The capstone of Cal’s unanticipatedly encouraging 2019 season, a stunning comeback win over rival Stanford behind enemy lines, would not have been possible without the Bears’ talented core of receivers — in fact, the historic Big Game may not have ended in Cal’s favor at all.
Although Cal quarterback Chase Garbers’ broken-play-turned-winning-touchdown-scramble probably takes the cake for the most memorable play of that game, those preceding it included an impressive 37-yard sideline completion to Trevon Clark and a string of passes caught by Nikko Remigio to push the Bears downfield into the red zone. Garbers was dealing, no doubt, but if his receivers hadn’t risen to the occasion, the Big Game may well have ended with the 17-20 Stanford score that plastered the Jumbotrons at the start of the drive.
Lucky for the Bears, the receiving core remains largely the same heading into the abridged 2020 season. In fact, with the return of Kekoa Crawford, the 6’1” wideout who missed most of last season after suffering multiple injuries, the squad has the chance to be even more lethal — the redshirt senior notched 272 yards in the six injury-free games he played last year and is one receiver Garbers himself is excited to toss to.
“I’m really looking forward to getting Kekoa back on the field,” Garbers said.
The most notable absence is that of since-graduated receiver Jordan Duncan, who totaled 782 receiving yards and 62 receptions while averaging 18.6 yards per game during his time at Cal. Additionally, Jeremiah Hawkins opted out of this year’s season after racking up 313 yards and 31 receptions over his previous three seasons with the Bears. Four-star tight end commit D.J. Rogers was also granted release from the team. Despite these departures, Cal bolstered its roster by adding seven true freshman wideouts who seem to be showing promise.
“Jeremiah Hunter, I’m excited to see, and Justin Baker as well,” Garbers said of the newest additions to the receiving core. “Mason Mangum has made a couple spectacular catches these past five days, so just building that chemistry with those guys since they’ve only been here for about a month now is definitely what I’m looking forward to.”
Veterans such as Remigio and Clark will be aided by budding sophomores such as Makai Polk and Ben Skinner in this year’s quest for a high finish in the Pac-12 North, one that some preseason predictions have forecasted to be as lofty as first or second place. Tight ends Gavin Reinwald and Jake Tonges, with 146 and 262 receiving yards in 2019, respectively, will be crucial to helping new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s West Coast offense operate smoothly.
With a promising lineup of receivers, a quarterback on the rise, new offensive schemes and coaches and a collective chip on their shoulders, the Bears are undoubtedly looking to dial up the magic that characterized last year’s season. As Garbers and his receivers demonstrated during the Big Game, Cal has an ever-shrinking pool of insurmountable opponents, and this season is sure to be rife with games equally as electrifying.