California coach Jeff Tedford watched the videotape of his newly recruited receivers for perhaps the thousandth time, and one thought ran through his head:
"See how long these guys are?" Tedford asked while watching his five new pass-catchers jump higher and further than the defensive backs on the grainy images.
With the Golden Bears' top three receivers from last season's team headed to the NFL, Cal went after a new breed of player at the position in the 21-man recruiting class announced Wednesday.
Gone are DeSean Jackson, Robert Jordan and Lavelle Hawkins—all sublimely talented, but all on the small side by major-conference football standards.
Incoming is a wave of bigger, longer targets for quarterbacks Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley, from junior-college star Verran Tucker all the way to 6-foot-6 tight end Spencer Ladner.
Tedford said the five young wide receivers all would have a chance to play themselves into a regular job in the upcoming season. In particular, the 6-foot-2 Tucker and 6-foot-3 high-school star Marvin Jones both should make an impact starting in spring ball next month.
Tucker spent the last two seasons at El Camino Community College, while Jones was among the nation's top prep receivers at Etiwanda (Calif.) High School. Cal also landed Northern California products Charles Satchell (Milpitas), Jarrett Sparks (Merced) and Joseph "L.J." Washington (Stockton)—and all are at least 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds.
"(Jackson and Jordan) are only 168 pounds, and it's a big, physical game out there," Tedford said. "These guys are all 6-2, 6-3. They're going to be in the range of 215 pounds. They're going to be able to block. They're going to be able to catch the ball over the middle. They're going to be able to go up and get balls over the top of people. We really went for a bit more height and size in the receiving corps this year."
After addressing its biggest off season losses, Cal also made progress at restocking its shallowest position. Tedford signed three promising defensive linemen to help a unit that obviously struggled last season, contributing heavily to the Bears' skid from a No. 2 national ranking to the Armed Forces Bowl.
Kendrick Payne, a defensive tackle from Houston who already has enrolled at Cal, is "a guy that's going to remind you of Brandon Mebane," Tedford said. He'll be joined by defensive end Aaron Tipoti from Honolulu and tackle Trevor Guyton, a product of Redmond, Wash.
Cal's recruiting class had few of the big names that drive this salivating cottage industry of scouts, journalists and talent brokers, but Tedford believes his class addresses every need heading into his seventh season in charge.
The two biggest names were Jones and offensive lineman Tyler Rigsbee, a Chico product thought to be among the best offensive tackles in the nation. Dominic Galas, a lineman from Modesto, could be Alex Mack's eventual replacement at center.
With a stocked roster at both quarterback and running back, Tedford signed just one of each. Quarterback Beau Sweeney, the grandson of Fresno State coach Jim Sweeney, formally joined the Bears, while running back Covaughn Deboskie already has enrolled at Cal in an effort to get playing time in the mix with tailbacks Jahvid Best, James Montgomery, Shane Vereen and Tracy Slocum.
Tedford said Best is off crutches after his late-season hip injury, and the speedy tailback has been doing light running on a special treadmill designed to protect his joints. Best will sit out spring practice to rest, as will Montgomery after minor knee surgery.
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