Cal Football 2020 Positional Preview: Wide Receivers

[Insert Catchy Pun About Wide Receiving]

2020 is a weird season/year/sequence of numbers. From the jokes about my eyesight being better due to having 2020 vision to the global pandemic, there isn't anything typical this year. What is the most atypical thing? Cal having not 1, not 2, but 3 possible wideouts with the potential to become the next marquee receiver for the Cal offense. These are some bold words for a team whose leading WR had one 100 yard game and a total of 513 yards the season before. However, let's review the conditions for that event first.

Scheme

Let's begin at the scheme level of things and how they affect the wide receiver position's production. As discussed previously in my Erhard-Perkins scheme review, the passing offense centers around concepts rather than individual routes. The concepts are split between the left and right-hand sides of the whole offense. Since there are always five eligible receivers on the field, regardless of its 23 personnel (2 running backs, 3 tight ends, 0 wide receivers) or 00 (0 running backs, 0 tight ends, 5 wide receivers) set, the same pair of concepts can theoretically be run from any formation. This flexibility trickles down individual receivers since they can play inside or outside any formation by knowing each concept.

"Flip flop guys on the offense, have the inside guys on the outside and the inside guys on the outside." - Nikko Remigio.

The wideouts seem to be taking to the concepts and the whole offense scheme and more experience and chemistry with Chase from practice pressers.

Per Nick Kranz, the starting line-up looks the following:

Presumed starters, wide receiver: junior Nikko Remigio, senior Kekoa Crawford, sophomore Makai Polk, senior Trevon Clark.

Kekoa Crawford #11 - 6’1”, 180lbs - Redshirt Senior

Crawford's healthy return to the offense allows for more speed and size to enter the offensive equation. He has a lot to prove, considering the 16 catch/272 yard 2019 season was his career-high for the senior from SoCal, and all the tools needed to make the most of his 2020 season. I am curious about how he will adapt to playing from the inside receiver positions. Will he take advantage of not being jammed from the LOS and possible size advantages between him and the nickel covering him?

Nikko Remigio #4 - 5’10”, 185lbs - Junior

Nikko Remigio returns as the WR with the most chemistry with Chase and, in my opinion, the best chance at being the next marquee WR for Cal. It might be my undying affection of the slot-WR types stemming from Madden 11 and Wes Welker being a sure catch machine. His speed and route running savvy can see him taking a ton of snaps in and outside. All in all, Nikko will most likely lead the team in catches due to the chemistry he developed with Chase throughout the last 2 seasons and his role as the safety valve in the slot.

Makai Polk #17 - 6’3”, 200lbs - Sophomore

Polk emerged as Chase's big play YAC target on short routes, who after Bowl practice flashed early in the Redbox Bowl with 100 yards on 5 catches in the 1st half. There something to be said about WRs who can make a guy or two miss to gain yards (See Brandon Aiyuk ASU/SF Niners). I think he might be a dark horse to overtake Clark in snaps as long as he keeps producing on a per-catch basis (15.5 yards per reception). From the top-sheet look, Polk could be the main YAC threat barring any developments from the rest of the squad (Kekoa flashed it in the UW game but not enough of a sample to declare him a YAC threat).

Trevon Clark #80 - 6’4”, 190lbs - Senior

Clark will always be remembered for the toe-tap clutch 4th quarter catch in the 2019 Big Game to move the offense on its final drive to win the game. I mentioned how Polk could unseat Clark in snaps. However, Clark will not relinquish the spot without a fight. The long wideout provides the catch radius, experience, and sure hands needed on the outside to turn 50/50 ball closer to 70/30.

et alia.

Besides the starters, I can see both Justin Baker and Jeremiah Hunter coming in to break into the rotation. The former has game-breaking speed, and positional versatility not seen since DRob, and the latter has flashed during camp with route running and release polish. One other player who might contribute is Aidan Lee, whose 225lbs 6'1" frame is a rarity on the roster sheet.

From the three, I can see Baker having the most used due to his experience at WR and RB, allowing Musgrave to run 21 personnel with him and a FB in the backfield and then spread out with him in the slot out no huddle giving him a favorable match-up against an ILB in space.

Final Thoughts

Finally, my thoughts on how the WRs will be used considering both scheme and skills are in making opposing defenses confused by running the same concepts out of different sets and running different concepts out of the same looks. Forcing the opposing defensive players to process more information on a snap by snap basis can result in broken coverage. Chase has shown the accuracy to make a game-breaking throw as well. However, if the concepts are repetitive and easy to ID, or the pass-catchers are not on the same page, limiting the interchangeability can become a very predictable and stagnant offense.

A few quick plugs as we rumble towards the first game of the season:

  • If you’re not doing so already, you should follow the @writeforcal twitter account, where Owen Kaminski has been doing a great job of collecting all of the limited info coming out of fall camp.

  • We’ll have gamethreads up each weekend for folks to hang out and discuss college football games around the nation, and we’re having fun experimenting with commentary live streams. This past weekend we watched a shockingly dull Sonny Dykes game and talked Cal football. This is all a build up to our ultimate goal of live streaming watch-a-longs for Cal games this year. Since we can’t gather together to watch Cal football, why not take the opportunity to gather online to watch? We’re also planning to have guests and other surprises during our watch-a-longs. So make sure to follow and subscribe to our @writeforcal twitter accountYouTube page and Facebook page to watch with us and talk to us!