Earlier this week we had the chance to talk to Rob Hwang from the Cal community Write For California regarding this week’s matchup with the Huskies.
Here’s what we learned in our Q&A:
UWDP: Jack Plummer has been up and down this season, with his two worst games being at Notre Dame and last week at Colorado. What happened in Boulder? What does he do well? How can Plummer be better?
Rob Hwang: There are a lot of factors here. He got hurt in the Washington State game, late in the 4th. He played the Colorado game with a brace and OC Bill Musgrave said Jack really gutted it out in Boulder, and that they would be monitoring his health. Jack stated himself at his weekly presser that its something that’s healing. Now the question is how healthy will he be three weeks from when he injured it along with the ability of the OL to keep him upright in passing situations.
It was clear he wasn’t completely comfortable when making his throws or when he needed to move in the pocket, and all we can hope for is that improvement going into this Saturday. Plummer’s been a good addition in terms of his arm strength and decision-making. He knows where his reads are and is very good at either pulling the trigger or moving on to his next read. The consistency of his throws haven’t been there this season and that, of course, is affected by the OL ability to give him a clean pocket to throw from particularly on longer-developing plays & concepts.
UWDP: Jeremiah Hunter and J.Michael Sturdivant have been Plummer’s primary targets. How are each used in the passing game? Any other emerging targets we should know about?
Rob: Both guys are great pass-catchers and YAC guys. Hunter got hurt during the Colorado game, so we’ll see if he plays this week, although Coach Wilcox said there wasn’t any injury updates he needed to give either so it gives me hope he will play. Both guys have a wide route tree and are used in a variety of ways from screens to over-the-middle to deep balls. The one name people should start to talk about is Mavin Anderson. He’s been a steady presence and always seems to be a receiver we look to in crucial moments. Might have the best natural instincts when catching and how to use his body to complete the catch.
UWDP: Freshman Jaydn Ott had a monster game against Arizona with some long scampers, but has struggled to find room to run at times. Tell us about his strengths. Who will compliment Ott in the backfield?
Rob: Man. Jaydn is an outstanding talent. He’s patient with his runs, never looks to bounce it outside unless absolutely necessary and light on his feet in making defenders miss. He also has a signature high step to be able to run through shoelace tackles. He does sometimes pick the wrong running lane but as a freshman those are growing pains that can get better.
The other RBs are DeCarlos Brooks and Damien Moore. DeCarlos is your everything back who has kind of taken over the power back role after Chris Street’s injury prior to the start of the season. Damien was the incumbent starter but with Ott’s emergence been relegated to spell duty or short yardage situations. Damien is by far the best RB with vision but just doesn’t have that second gear to explode into the second level. So it’ll mostly Ott with some sprinkles of the other two guys.
UWDP: How has the offensive line performed so far this season? Has Plummer been under a lot of pressure?
Rob: I did allude to it earlier but it’s been bad. The staff revamped the entire line after ND game moving our starting C to RG and promoting the backup while putting a true freshman in at LG. It worked great for the Arizona game, but since then it’s been a work in progress to say the least. The last two games, the OL has gotten barely any push in the run and struggled to give Plummer a real chance to sit in the pocket to make his reads. He seems a bit jumpier from the pocket now than he did to start the season and with his potential injury it wasn’t any easier against Colorado.
UWDP: Cal ranks second in the conference in scoring defense, but is 11th against the pass. How has the defense looked so far? What seems to be the strength of the D? Who are some key players to watch?
Rob: The defense has been fine for the most part of the season. If you look at how the games have gone the defense held and created turnovers enough to give the offense a chance, but the offense just has not been able to do anything with those opportunities and the consistent 3-and-outs breaks the defense late in the game. The defense attacks the opposition as soon as they get a good stop on 1st down and theyve been great at working different looks at offenses when it gets to 3rd and long. The biggest names on the defense would be S Daniel Scott, S Craig Woodson and OLB Xavier Carlton. My sneaky pick to watch here is freshman DE Nate Burrell, who has been thrust into the rotation due to injury and is now fully the starter at one of the DE spots.
UWDP: Does the Colorado loss have the fanbase questioning Justin Wilcox and the future of the program or is this just a bump in the road for the Cal?
Rob: The fan base is very much split on this. I can’t put a % on it but it’s heavily skewed to wanting Wilcox relieved of his duties with the way the Colorado game went and ultimately resulting in a loss, being a huge factor in a lot of the fan base moving over from he’s fine to let’s move on.
UWDP: What is your prediction for Saturday?
Rob: UW and Cal games are always so weird. Who knows what happens. One thing holds true the last few seasons though. If one of the W4C/CGB guys is attending a wedding the day of the UW game, Cal has one. Holds true for both the Evan Weaver Pick-6 game and also the Thor Bowl in 2019. And one of our own is getting married this Saturday which means some of us will be attending a wedding the day of the UW game. so... I leave the interpretation to you all.
UWDP: For more from the Cal perspective, be sure to check out Write For California.