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Christakos Opening Eyes in Spring Ball

April 17, 2022
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Part of Cal's large 2020 wide receiver recruiting class, 6-4/220 redshirt soph receiver Tommy Christakos came to Cal as a natural red zone threat with his height, athleticism and leaping ability but so far this spring, the Scottsdale, Arizona weapon has proven to be so much more.

A 4 years starter at Scottsdale’s Chapparal High, Christakos earned 1st Team All-State at receiver, hauling in 43 receptions for 816 yards receiving while completing both of his passes for 12 yards, and making 2-of-3 field goal attempts including an impressive 53-yarder.

Christakos’s leg was big enough that when the Bears suffered injuries at kicker in the abbreviated 2020 4-game season, Christakos handled eight of the team's kickoffs with for an average of 64.0 yards per kickoff and two touchbacks in two games.

Nagging injuries held him back in his redshirt frosh season last year, though his tantalizing talent showed glimpses in practice, where he frequently ran right past DBs on long fly patterns to haul in touchdowns or long completions or in the Big Game, where the talented receiver made a nearly impossible catch on the sidelines that was barely ruled out -a catch that would've been his first collegiate reception.

Now bigger, stronger, healthier and more confident in 2021, Christakos has been literally tearing it up in practice, catching anything and everytihing that comes his way, even if well off target.

“I feel like in the past, I’ve been limited by little injuries here and there and this has been the first spring where I've felt really confident in my abilities bodywise,” said Christakos. “The most important thing for me, when I feel confident in my body and how I’m feeling, I know what I can do on the field will show for itself. Just going out there and not even having to think. Just make plays.”

“One of the things we’ve talked to Tommy about is when he’s been healthy and available Tommy can make some really nice plays,” said Wilcox. “He’s a tough matchup for his defense because of his size and he can run. He's got really, really great coordination in terms of being able to high point the ball and keep it away from his body and use his body to shield people. Tommy is a talented guy and so far this spring, he’s feeling good and he’s just got to stay on that course.”

So far this spring, the young and largely untested receiving group of Jeremiah Hunter, JMichael Sturdivant, Mavin Anderson, Mason Starling and Aidan Lee have been a force to e reckoned with all spring.

“Everyone in the room brings something different to the table,” said Christakos. “Whether it’s size speed, agility, everyone in the room can make plays that are unique to themselves but at the same time, we can all make the same plays. It just gives us all confidence when we’re on the field. Not only having confidence in yourself but in the other guys on the field around you. Knowing they know their assignment. Knowing they’re going to make the play. It just makes it easier and more fun.

“We appreciated Trevon and that group from last year. These guys will have a different skill set and a different quarterback launching them the ball to them so we’re hoping to be much better in the pass game.”

“Those guys are young guys,” said Musgrave. “We talk about that young group of wide receivers and this is going to become their team. Last year we had three seniors. Now they’re gone and and we’ve got these big receivers who are hopefully going to have an epic season.”

Nicknamed Top Shelf Tommy for his high point red zone skills, Christakos has proven to be far more versatile than just a red zone specialist for the Bears.

“I take pride in being a deep threat and the high balls and jump balls but I feel like I’ve got a lot more to show as a complete receiver and not only a deep threat, said Christakos.”

The types of passes QBs Jack Plummer and Kai Millner are completing with consistency this spring to the Bears' speedy receiving corps are often bang bang timing plays across the middle -the types of passses Bear fans haven't seen for years and which require high levels of precision to complete. After all the extra hours the QBs and receivers spent in the offseason getting on the same page, it's no accident.

“We'd go out multiple times throughout the week because it’s all about chemistry,” said Christakos. “Getting steps, getting timing. When the play's called, you don't even need to think about it. They know I'm going to be in the right spot and I know where the ball’s going to be.”

How does Christakos and his teammates feel about this team?

“I”m super, super excited," said Christakos with a smile. “I've been on a lot of football teams. Obviously this is the biggest, being the collegiate level, but the talent -and not even only the talent- we just have a bunch of smart guys. It brings sort of a settling confidence knowing that everybody's going to do their assignment. And when you have that, no one messes up and you have 11 guys doing what they know, we can achieve anything.”

The last offseason saw powerhouse Oregon trying to lure Wilcox back to his alma mater and the fact that he stayed made a big impact on the team.

“100%, even returning to the same offense with Coach Musgrave, everyone in the receiving room besides (JC transfer) Mason (Starling) already knows the offense like the back of their hand. So when we go into install this year, it’s more about some of the super fine details we didn't hear last year. So it just makes us that much more confident in our game play because we don't even have to think about it anymore.

“Now that we already know the offense, we're learning the reads, where the soft spots in the coverages are. That makes it even easier for us to get open because we know the safety's here, the corner’s there, I can just sit in this zone and wait for the ball. It makes us a lot more available on the field.”

The Bears are also building impressive depth on the defensive side of the ball, creating a very competetive situation day in and day out in practice.

“I’m glad they’ve got some depth on their side because we're also deep on our side," said Christakos. “It just makes us that much better on both sides of the ball. No matter what matchup -in my head, there’s not really 1’s, 2’s, 3’s. If you're going against a guy on the other side on our team, he's going to give you a quality rep so we're just making each other that much better.”

Christakos’s versatiity has been such that OC Bill Musgrave has begun to move him around, loking for mismatches in coverage.

“Usually I’m lined out wide so a cornerback (will cover him),” said Christakos. “But getting more and more familiar with this offense, they're using me more and more in the slot, too, so if I'm inside, sometimes I'll get covered by a nickel or safety or a linebacker.”

Last week, starting cornerback Lu Hearns was asked how hard it was to cover the six inches taller receiver. 

“Tommy has strong hands and likes those jump balls,” said Hearns. “You’ve got to beat him to the punch, honestly. You can’t let him get in the air and box you out because then, it's over.”

“Hey, you better beat me at the line, otherwise I’m going to go up and get that ball,” concluded Christakos with a smile.

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Discussion from...

Christakos Opening Eyes in Spring Ball

4,033 Views | 4 Replies | Last: 2 yr ago by KenBurnski
WalterSobchak
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He opened my eyes in the Big Game even though he couldn't quite get his feet down in bounds.
calumnus
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Seems like a natural for a trick play as a kicker.
HungryCalBear
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The Bears lose a lot of starters due to graduations, but it seems we have a very competent and confident young team who knows the system well. Is it Fall yet? Can't wait.
KenBurnski
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Ethan Saunders' interview from this afternoon made me tackle the mailman. I think our D line might be a bunch of highly intelligent and athletic psychopaths and I couldn't be happier.
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