After being selected by the New York Jets in the fourth round of the NFL draft, Chad Hansen is no longer the Bears’ go-to guy at the receiver position, but there are 14 players looking to be Cal’s primary option in the air.
One receiver position outright belongs to sophomore Demetris Robertson, who performed well in his freshman season behind Hansen. Robertson had the second-most touchdowns among wide receivers with seven and lead the team in average yards per catch with 15.34, a little under two more yards than Hansen.
Robertson has secure hands and is quick enough to break away from the defender and allow himself space to make plays. Along with his top-rate hand skills, he is shifty and can sneak by defender to make and extend plays.
A huge key in Robertson’s 2016 success, however, was quarterback Davis Webb. Webb made dropping perfect passes into the hands of Roberston in double coverage look easy, but with the quarterback gone, Robertson will have to adjust to a different gunslinger who may bring a different style of play.
Robertson is also candidate for multiple national preseason awards which honor the nation’s most outstanding player overall. Redshirt senior Jordan Veasy is chasing the same starting spot, and while he is a strong receiver who had some solid performances in 2016, it is unlikely that he can beat out Robertson.
The next receiver spot battle features sophomores Melquise Stovall and Jordan Duncan, the former being the frontrunner for the starting position. In 2016, Stovall averaged 9.88 yards per reception and had three touchdowns, whereas Duncan only averaged 4.43 yards per reception with one touchdown.
But in the 2017 spring game, Duncan had a strong showing and finished with two touchdowns while Stovall did not participate in spring practices due to injury.
In his freshman campaign, Stovall showcased his great reach and ability to make plays in heavy traffic. He’s a smaller receiver for Cal, standing at 5’9’’, but can use his size to work his way through a defense.
At the last slot for wide receiver is redshirt junior Vic Wharton III, who averaged 10.46 yards per reception and had one touchdown in 2016. Wharton III had four receptions for 40 yards in the spring game. Knocking on Wharton’s door for the starting spot is redshirt sophomore Brandon Singleton, who averaged 7.33 yards per reception with one touchdown in 2016 in limited action off the bench. Singleton did not participate in spring practices because of an injury, which may have slowed his route to a starting spot.
If the projected starters of Robertson, Stovall or Duncan and Wharton stay healthy, they will likely see most of the playing time, but if the Bears do run into injury trouble, they will have a full staff ready to step up for the offense.
Christie Aguilar is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].