When Marvin Jones and Alex Lagemann emerged during spring practice, it was easy to forget about Verran Tucker. Now, Tucker has made his spring a distant memory. Cal released its updated depth chart and Tucker is listed as a starter at wide receiver. Coach Jeff Tedford confirmed after practice that Tucker will start alongside Jones on Saturday in the season opener against Maryland. Tucker started the final seven games last season and finished fifth on the Bears with 21 catches. He averaged a team-best 17.2 yards per catch and hauled in three touchdown passes. But concerns about his academic eligibility forced him to miss almost all of spring practice. While the rest of his teammates were on the field, Tucker was in the coaches' office along with an academic adviser working on two social welfare classes. He would join the team only at the end of practice for conditioning drills, and many times stayed afterward to do more running with Tedford or wide receivers coach Kevin Daft. The missed time forced Tucker to start fall camp at the bottom of the depth chart. But armed with good academic standing and renewed confidence, Tucker slowly worked his way back to the top, especially coming on during the final stages of training camp.
"I felt like I was kind of forgotten about," Tucker said. "Not that I necessarily was, but ... I kind of felt a little separated from the guys. When I came back, it felt good to be back on the field with all the guys." Tucker demonstrated flashes of his potential last season — four catches for 68 yards vs. Arizona and brilliant one-handed catch against USC are examples. One of many receivers playing their first full year of college football last year, Tucker was expected to get even better with experience. But his absence from spring ball set him back.
"He's worked hard through the summer," Tedford said. "We took him off the field in the spring for academic reasons, to make sure he got his stuff done. He worked hard in that way, too. He got that done. In the last two weeks, he's really made a strong move."
Wide receiver Michael Calvin (knee) has returned to practice and is expected to be available for the opener.
Running back Jahvid Best practiced at full capacity after missing Thursday's workout because of an appointment.