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Catching On

Apr 20, 2022
J.Michael Sturdivant is one of Cal's highly regarded young receivers who should become a focal part of the offense this season.

BERKELEY – Tommy Christakos has yet to score a touchdown at Cal – or catch a pass, for that matter – but when he does, the versatile junior has some big plans.

"Before I leave, I'd like to score a touchdown, kick the extra point, and then the kickoff – I'm not sure if anyone has ever done that before," Christakos said.

He's only half-kidding. Christakos was a sought-after high school wide receiver by several major Division I programs, but he also moonlights as a kicker. Christakos made 15 field goals during his playing career at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona, and ended up handling kickoffs as a true freshman at Cal for a couple of games in 2020.

But make no mistake. Christakos' job now is to be a major factor in the Bears' changing of the guard at wide receiver.

Cal's passing game will have a whole new look in 2022, with a new quarterback and several receivers taking significantly increased roles in the offense. Christakos, along with J.Michael Sturdivant, Mavin Anderson and others, figure to help make up for the 75 percent of last season's receiving yards that have moved out of the program.

"We have a lot of young, talented guys that can really make an impact on this team," said Christakos, who appeared in six games last season. "It's our time. We all got recruited and are on this team for a reason. When the time comes, we have to be ready to do our job."

Seven of Cal's top eight pass-catchers from last season are now gone, with junior Jeremiah Hunter remaining as the only receiver on the roster who has made a measurable impact in the past. Hunter caught 21 balls for 388 yards and a touchdown last year.

The Bears' trio of Trevon Clark, Kekoa Crawford and Nikko Remigio combined for 111 catches for 1,409 yards and six touchdowns in 2021, and each is no longer on the team. The depth chart at wide receiver is a clean slate, and the Bears are confident they have the corps of young and gifted receivers to produce immediately.

"We have high hopes for them, and when you talk to them, they have even higher hopes for themselves and expectations for themselves," Travers Family Head Football Coach Justin Wilcox said. "We had some really good players that exited the program, but we have a lot of confidence in these guys to come in and play really well. They just don't have a lot of experience, but that's going to be the way it goes sometimes. You have to play your first play or your first season sometime. I am really optimistic and encouraged by how they are practicing and the way they are working together."

Sturdivant was one of the highest-ranked wide receiver prospects in the country coming out of Marcus High School in Flower Mound, Texas. He got into four games last season as a true freshman but didn't record any statistics.

"Everyone took note of how highly recruited he was, but he didn't worry about that," Cal wide receivers coach Burl Toler III said. "He just wanted to focus on how to get better. He puts a lot of pressure on himself to be great. He does a great job learning and taking his ability to the next level."

Like Sturdivant, Anderson was a four-star recruit at Mission Viejo High School and was the first high school player to commit to Cal's class of 2021. He played on the scout team all of last year but is ready to make the jump to significant contributor in 2022.

"I couldn't be more excited to see where this goes," Anderson said. "I like what we have going on. There are a lot of young guys who are ready to go, and will do whatever it takes to perform and to benefit the team."

The crop of young receivers will help break in a new quarterback at Cal, as four-year starter Chase Garbers has graduated. The lack of experience in Berkeley isn't necessarily a bad thing, as all those involved in the passing game get to start from scratch and create a new era of offense at Cal.

"This is going to become their team," Cal offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "These young guys are getting ready to hopefully have a real epic season."