Continuing our series on important pieces going into this fall today, this time focusing on wideout Demetris Robertson.
John Hefti -- USA Today Sports
This one is admittedly too easy. Robertson was the highest rated recruit for the Bears since Keenan Allen and looked every part of it. He broke multiple freshman records for a receiver, moving names like Allen and Desean Jackson to second place. Without Chad Hansen, Robertson becomes the likely primary target for whichever one of Ross Bowers or Chase Forrest wins the job.
That being said, there's more to having Robertson onboard than just a deep threat. While it's not set in stone, Robertson's gamebreaking speed should get him an opportunity in a place people have been clamoring for him, in the return game.
How He Got Here:
Robertson had a publicized recruitment, owing to the stature of who he is as a player. Ranked as the top athlete in the country and the top player in the state of Georgia by Rivals. He picked Cal on May 1st in 2016 in an announcement where he unveiled a painting of the Cal logo. He picked Cal over Georgia, Alabama, and Notre Dame, as former WR coach Jacob Peeler and chain restaurant Buffalo Wild Wings have been credited with the close.
50 receptions for 767 yards and 7 touchdowns as a freshman, the reception total breaking Allen's freshman record, the yardage total breaking Jackson's freshman record, and the touchdown total equalling Jackson's. Robertson received freshman All-American honors from Campus Insiders, ESPN.com, Phil Steele and USA Today.
Robertson competed in track during the spring (100m, 4x100 relay), though he has yet to get up to his HS numbers in the 100 meters.
Robertson was also listed as one of the top 20 "workout warriors" by Bruce Feldman, who noted Robertson's 64 inch box jump from earlier this spring.
Robertson is likely to be up for numerous national awards, and he's listed as the starter at one of the wide receiver positions, despite missing spring football to do track. That's how much faith the coaching staff has in his ability.
Why He's Important:
Robertson is the best deep threat the Bears have had since Jackson. PFF's College division has Robertson with the most yards on deep passes (of 20+ yards in the air) returning in the Pac-12.
Cal WR Demetris Robertson returns as the Pac-12 leader in deep pass receiving yards. pic.twitter.com/9E6ntLzVIp
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) July 1, 2017
Robertson improved mightily throughout fall camp a year ago, proving he's not just a deep threat. His route running, while still imperfect, has stepped up. He still needs work against press coverage, but there's a lot of guys he can just outrun with his speed.
The part of the game where Robertson could make an impact beyond his position is in the return game. Cal's last kick return TD came in 2014 when Trevor Davis got Washington State's special teams coordinator fired after returning two straight kickoffs for TDs. For the last punt return TD, you have to go back even further, to the end of the Tedford era where Keenan Allen returned a punt for a TD against Southern Utah in 2012.
Since then, the return game hasn't fared well, and having a legitimate threat returning can scare teams into doing stupid things to counter it (see, multiple years of Cal squib kicking, pooch punting with QBs), which will usually lead to better field position. Special teams coordinator Charlie Ragle seems to want to use Robertson in that role, where he can put pressure on other special teams coordinators to make the wrong move or to kick to him, and let his return skills give the Bears solid field position.
Either way, Robertson is going to be important for the Bears, as he's probably their best pure athlete at this juncture, but him into the return game would help make the him and the team that much more dangerous.