“He always equates fall camp to, like, the birth of a child,” said redshirt senior wide receiver Maurice Ways about his former coach, Jim Harbaugh.
Ways, who hails from the University of Michigan and transferred to Cal earlier this year, is, in a sense, experiencing a birth of his own — the birth of his Cal football career — though he has stayed true to blue and gold.
After the loss of superstar Demetris Robertson to Georgia, the Bears have been faced with skepticism regarding their depth at wide receiver. But with players such as redshirt junior Kanawai Noa, junior Jordan Duncan, redshirt senior Vic Wharton III and now Ways, the receiving core hasn’t skipped a beat.
“My goal is just to help the team out any way,” Ways said. “Whether it’s possession receiver, whether it’s the deep ball threat, I just want to be very consistent, catch everything that comes my way, block, open up the running game and just make plays.”
Ways, who stands at 6’4’’, 220 pounds, is the tallest receiver on the Bears’ depth chart and has made a smooth transition into not only the Pac-12 and Cal styles of play, but also in terms of relationships with his teammates. He could fare well for the Bears for various reasons — Cal could gain a go-to receiver, and additionally, Ways’ presence could serve as motivation for the returners, ultimately furthering growth at the position.
“I’m kind of acclimated to how to practice the right way, and how to lead the younger guys, and how to work,” Ways said.
The receiver showcased his wingspan and ability to go up and get balls throughout the day, while redshirt junior Ross Bowers appeared comfortable targeting Ways — an extremely promising sign for the Bears this early in camp.
“(Ways is) pretty much a veteran already,” Noa said.
Staying focused on the offense for day two of camp, the Bears also have a number of budding stars in their run game who are seeking to turn heads early on.
“We have a lot of different personnel, different groupings that we use, and the more guys can show the different things that they do to go along with the different personalities, the better,” said running backs coach Burl Toler III.
While Cal’s backs lost key playmakers such as transfer Tre Watson and the graduated Vic Enwere, Toler, who is in his first season coaching the Bears, cannot know what he never had.
Rather, Toler has embraced the uniqueness of a running back core that highlights trusty redshirt senior Patrick Laird, along with a bundle of less-experienced talents — redshirt junior Alex Netherda, redshirt sophomore Derrick Clark, redshirt freshman Biaggio Ali Walsh, and new freshmen Christopher Brown Jr. and Johnny Adams Jr.
Clark has elevated his training since the spring, which he solidified with a strong outing at the 2018 Spring Game, whereas Walsh has busted out of the gates early on in fall camp.
From smaller, shifty backs such as Walsh at 5’10’’, 190 pounds, to bigger bodies such as Brown at 6’1’’, 220, it will be interesting to see what winning formula Toler, along with offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin, can muster up come Sept. 1.
“We’re really excited just about the growth and just where we are, but again, we’re a long ways still,” Baldwin said. “We’ll develop our identity and who we are through camp — you know, we understand it, we understand our philosophy as an offense.”
Two fall camp days down, 12 to go, with action resuming tomorrow.
Christie Aguilar is the sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].