setting up the receiving touchdown to former Golden Bear Christopher Brooks. Ironically enough in all of the six career games Young has recorded a reception, he’s never had a multi-reception game. Regardless, Monroe Young is a solid safety net to have because he knows the system, isn’t afraid to rise along the ladder to make a play, and has special teams upside. Look for Monroe Young to continue his role as a rotational wide receiver, and to mainly help with run blocking this season.
#22 Justin Richard Baker
5 ft 10 in, 180 LBS
2021 stats: 7 rec, 44 yds
Justin Richard Baker is one fast and shifty individual. In the limited time he saw the field last season, he was used in the slot receiver role and also provide special teams use as a kick and punt returner. I firmly expect his role to increase as a returner, which is where he was at his best during his high school days in Washington. Getting Baker in the open field is a must, and the return position is where he will likely see the most time this year outside of rotational snaps in the slot. Mavin Anderson may take a shared role in the slot with Baker but that remains to be seen come week 1 of the season. Baker will be competing against Lu Magia Hearns and Jeremiah Hunter for the punt returner role, and looks to be leading that competition for the moment. Look for Justin Richard Baker to be the shot in the arm player if the offense or defense is off its game.
#29 Aidan Lee
6 ft 1 in, 240 LBS
2021 stats: 9 games played, no stats
After getting dinged up in the spring season, it remains to be seen where Aidan Lee will fit into the wide receiver depth once he’s fully healthy. Lee has a bigger low body build compared to the rest of the receiver room, which served him well in seeing the field for 9 total games last season. While he didn’t log any performance stats, to me it seems like Aidan Lee’s role may turn out to be a Darius Powe Jr, where he becomes more a safety valve and make the right catch at the right time. It is quite clear the coaching staff values Lee’s presence and skill set with the amount of participation he got last year as a sophomore with a staff that can be hesitant to play the young guys at times. Like I mentioned earlier, it remains to be seen where he will fit due to his health at the moment but when he does come back at full speed I know he’s coming full steam ahead.
#18 Mason Starling
#36 Grant Daley
#37 Kenden Robinson Jr
#39 Trond Grizzell
#82 Mason Mangum
#83 Chris Rogers
#84 Jaiven Plummer
#89 Tommy Christakos
Here are the rest of the receivers who make up the Cal receiver room. Just because some players are listed here does not mean they won’t have an impact at any point this season. Take Mason Starling, Chris Rogers, and Tommy Christakos for example, they’ve all been reported as making plays across spring and fall camps, so much as rotating with the 2nd group for a non-insignificant amount of time. These three receivers look to be the ones closest to breaking the rotation but that doesn’t mean that others can’t as well.
What does this all mean and how can we evaluate the Cal receiver room? Well, my take is this: the raw talent in the Golden Bear receiver room is the highest it’s ever been at in the Wilcox era. From Hunter to Sturdivant to Anderson, all of these guys are faster, stronger, and more talented than the players they replaced. So what’s the big deal then? Why am I not putting out the red carpet for them? Because at the end of the day unless you are a big program like Alabama, Georgia, or Ohio State, you simply cannot replace game experience and chemistry with the snap of a finger. It takes time to build repertoire, something that the current wide receiver room is building. The good news? These receivers are so young and will have so much time to build said chemistry. The bad news? There will be growing pains, so be prepared for it. Whether it is timing, route running, or general knowledge, it will take time for these kids to grow into their new roles and that is okay. You may not get the immediate return on investment you wanted but that’s part of the fandom, it is why we turn on the tv for 13-14 weekends every fall. These wide receivers have their own identity, a new identity, one that will reveal itself as the next 2-3 seasons pass by.