Hands Down, a Healthy Marvin Jones is Cal's No. 1 Option at Receiver

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Hands Down, a Healthy Marvin Jones is Cal's No. 1 Option at Receiver
(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

If you’re looking for a prediction for No. 12 Cal’s season opener this Saturday in the Strawberry Canyon, Vegas has the Bears as a three-touchdown favorite against Maryland.

But if you’re looking for a lock, a sure thing, a bet you can take to the bank: At some point this Saturday, odds are, during the Bears’ first offensive drive, you will ask yourself—and then your neighbor—“Who’s No.1?”

Marvin Jones is his name. He’s 6'2," 190 pounds. He’s a sophomore. And he’s someone you’ll be seeing a lot of this season.

He turned down 16 other Division I-A scholarship offers before verbally committing to Cal the morning after the Bears’ 2007 loss to Oregon State. A high school All-American and Top-25 recruit at wide receiver, Jones topped 2,300 receiving yards in his final two years as a prep and finished with 22 touchdowns during that span.

As a true freshman in 2008, Jones was expected to help Cal bear the brunt of replacing Lavelle Hawkins, DeSean Jackson, Robert Jordan, and that threesome's 454 career catches, 6,218 yards, and 47 receiving touchdowns.

But Jones was forced to miss virtually all of his freshman campaign with a sprained knee—catching just one ball for five yards.

Since his return, the 19-year-old has certainly made up for lost time. Nyan Boateng—the Bears’ No. 1 wideout in 2008 with 29 catches and 439 receiving yards—is now Jones’ backup at receiver.

Here’s why—Jones, the Etiwanda High product, runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and bench presses 300 pounds, a freakish combination of strength and speed that should be able to stretch defenses—something the Bears will need badly with coordinators loading the box with Heisman hopeful Jahvid Best in the backfield.

Jones’ reviews have been rave ones during the Spring and Fall:

  • ESPN.com’s Ted Miller has mentioned Marvin Jones in 13 separate posts on his Pac-10 blog since February—including as a Newcomer to Watch, a Name to Remember and a Biletnikoff Award dark horse.
  • The Oakland Tribune and San Jose Mercury News have made Jones’ emergence a coverage staple, including most recently in a feature …about Verran Tucker.
  • Even the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which sits two states away from California, has made note of Jones’ potential impact on the Bears.

Living up to these expectations—especially Miller’s—will be something else entirely. Regardless though, Jones should boost the Bears’ receiving corps greatly.

Consider this—of Cal’s top four receivers last season, just one of them actually played the position—Boateng. Tight end Cameron Morrah and tailbacks Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen all finished with more receiving yards than the Bears other wide receivers.

Cal’s top three returners at wideout—Boateng, Tucker, and Jeremy Ross—finished with 67 catches, 1,011 yards, and 10 touchdowns combined in 2008.

By comparison, USC’s Damian Williams finished with 58 catches, 869 receiving yards, and nine scores on his own in 2008—something Cal hopes Jones can duplicate in 2009.

Saturday, the Bears’ new No. 1 sets out to make good on his jersey number.

Follow Grant Marek on Twitter: @Grant_Marek

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