Aug. 7, 2003
If you think that you are hard on yourself, you may want to think again. No one can be more constructively critical of themselves as the 2003 version of the California Golden Bears - especially at wide receiver.
"We still have a lot of room to grow, and get better," states wide receiver Geoff McArthur.
Wide Receiver Coach Eric Kiesau, shares his understudy's outlook, describing his corps as, "Not exactly where they want to be and not quite proven."
One would think that these comments would come from a team with modest numbers, but on the contrary. Cal returns five wide receivers with significant game experience from a team that finished second in the conference in scoring last year, with a whopping 35.6 ppg average. Overall, the Bears received a remarkable infusion of talent at several positions, thanks to a 2003 recruiting class ranked among the nations top 20.
"We have 13 guys that can all play big time college football," explains Kiesau as modestly as possible. "In the past this program would have maybe four or five. We have really placed an emphasis on recruiting and developing. "
As good as the Cal offensive coaches are of squeezing the most out of their talent, it seems that this fall they will rely on the experience of there split ends to help with the development of their inexperienced, yet efficient QBs.
"Through running solid routes and really understanding the concepts of the plays and how to get open," explains McArthur. "We should be able to help speed up the development of our quarterbacks."
No longer a question mark for the Bears, the Cal wideouts are willing to shoulder the responsibility of providing leadership to a young team loaded with talent.
"We bring a lot of experience to the table as a group," says Jonathan Makonnen. "We are gradually maturing and want to embrace the leadership role."
The Cal returning receivers have also embraced the football during their careers, corralling a combined 160 career receptions, to go along with 2,209 receiving yards and 14TDs. But despite their respectable numbers, Cal wideouts are hungrier than ever, almost playing with a collective chip on their shoulders.
"The guys stayed close and worked out together all summer," explains Kiesau. "It all comes down to how bad they want it and so far they do."
Although the quarterback competition has seemed to receive a lot of press early in camp, the battle at wide receiver seems to be even more harder.
"Having this many good wide receivers is a good problem to have," explains Kiesau. "It makes practice that much more competitive - raising everyone's level of play. We did not come into camp to find one great receiver, but to develop a wide receiving corps which works together for perfection."
Like any corps, the Cal wide outs are comprised of players of different sizes and abilities. Under the watchful eyes of Kiesau and Coach Jeff Tedford, the Bears have assembled an diverse group of pass catchers, who will compliment Tedford's offense well. The Bears are equipped with big receivers like Chase Lyman and David Gray, speed guys like Vinny Strang and Noah Smith, and sure handed men like McAurthur and Makonnen.
"We have recruited a wide range of wideouts and not strictly the prototypical type by design," explains Kiesau. "In our offense we rely on all our receivers at all points in the field, which means we need smaller, shiftier guys to weave through defenses. We also need tall players to go deep, and we need possession type guys that make the tough catches in traffic and keep the chains moving."
The Bears seem to have all these bases covered in 2003, with the return of their 2002 receptions leader, Makonnen, active career receptions leader McAurthur, and the renewed health and constant improvement of Lyman, Strang, Gray, Junior Brignac, and Burl Toler.
"We will all bring something unique and special to this team this season," says McArthur. "We just have to do it consistently and pass the baton."
Sharing the wealth should be no problem under a Tedford style offense, as five different players recorded 30 or more receptions last year. And in 2003, the Bears will aim to exponentially expand that number significantly.
"We understand what is expected of us," explains Makonnen. "We know our roles. Coach Tedford always has a great game plan and if we can execute it to perfection we'll all be productive in this system.
The Bear's production will be extremely tested on Aug. 23rd against the No. 5 ranked Kansas State Wildcats, who finished last season in the top five in all six major team defensive categories. However, the Bears will not shy away from the challenge.
"The guys are excited about this opportunity," explains Kiesau. "It is a big game. We will continue to compete, and prepare to get ready to win. Those are our goals every week."