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Cal Football Fall Camp Preview - The Wide Receivers

July 22, 2023
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In Jake Spavital's offense, a lot of WRs will play and catch balls. Where do the Bears stand in terms of depth and playmaking talent as fall camp approaches?   The room has a blend of returning production and plenty of new faces.

In 2016, when Spavital was last running the Cal offense, eleven WRs caught balls, with six of those receivers catching 25+ balls and four of them with 40+. In short, there will be plenty of opportunities for this unit in 2023.  

This spring gave us only a limited sense of the wide receiver unit as Mason Starling‍, Brian Hightower‍, and Mason Mangum‍ all sat out for most or all of the session. Incoming transfers, Taj Davis‍ and Marquez Dortch‍ were not yet on campus nor were JC recruit Marquis Montgomery‍ or incoming freshman Nyziah Hunter‍.

There’s a nice blend of size, speed, returning production, and upside potential in the room, and plenty of depth if the unit can stay healthy.

Bear Insider
Veteran Monroe Young

Pre-Fall Depth Chart

Outside X:

Jeremiah Hunter

Brian Hightower‍ 

Mason Starling‍ ‍ 

Marquis Montgomery‍ 

Inside/Slot Y:

Mavin Anderson‍ 

Mason Mangum‍ 

Marquez Dortch‍ 

Kendan Robinson*

Outside Z:

Taj Davis‍/ Monroe Young‍ 

Nyziah Hunter‍ 

Jaiven Plummer‍ 

Trond Grizzel*

*Walk on

Twitter / Terry Anderson
Mavin Anderson will be counted on to become a consistent playmaker

Breakout Player

Mavin Anderson

Anderson was a highly-touted four star recruit in the 2021 class, and after redshirting, established himself as a reliable receiver with 37 catches for 372 yards and three touchdowns during the 2022 season.  What wasn’t in evidence was his playmaking ability as Anderson’s got a unique combination of great speed with a RB’s build. Mavin’s a great fit for Spavital’s offense and this past spring showed him being lined up all over the field as Cal’s new OC clearly has big plans for the RS sophomore.  Anderson’s most valuable ability may be in his dynamic versatility - he can stretch defenses on deep balls, make contested catches over the middle, as well as being deployed on jet sweeps and WR screens.

Newcomer to watch

Bear Insider
UW transfer Taj Davis

Taj Davis

Davis gets the nod here over Brian Hightower, Marquez Dortch, and Nyziah Hunter, all of whom could become a big part of the Bears' offense in 2023.   

Taj gets the nod in large part because of his proven reliability and versatility. His statistics at Washington were solid and unspectacular - 47 catches, 606 yards, and 4 TDs with a 13 yards per catch average. Davis has stayed healthy throughout his career, shown himself to be a willing blocker, and has enough speed to keep safeties honest and enough size to win 50/50 balls with smaller cornerbacks.

Look for Taj Davis to battle Monroe Young to start opposite Jeremiah Hunter on the outside.

Key Questions For the Wide Receivers to Answer During Fall Camp

This will be among the most competitive rooms on the team. Burl Toler is looking for at least eight players in the rotation and beyond the established returners Hunter, Anderson, and Young, there will be a battle both in the pecking order as well as simply cracking that top eight. On the outside, keep an eye on Mason Starling, Brian Hightower, Marquis Montgomery, and Nyziah Hunter as they compete with Taj Davis and the returners for a spot in the rotation.  Young was a standout this Spring, his savvy, strength, and ability to read coverages made him a go-to target for QB Sam Jackson.

In the slot, speedsters Marquez Dortch (who apparently ran a 4.3 40 earlier this Summer) and Mason Mangum will be fighting for the backup snaps behind Mavin Anderson.   

A second critical question is can this group stay healthy? Starling, Hightower, and Mangum are in various stages of recovering from injuries and all three have had a history of challenges staying available. If they can stay healthy, it meaningfully changes the depth equation and gives Spavital and Toler a plethora of options.

This offense is designed to be vertically focused, putting a premium on players who can beat man coverage and get behind the defense. Jeremiah Hunter is a proven down-the-field playmaker who is on every preseason AP12 team and his ability to defeat press coverage and use his length and strength will be heavily counted on in 2023.   Who will join him as a deep threat? Anderson’s speed makes him the primary candidate, and Davis has shown he can do it as well. Starling flashed in limited action in 2022 in this regard and then there’s the speed of Dortch, Mangum and incoming freshman Nyziah Hunter. At least one of those three likely has to step up and become a factor for this offense to truly hit its stride.  

Final Thoughts

This is clearly a position of strength for the Bears heading into fall camp. As much depth as Cal has seen since 2015 when Lawler, Treggs, Powe, Davis, Anderson, and Harris were thriving in the air raid. Yet, it’s more “good” than “great” as beyond Hunter, there’s not another proven playmaker and the Bears will miss the unique length and speed of Sturdivant. That said, the floor is high with players who have done it at this level throughout the two deep.   The story to watch is the potential of the newcomers.  Can Marquez Dortch utilize his tremendous speed and quickness to be a factor?  Will Nyziah Hunter be able to contribute as a true freshman?  And what about the raw but formidable JC transfer Marquis Montgomery?  Will he be a week one red zone threat?

Related:

California Golden Bears Fall Camp Preview - Running Backs

California Golden Bears Fall Camp Preview - Quarterbacks

Discussion from...

Cal Football Fall Camp Preview - The Wide Receivers

4,283 Views | 6 Replies | Last: 7 mo ago by BearGreg
calbear91
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Super excited about this group, as well as the RB room…come on offense! If we can score more than 28 a game our D shoukd be good enough to win a bunch of games!
WalterSobchak
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With all due respect to this talented group I think Hunter The Elder will be the breakout guy. If he stays healthy he will lead the Pac in receiving.
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89Bear
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Really excited to see the speed of Dortch, Anderson, and Mangum on the field!!
Rushinbear
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I don't think that we'll miss Sturd as much as some people think. He was not as productive as was predicted and his blocking and route running were iffy. Granted, he could make plays when it came his way.
Pittstop
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That is a LOT of WRs. That's like 4 deep at each wr position. No one should get overworked even if Spav throws the ball 70 time a game.
BearGreg
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Staff
Recruiting Rankings:

Jeremiah Hunter: 4 Star Rivals
Mavin Anderson: 4 Star 247 Composite
Brian Hightower: 4 Star 247 Composite
Marquez Dortch; 4 Star 247 Composite
Nyziah Hunter: 4 Star 247 Composite

Hmm . . .
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