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Bear Insider Video: Cal WR Jeremiah Hunter Ready to Lead

March 27, 2023
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As the Bears hit the midway point in spring ball through eight practices before heading to spring break, veteran wide receiver Jeremiah Hunter noted that the offense is still in the process of coming together after lots of changes in the offseason.

"Well, we're still building chemistry between the quarterback and receivers but I like where we're at right now," Hunter noted.

Redshirt soph TCU portal transfer Sam Jackson is transitioning this spring from backup QB to potential starter and there’s a learning curve to learning both a new offense and new personnel.

"I just feel like he's very energetic. He's electric," Hunter said. "You can see when you're out here, so I just can't wait to have fun with it. It’s gonna be a lot of fun."

The element of having a quarterback with elite speed running the show takes some of the heat off both the receiver and running backs as defenses now have another potential game-breaking athlete on the field to account for.

"I just feel like it opens up a lot of things because they have to keep contain (on defense)," noted Hunter. "So the defense has to keep contain so if he can break containment, they're in a lot of trouble. And then it turns to like backyard football. And even still, if they put a lot of people in the box to stop the run, that means it's gonna be bad coverage outside and I like that a lot. I like that and all our receivers do."

Being the Bears’ leading returning receiver will put a target on Hunter’s back but the veteran WR is determined to not internalize any pressure his presence might draw from the defense.

"I can only control what I can control,” Hunter said. “So I'm gonna just do my job and hopefully things work out. But I know all our receivers can do their job. So if they're singling me out, I know our receivers are gonna do the job. So I can just do what I can do try to get open but if not gonna do my job in blocking and do all the other stuff."

With the Bears’ new spread offense with the return of former OC Jake Spavital, coverage should open up more for the receivers this season with new looks and an emphasis in finding gaps in the defense instead of sticking to patterns no matter what the coverage.

"I feel like it fits everybody's skill set," Hunter noted. "Plus, most of us have been running spreads since like middle school or high school. So we're pretty used to it and I feel freer, just a lot freer. So it's a different type of energy. And I'm glad we've got that type of energy. We got to build off of it."

One of the points of emphasis in Spavital’s system is the freedom to break off routes if they see the opportunity to beat the defense in other ways.

"Yeah, I love it," Hunter said with a smile. "It doesn't matter where we're at, like, just try to get open. And that's it. That's all he preaches. Just try to get open. So we can all do that. So it's gonna be fun."

After leading the team with 60 receptions for 965 yards (16.1 ypc) and 5 TDs in 11 games, Hunter’s looking to up his game more this season to hopefully help him prepare for a future NFL career.

"I'm gonna try to catch more with my hands," Hunter said. "I've been watching the film and it's a lot of body catches  and I feel like if I just flip my hands and catch with my hands, a lot of those drops I had would turn into catches."

Last season, Hunter displayed a big catch radius, being able to haul in sometimes difficult-to-catch balls. Does he feel like any ball in his vicinity is his to lose?

“Yeah, I feel like that every time," Hunter said. "It doesn't matter where it's at. I feel I have to get every time so I gotta keep that mindset."

The Bears strengthened their young cornerback room with a duo of experienced DBs that have been pushing the Cal receivers and QBs to be extra sharp in the passing game in UNLV CB Nohl Williams and Colorado CB Kaelin Moore. Does Hunter feel like the extra high level of competition is sharpening his game?

"I feel like it," Hunter said. "Nohl (Williams) and Kaelin Moore, I feel like they've been doing their job. They're both different. I feel like KMoore, he's athletic. Nohl, he's more physical. So they bring different skill sets. But it helps me because I'm gonna see a lot of different things during the season so that all helps and you still have Lu Hearns. And we still have Jeremiah Earby. So those four, there's just a lot of different skill sets they have. And I'm just glad that I get to go through this with every one of them just to try to build my bag as well."

Isaiah Young is another cornerback who’s come on strong over the last week, leading the team in interceptions and breakups over the last three sessions.

"Isaiah's skill set, he's just trusting himself as you saw on that last play, like he trusted himself and he jumped that route. So I like Isaiah a lot. He's got a lot of twitch."

Redshirt soph receiver Mavin Anderson is also poised to have a strong year along with Hunter as one of the two top receiving threats returning this season.

"I think the way we spread it out like you mentioned before, I feel like it helps Mavin as well with his speed. Like you can't really guard speed and Mavin's one of the fastest on the team so this year should be big for Mavin."

Redshirt frosh receiver Jaiven Plummer has been seeing a decent amount of balls go his way so far this spring. Hunter was asked what he brings to the table.

"I just feel like the only difference is his confidence is growing," Hunter said. "He really doesn't care about what happened on the play before. He's just trying to make the next play better. And as you see, he's just growing out so he's gotta keep building his confidence and believing in himself."

Another new addition to the Bears’ receiving corps is Hunter’s roommate Brian Hightower, a redshirt senior transfer from Illinois.

"I think BHightower is gonna be a nice, physical receiver and he's really fluid," Hunter said. "So we just got to get him back on the field and knock the rust off because he hasn't even caught with us in a while. But once he does that, I think everybody's gonna be surprised at what he does, too."

Redshirt junior receiver Mason Starling is out this spring rehabbing an Achilles injury but a healthy return to the field could be another big boon for the Cal offense.

“Nobody really knows how good Starlng is," Hunter said. "I still remember the catch he had like a little dig over in Washington. He just went over to the middle and his catch radius is big, too. We have a lot of people out right now. So once they come back, though, the receiving corps is gonna be nasty."

The Bears made a big addition to the running back room this offseason with the arrival of redshirt soph running back Byron Cardwell. A strong running game coupled with a strong passing game will only make Hunter and the receivers' jobs that much easier, not to mention taking the load off of All-Pac-12 running back Jadyn Ott.

"I just feel like it helps out Ott," Hunter noted as Cardwell’s addition. "They're both fluid running backs and they both work hard, they're fighting for yards. And I think that one-two punch will be crazy. And Ashton's (Stredick) been doing good, too. So the running back room is good."

The Bears haven’t used the fullback much in recent years but in the last few practices, big 6-0/250 FB Beaux Tagaloa has seen a good deal of action and has made his presence felt with some thundering hits this spring.

"Beaux runs hard, as you can see," Hunter said. "I love Beaux. Everybody loves Beaux on the team. We Cheer for Beaux. Beaux's gonna work hard every time."

As for what the team can accomplish this season, don’t look for big proclamations or excuses from Hunter and his teammates.

"It doesn't matter what we say," Hunter exclaimed. "We've got to put the work in. So it doesn't matter about the highs, the lows, we've just got to keep our heads down and keep working. We can't get satisfied with like being close to beating people. We've got to take that next step and finish the job. So I think we can do anything but we've got to be determined that we've got to finish the job."

 
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