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Cal Football

Christakos, Anderson and Sturdivant Ready to Shine

May 8, 2022
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For anyone who had the opportunity to take in a practice or two during Cal’s spring ball in April, it didn’t take long to see the potential for Cal’s fairly pedestrian passing game in recent years to make a major leap forward in 2022.

You want speed? How about redshirt frosh receivers J.Michael Sturdivant’s 10.37 or Mavin Anderson’s 10.73 high school 100 meter times or redshirt soph Mason Mangum’s 10.72 100 competing for Cal track and field this season?

You want size, catch radius and high point ability? How about 6’4 receivers Tommy Christakos and Mason Starling or 6’3 Sturdivant. All possess substantial length and ability to catch anything near them and shield defenders from the ball.

You want precise route running and timing to keep the defense guessing and off-balance? How about redshirt frosh receiver Jeremiah Hunter on the outside and Anderson in the slot, who simply caught everything that came their way all spring long?

“You know, we're just a whole bunch of young guys and we know we all have a lot of potential here, so we just encourage everyone to practice hard and make those plays that we can make,” said Sturdivant. “We see a lot of potential in ourselves.”

In recent years, the Bears have struggled to produce any type of consistency behind four-year QB starter Chase Garbers and a line that has often had difficulty protecting him. Their fifth-place finish in yards per game (258) represented a big jump from their last-place finishing in the Pac-12 for the three prior years but still wasn’t enough to propel the Bears to a bowl game.

Veterans Trevon Clark, Nikko Remigio, and Kekeo Crawford certainly had their moments, particularly Clark with his gaudy 20 yards per catch average, though none managed more than 40 receptions for the season.

“I was in the room with Trevon and Nikko and Kekoa and when they (Anderson and Sturdivant] came in. I recognized that there's a lot of spots to be filled and I told them ‘you’re here, now let's show up,’” said Christakos. “’There's some big shoes to fill, but you guys can definitely do it, you can achieve really big things.’”

Anderson capped off a strong spring, thrilling the crowd with a 30-yard TD reception early in the Spring Showcase. 

“Felt amazing, great experience,” Anderson said. “It was nice to have the people around. The atmosphere was great, and I'm just grateful to play in an atmosphere like that.”

The trio saw their chemistry with their QBs and each other throughout the spring. What was their secret?

“Just a lot of repetition. We push each other to be the best that we can be every day,” Sturdivant said. “It's a lot of competition, in meeting rooms who can show up first, who can send the plays into the group chat and who can make the most plays in practice. So we just push each other and compete all the time. And with the quarterbacks, getting the timing down over practices and just getting work in after practice and over the spring, it’s just showing out on the field right now”

Is there any sort of friendly rivalry in the wide receiver room?

“Well sometimes when we see mistakes, we like to critique them and we just have with it really,” Sturdivant said. “Being able to have fun and see who can run the fastest one day, who can have the most catches one day, or who can keep the ball off the ground and have the least amount of drops or just little stuff like that, that we can compete with every day, every practice - that's how we're gonna get better.”

“A little friendly banter goes a long way,” said Christakos with a smile.

The friendly competition also continues off the field, including innovative ways the staff encourages the players to continue to absorb the playbook

“We also compete over what's going on in the system, with kahoots,” said Anderson of the speed-based Q&A game they use to learn the offense.

But the friendly comp doesn’t stop there.

“It's even come down to Wordle,” said Christakos.

“Start our day off right with the Wordle,’ Anderson agreed with a smile.

The comp also carries over to who is the fastest on the field. Even though Sturdivant has the edge in 100 PR times, the competition is closer on the playing field.

“We just track the miles per hour every day and see who can get the fastest time,” said Sturdivant. “I have the fastest time we've had, so I'm up right now. But Mavin’s always coming, so I gotta keep getting faster because I know he's on my tail.”

Christakos may not have the wheels of his speedy teammates but he's sneaky fast with his ablity to get behind the defense with his long strides.

“It takes me a little while to get going but I like to think that when I get going, I'd be considered fast,” Christakos said. “I did a little track as a junior (in high school) but that was a little short stint. Compared to these guys it's kind of hard to be fast.” 

The Cal program has seen more than its share of top-flight receivers over the years and two of them were on hand for last weekend’s Spring Showcase in Cal legends DeSean Jackson and Geoff McArthur. Jackson was also there Friday and spent time in the receiver’s meeting room.

“(DeSean) just came and said what's up, and told us the keys to be successful and what he did to separate himself, and how important just competing with everyone is,” Sturdivant said. 

“We thought we were meeting for just a little routine team meeting, like post-practice, and then next thing you know DeSean Jackson steps through the door and we were like, ‘Oh that’s DJ,’” Christakos said. “He just kind of passed his wisdom down to us. We were asking some really valuable questions like, what it takes to separate yourself from other guys in the group when you're at the collegiate level, what it takes getting to the NFL. And he was preaching that confidence in yourself goes a long way as long as you truly believe in your talent because you have the ability. He was just saying you have to come in, you have to compete. If you're not making your teammates better, then you are wasting our time out here. So he just passed on some really valuable information to us.” 

“(Being at Cal) was his favorite experience he told us,” Anderson said. 

The talented trio was asked their expectations for the upcoming season based on what they saw this spring.

“We just want to be explosive, put a lot of points on the board,” said Sturdivant. “Because you know we can do it. We got all the guys that we need to go out there and score and win games so that's our goal.”

Christakos kept it simple:  “Touchdowns.” 

“We're gonna be that spark our team needs in those tough moments,” concluded Anderson.

The Bears return only 33 receptions from last season among their returning or new receiving corps but don’t let that number deceive you. There's too much talent in this group to not far outperform their prior production.

Prepare to be impressed.

 

Discussion from...

Christakos, Anderson and Sturdivant Ready to Shine

2,805 Views | 6 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by calumnus
calumnus
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Great that Desean Jackson keeps coming back and showing his love for Cal
upsetof86
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Love Desean!!! Cal loves you DJ!!
GivemTheAxe
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calumnus said:

Great that Desean Jackson keeps coming back and showing his love for Cal


I guess Desean has slammed the door on his critics who when he was here called him "Me-sean" (of course most of those critics were on the other teams.
BearForce2
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I'm pretty excited about this young group of receivers, the best group since Goff was around.
calumnus
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BearForce2 said:

I'm pretty excited about this young group of receivers, the best group since Goff was around.


Probably since the following year, extending into the beginning of Wilcox's first year.
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