Receivers Will Give Group Effort This Year

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Minutes after Cal's scrimmage on the last day of training camp in Turlock, freshman Chase Lyman stood in the early-morning heat, having just survived his first 10 days of college football.

As coaches are wont to do, Bears wide receivers coach Ken Margerum approached his young pass-catcher and gave him some words of encouragement.

"Good job out there today," Margerum said, patting Lyman on his shoulder pad. "Be ready for Utah."

Lyman symbolizes the state of Cal's receiver corps in the year 2000 - promising but unproven; eager for success but also unselfish. If the Bears' receivers are going to make an impact this year, they'll do it as a group.

Cal lost its primary receiver from a year ago when Mike Ainsworth failed out of school. When he wasn't injured, Ainsworth was the only reliable receiver in 1999 and led the team with 499 yards and 34 catches, more than twice as many as second-leading receiver Ronnie Davenport, who also left Cal with academic troubles.

"There's nobody out there like Mike Ainsworth, who is going to be the guy that's going to catch all of the balls," junior Sean Currin said. "In a way it's more fun this way. Everybody looks at the other person as competition and that makes us strive to work harder."

Currin is one of few veterans on the unit. He and senior Phillip Pipersburg earned starting nods for Saturday's opener against Utah because none of the other returners or five newcomers - three junior college transfers and two freshmen - stole the spots away from them.

"The other receivers haven't come up and snatched the job away." Margerum said. "I tell the guys it's like a heavyweight boxer in a way. The challenger has to come in and knock them out. Some have the ability to knock them out, and for some of them there hasn't really been the opportunity."

The opportunity hasn't come because of injuries to two of the players brought in as a quick fix for the hurting unit. Chad Heydorff and Derek Swafford, who transferred to Cal in the spring along with Charon Arnold, sustained injuries during fall camp and will miss at least the Utah game.

Heydorff pulled his hamstring during camp and may play next week against Illinois, while Swafford has a minor neck injury.

Although Pipersburg and Currin were named the starters, they won't necessarily play more than anyone else. Cal head coach Tom Holmoe plans to use a rotation of six to eight receivers early in the season and let playing time sort itself out with performances on the field.

If healthy, Heydorff and Swafford could play a major role for the Bears this season. Heydorff was the leading junior college receiver in California last year with 86 catches.

"Chad is one of our most accomplished receivers," Margerum said. "I'm looking forward to getting him back. He's got excellent hands and runs really nice, precise patters."

Swafford, who at 25 is the oldest player on the team, comes to Cal from Ventura Junior College. He returned to football after playing professional baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization for four years. Only a sophomore, Swafford is one of the fastest players on the team.

Another receiver who has some of the same traits as Swafford is Arnold. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound junior will see significant playing time Saturday, especially in third-down situations.

One of the most improved receivers from last year is redshirt freshman James Smith, who is coming off a strong performance at fall camp. Coaches consider Smith the best blocking receiver on the team.

The unit's two freshmen, Lyman and Geoff McArthur, will have the opportunity to see significant playing time in their first year. The players are two of the most physical receivers on the team, and at 6-foot-3, Lyman is the tallest Bears pass-catcher.

"Both have the ability to be really nice Pac-10 receivers," Margerum said. "We don't really want to throw them in there as soon as we are, but they're competing against the other guys head-up."

Sophomore Brian White will see time on four-receiver sets, and is also a player that Margerum notes as much improved from last season, citing his "sneaky fast" speed as a threat teams could overlook.


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