Carlos Strickland is one of the biggest standouts in Cal football’s 2015 recruiting class, both figuratively and literally, as the wide receiver stands at an impressive 6-foot-5.
The incoming freshman, who was rated as a four-star recruit by most recruiting services, will likely struggle early on for playing time at the Bears’ stacked wide receiver position, but he looks to have the type of potential to turn into a star for Cal.
While getting used to an offense that passes this much is an adjustment for most, it is not completely dissimilar from what Strickland is used to, as his high school team used largely spread principles as well. Because of this, Strickland probably has a better chance than the other receivers in his recruiting class to get on the field early. He plays the same position as Kenny Lawler, the team’s leading receiver from last year, but his role will still be limited.
“It’s all about learning right now. I just want to watch all the guys and see what I can get from them before they leave,” Strickland said. “I really just want to learn and pick their brains as much as possible so that when it’s my time, whenever that may be, I can be ready.”
The Bears’ coaching staff and fans should instead focus more on the sort of impact that Strickland will be able to make on the team in the long term, when he has learned all he can from players such as Lawler. Strickland may immediately be the player with the package of skills most befitting a No. 1-type receiver, upon joining the team. While the current iteration of the Cal offense is happy playing without a true No.1 receiver, Strickland gives it the option to change that soon.
“Carlos is one of the elite wide receivers in the country. He has the exact size and speed everyone is looking for,” said head coach Sonny Dykes to Cal Athletics upon landing Strickland. “When you put the film on, I don’t know that anyone has a better combination of that in the entire country. He can go get the ball. “
Strickland also identifies his size and speed as his biggest strengths. They are the qualities that have Strickland aiming to be next in line in Cal’s tradition of successful receivers who have made it to the NFL, such as DeSean Jackson and Keenan Allen. Allen, especially, seems to be one of the players after whom Strickland can model his game, as his style in college was similar to what the incoming freshman will hope to emulate.
“I see all the guys in the NFL from Cal, and I know that it’s there if I put in the work and if I can get my skills to their level,” Strickland said. “(The alumni base in the NFL) shows you that the sky’s the limit here.”
While he may be a young player with the most potential to eventually get to that level, it is still a long way away for Strickland, who hasn’t even played a snap at the college level yet. He will need to improve on getting in and out of breaks quickly so that he can showcase his talents on more than just go routes. But those down-the-field, vertical routes are what should have people so excited about Strickland’s game. While it’s already been stressed, his size is not something that can be looked past. His height already makes him the tallest receiver on the roster, and his ability to box out and go up for those jump balls may already rival Lawler’s. That’s the primary reason that by the end of the season, once Strickland has learned the ins and outs of the playbook, it may become difficult to keep him off the field.
The Bears have 21 wide receivers listed on their official roster as of now, so clearly there will be a lot of players to beat out before Strickland can find balls thrown his way. But once they start coming, Strickland has the talent to take advantage of them like perhaps no one else on the roster.