Welcome to a yearly feature here on Cal Rivals, the Potential Watchlist, where we take a look at some of the likelier candidates among the underclassmen to break out and excel in the coming seasons for the Bears.
There are a couple caveats for this list:
1. No upperclassmen (considered juniors in eligibility or above)
2. One commit from the 2022 class
1. WR Jeremiah Hunter (Last Year: Brett Johnson)
Yogi Roth exclaimed multiple times on Cal’s spring game broadcast that Hunter could be the best player on this Cal team when it’s all said and done. Roth is a normally optimistic guy by personality, but Hunter’s ability should set him apart going forward. He was on track to play last fall before an injury, but his ball skills and run after catch ability should put him on track to make a difference for the Bears in 2021.
2. ILB Muelu Iosefa (Last Year: Chigozie Anusiem)
An instinctive player at the linebacker spot, watching back on the spring game and during the Bears’ four games in 2020, Iosefa was often in the right spot, maybe not making the play, but being in position to. His development likely made Kuony Deng’s move to OLB that much easier to make, as Iosefa should be a starter for the Bears at ILB in the fall.
3. TE Jermaine Terry (Last Year: Makai Polk)
Terry’s going to play right away from the 2021 class, something seen during the spring game. He moves real well for someone who’s nearly 270 lbs, and has the enthusiasm for the blocking side of things as well. In addition, Terry has taken to film study and was out early working with TE coach Geep Chryst on his technique. The base level of talent and the willingness to do whatever is necessary to improve ranks him high on the potential watchlist.
4. WR J. Michael Sturdivant (Last Year: Matt Cindric)
It’s difficult to put someone who hasn’t stepped on the Memorial Stadium turf on here, but Sturdivant’s combination of size (6’3″), catch radius, and sprinter speed put him above a number of players on the Cal roster. With Sturdivant, Hunter, and the rest of Cal’s receiver haul in 2020 and 2021, the Bears WR group is in the best shape it has been in during the Wilcox era.
5. Safety Craig Woodson (Last Year: Woodson)
The opinion on Craig Woodson hasn’t changed from year to year, a ballhawk with great tackling ability and too talented to keep off the field. He played a bunch as a third safety for the Bears in 2020, blocking a punt on the Bears’ first defensive possession, and he’ll look to find more playing time both on defense and special teams in 2021.
6. NG Stanley McKenzie (Last Year: Hunter)
Cal hasn’t had a true nose guard healthy since 2018, and going into 2021, they may have two. McKenzie should have played last fall, but a contact tracing absence and an injury kept him out of the four games. He’s a strong interior defensive lineman, and his strength showed up in a number of clips of practice that the Cal video staff put out. McKenzie moves well from the nose spot, allowing the Bears to utilize the ‘elephant’ package with him and Ricky Correia.
7. OL Ben Coleman (Last Year: Brayden Rohme)
Coleman played every position except center during the 2020 season, played all five during the spring, and was called the most improved lineman by Bill Musgrave last fall. That’s enough to put Coleman on this list, who has a future at nearly any offensive line position for the Bears.
8. RB Damien Moore (Last Year: Orin Patu)
Moore led Cal in rushing last year, showing great cutback ability, a low center-of-gravity, and a nice stiff arm. He put up the first 100 yard game by a true freshman RB since Marshawn Lynch in 2004, and he’s one of the main three (along with Chris Brown and Marcel Dancy), who will likely get a crack at starting reps in 2021.
9. DB Collin Gamble (Last Year: Spencer Brasch)
Gamble’s name came up a number of times, unprompted, by members of Cal’s staff and a handful of players. The former Liberty Christian standout can play both inside and outside, though the nickel is where he may see more time for the Bears in 2021. He’s a fluid athlete with return skills, and should be on a bunch of coverage units as well.
10. QB Commit Justyn Martin (Last Year: Terry)
Martin’s about as intriguing of a QB prospect from a prototypical standpoint as Cal has gotten in some time. A big framed passer at 6’4″ with great footwork, a smooth release, and some solid arm strength, Martin’s four-star ranking before starting a game was vindicated with a strong performance during the spring season. A lot of growth potential for the Inglewood QB.
Toughest Omissions: WRs Tommy Christakos, Aidan Lee, Justin Baker, DBs Kaleb Higgins, Lu Hearns, OLB Patrick Hisatake, NG Ricky Correia, ILB Trey Paster
Notes on Guys Removed:
– Johnson, Anusiem, Cindric, and Patu all aged out.
– Polk (Mississippi State) and Brasch (Cal Poly) both transferred.
– Rohme started two games and should be the Bears’ left tackle after Will Craig, and could end up at right tackle as well, but he was injured during the latter portion of spring ball, and moved down the list because of some intriguing potential of guys who I saw during that time.
– Hunter, Terry, and Woodson all remained on the list from a year ago.