One way to move up the depth chart is to not have much of a depth chart in the first place.
That's the position Cal junior Michael Calvin finds himself in this spring. The one-time heralded prospect is one of only four scholarship wide receivers on the roster, so never has the chance been greater for him to position himself for significant playing time this season.
"I feel like I have to seize the opportunity," Calvin said. "This spring ball is going to make or break me. I just have to come out here and compete."
Verran Tucker and Nyan Boateng have exhausted their eligibility, and Charles Satchell has moved from wide receiver to safety. That leaves Calvin, Marvin Jones, Jeremy Ross and Alex Lagemann as the only scholarship receivers left. The Bears signed five wide receivers in February and will welcome them to Berkeley in the fall.
Cal coach Jeff Tedford said the incoming group of receivers will compete for immediate playing time, but their inexperience makes them an obvious uncertainty. That's why now, more than ever, Calvin must prove he has finally overcome the hangover of his torn anterior cruciate ligament in the fall of 2008.
"Hopefully, he can stay healthy and play all through the spring," Tedford said. "There's no question he should be in the (rotation) when fall comes."
Calvin was an All-American receiver at San Lorenzo High and showed enormous promise as a scout team player in 2007. But a sprained toe limited him during the early stages of 2008 before his season came to an abrupt end when he tore the ACL in his right knee while running a post-corner route during practice.
Calvin was healthy for most of last season but said he never regained full confidence in his knee. It was a mental block that contributed to his getting buried on the depth chart. He caught just one pass for 9 yards.
Calvin suffered some swelling in his knee near the end of last season and underwent arthroscopic surgery about five weeks ago to have it cleaned up. He said he feels completely healthy again and is ready to move forward.
"You have to put it out of your mind. If you don't, you're going to come out here and second-guess yourself," Calvin said. "You're going to second-guess your technique and you're going to second-guess everything you do on the football field. I personally can't afford it. I have a spot to work for."
Calvin said he still feels like he can do everything on the field that he could before his knee injury; it has just been a matter of getting past the mental barriers. To that end, Calvin has gone to a clean slate this fall, turning in his No. 84 for No. 11. He hopes to start playing like a more famous No. 11 in the NFL — Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
"I have to get a fresh start, prepare for what's next. (Today's) a big day."
Cal also has added former NFL defensive back Ronnie Bradford as an administrative assistant for defense. Bradford spent the past seven years coaching in the NFL.