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New Contributors Give Bears a Golden Outlook This Season

September 5, 2022
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Cal fans looking for a reason to believe this year’s team would be different than the ones that disappointed the last two seasons after showing only inconsistent glimpses of success can take heart after Saturday’s season-opening 34-13 win over UC Davis.

Forget that veteran Aggie coach Dan Hawkins ballsily billed his team as the best in UC Davis history. It wasn’t the 21-point win over an FCS opponent that moved the needle. The Bears came into the game showing that this season’s look would be different, regardless of the opponent - and different they are.

Perusing the stat sheet from Saturday’s game, it was easy to see how having an injection of talent far out-surpassed the benefit of having a roster full of returning starters last season but the stat sheet doesn’t tell the full story, as it’s impossible to convey so many elements of the game in simple statistics.

Here are some of the many ways the new look Bears dominated the game for the Bears:

Quarterback

4th year QB Jack Plummer shook off a shaky 1st quarter start behind some less than stellar early protection where he was sacked twice and threw an interception. To be fair, the INT was not primarily Plummer’s fault as it was a very catchable ball that bounced off the soph’s shoulder pads into the arms of the defender. Plummer finished the quarter with no completions in two attempts and but finished the final three quarters 23-for-33 (69.6%) for 263 yards and 3 TDs an no INTs. He also had a couple of deep ball overthrows that will likely be big-play conversions in games to come.

Running Back

True frosh running back Jaydn Ott lived up to the hype on Saturday, becoming the first Cal frosh running back since Shane Vereen in 2008 to surpass 100 yards in his first appearance, rushing for 104 yards in 17 carries (6.14 ypc) and a touchdown. His TD reception was a thing of beauty and something Cal fans haven’t seen in a running back in years. Plummer hit the frosh in stride in the flat, where he gave the linebacker in position to make a tackle a subtle juke and turned the corner on him, beating the safety to the pylon to score on the 8-yard TD. He also had an impressive 18-yard reception setting up a late first half field goal, an 18-yard run, and three runs for the game of over 10 yards. It was the type of speed and athleticism missing from the roster in the backfield in recent years.

Wide Receiver

Redshirt frosh Mavin Anderson had his first pair of receptions of his career, including a 14-yard TD grab on his first catch where he caught the ball on the 11 with a corner squared up for a tackle on the sidelines and a safety in position inside. The speedy frosh gave a subtle juke inside, freezing the defenders then blasted by down the sideline for the Bears’ final score of the day.

Fellow redshirt frosh receiver J.Michael Sturdivant saw his first receptions as well, hauling in 4 catches for 55 yards on the day and flashing impressive speed.

Redshirt soph receiver Tommy Christakos shook off early-career injuries to haul in his first collegiate reception, a 17-yarder. The 6-4 receiver narrowly missed his first career TD as well, as he was mauled by his defender on a fade in the end zone on a perfect Plummer pass he couldn’t quite hold onto.

Tight End

Soph tight end Keleki Latu saw a bit of action last season as the 4th string TE playing behind a trio of seniors, compiling 4 receptions, including a TD vs. Colorado. The athletic soph had a pair of receptions yesterday for 14 yards and will undoubtedly see plenty more balls come his way, particularly in the red zone.

Soph Jermaine Terry gets an honorable mention nod for the opener after a frosh season where he had one reception in limited TE duty. Though he had no balls thrown his way, Terry played a key role in shoring up the Bears’ early game protection problems when he saw plenty of time as an inline blocker, impacting the game with his physical style of play. 

Defensive End

Though true frosh DE Nate Burrell had just one tackle in the limited reps he saw, he was a physical presence on the field, usually dominating his opponent and narrowly missing a deep sack, where he was into the backfield in a flash. The talented frosh is sure to see plenty of playing time this season based on the early results. Look for redshirt frosh Akili Calhoun to be another solid young contributor on the DL after continuing to recover from a late camp injury.

Inside Linebacker

Fifth-year redshirt junior MLB Jackson Sirmon led the Bears with 8 tackles on the day. The Washington transfer came into the season as the conference’s 2nd leading tackler, joining a talented young ILB corps, adding leadership and experience.

Fourth-year redshirt soph ILB Blake Antzoulatos shook off multiple prior year injuries to play his way onto the 2nd team in ‘22 after seeing primarily spot special teams duty till now. He took advantage of the opportunity, compiling an impressive 4 tackles in just 9 reps on the day, likely earning himself more PT in the process. 

Outside Linebacker

Utah portal transfer Xavier Carlton made his presence felt with 1.5 sacks on the day. The soph OLB had 3 tackles overall rotating in on D. UCLA transfer portal senior Odua Isibor also had 3 tackles on the day and was very active on the field, also creating several pressures.

Redshirt soph Myles Jernigan weathered several position changes and injuries to see his first meaningful time on defense at OLB, adding a half sack on an impressive speed rush on the edge and adding 5 tackles on the day. He’d entered spring ball as likely fourth string before playing his way into the rotation with a stellar fall camp.

Cornerback

True frosh CB Jeremiah Earby built on an impressive fall camp where he led all defenders with 5 interceptions by hauling in an impressive deep ball INT that looked to be on its way for a sure Aggie touchdown. The speedy frosh streaked across the goal line to snatch the ball from the receiver for the INT, likely earning himself more PT in future games this season.

Redshirt soph corner Isaiah Young got his first start after seeing a bit of backup action in the second half of the 2021 season. Young was third on the team in tackles, including a pair of big hits on two of the six. He was also solid in coverage all day.

Safety

Redshirt soph Craig Woodson took over the starting safety role from veteran safety and current Chicago Bear Elijah Hicks. opposite sixth-year senior Daniel Scott. The new starter played physically all day and showed his tremendous athletic potential in jumping a route to start the 3rd quarter and taking the interception to the house for a 38-yard TD.

Though the Bears only returned five full-time starters this season, they may well have found themselves the new pieces needed to make a significant jump in 2022 with a much-needed injection of speed, size and playmaking ability.

More stories:

Bears Rally to Roll Aggies, 34-13

Discussion from...

New Contributors Give Bears a Golden Outlook This Season

3,908 Views | 5 Replies | Last: 2 mo ago by Vandalus
calbear91
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Thanks Jim. I agree it seems addition by subtraction in some ways. I really want to see J Terry targeted more. I'm hopeful the D is solid. Can you give a breakdown on the Davis touchdown run? How much was blown assignments and how much good play execution?
NVBear78
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Is it confirmed now that Ott is the first TRUE Freshman with 100 yds rushing in his first game?
MoragaBear
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Staff
NVBear78 said:

Is it confirmed now that Ott is the first TRUE Freshman with 100 yds rushing in his first game?
Media relations is not aware of any but that's not the type of information readily available.
Big C
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Isaiah Young was all over the field in the first half!

Regarding pass rush strategies and uses of the tight end, I'm guessing Sirmon and Musgrave are likely keeping a lot under wrap until South Bend, though I'm sure they will break them out in the second half against UNLV, if necessary.
Vandalus
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That pick by Earby was a phenomenal play. His hips were turned towards the field, saw the ball coming to the backside/sideline receiver, excellent footwork to switch his hips and turned into the ball for the quick pick. Amazing presence for a frosh, and excellent ball skills not shown by most young DBs.

And Ott is for real. Easily most explosive frosh RB since Vereen.
~Spectemur agendo~
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