By Tim Miguel, Cal Athletic Communications
Need a fullback, receiver, tight end, safety, linebacker, punter or even quarterback? Call Maximo Espitia. He can do it all and has between his Cal and prep careers.
The Cal junior is currently listed as a linebacker on the team’s roster and has a chance to start at the position in 2014, but given how the previous seasons have transpired, it wouldn’t be a total surprise to find him playing another position at some point if there are any left.
Espitia was originally recruited to Cal as a high fullback. The former multi-sport prep was moved to tight end under previous Golden Bears’ head coach Jeff Tedford, who felt he was better suited at that position. Espitia then became an inside receiver when Sonny Dykes became head coach prior to last season.
While he’s just happy finding a spot where he can play, Espitia admits it can be challenging always changing positions.
“It can be frustrating, not being able to perfect skills at a certain position,” Espitia said. “But I also think it gives me a good perspective, being all around the field. I’m learning different skills at different positions.”
While the most important thing to him is getting playing time, if Espitia had the choice of where he would play, it would be receiver. He said he enjoys running routes, making cuts and going up to catch a pass.
If all those offensive positions changes weren’t enough, Espitia ended the 2013 season helping out the defensive backs at safety. This time, though, the decision was partly Espitia’s.
“I expected to stay at receiver once I got there,” Espitia said. “We were lacking depth on defense, and I offered to move over there. I had played a little bit on defense in high school, so I figured, why not? It worked out.”
The move to safety was due to lack of depth at the position, but according to linebackers coach Garret Chachere, Espitia has more of the skillset and athleticism needed to be a linebacker.
It might appear as though Espitia would be too far behind to get playing time over the other linebackers with more experience at the position, but the entire defense including Espitia is learning a new scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Art Kaufman.
“He understands what we want,” Kaufman said about Espitia. “He tries to take what we’re doing to the field, and as we go through coaching, he’s able to take it from the classroom onto the field. So his football knowledge, his football instincts and his willingness to try to do it the way we want are really good.”
According to Chachere, the door is open for Espitia to make his mark.
“He’s doing a nice job with the chances he gets,” Chachere said. “He’s playing the strong side linebacker right now. How much we play him and when we play him will depend on him and his ability to continue to approve. It’s not an easy position to learn because you have to play the run and the pass. You have to know the calls and adjust to every formation that they’re giving to you. He just doesn’t have the experience built up yet, but for him it’s a good time because everybody’s learning a new system at the same time. It’s not like he was moved into a system that everybody’s been in for two or three years. It’s a good time for him having to play catch up.”
With the praise he gets from his position coach, Espitia may have finally found a permanent home on the football field at linebacker.
“Even when he isn’t sure what’s going on, he’s willing to learn,” Chachere said. “He’s a guy who has a clean slate, and I can paint on it. It’s a pleasure to work with him. He’s a good kid and a hard worker.”
It never hurts to have a utility player like Espitia available whenever there’s an opening somewhere on the field.