Kanawai Noa’s announcement Thursday night that he plans to transfer after graduating from Cal this spring puts more pressure on a receiving corps that had limitations this past season.
The departure of Noa will mean that the Bears’ top four receivers from 2018 – Vic Wharton III (50 catches, 502 yards), Maurice Ways (34, 383), Noa (30, 369) and Patrick Laird (51, 288) – will not be around next season.
The Bears struggled on offense in 2018, finishing 108th of 129 FBS teams in scoring and 101st in passing offense. The most noticeable shortcoming was the lack of an explosive receiver who could stretch the field or make big plays.
The Bears’ top returning receiver will be Jordan Duncan, who missed five games with injuries and had 20 catches for 267 yards and four scores. Jeremiah Hawkins, a sophomore this past season, had 16 catches for 177 yards and freshman Nikko Remiggio added 11 receptions for 62 yards.
Cal coaches knew they needed immediate help at the position, which is why they signed two junior college wide receivers – Trevon Clark from El Camino College, who was ranked the 52nd-best overall junior college prospect by 247 Sports, and Jawaun Johnson of Fullerton College, who was ranked 131st. The Bears also signed Makai Polk of El Cerrito High School, who graduated early and has already enrolled at Cal. Perhaps the most important addition is wide receiver Kekoa Crawford, who played previously at Michigan.
“We were looking at how do we create some more explosive plays on offense,” coach Justin Wilcox said on the early signing day. “We felt like it was something we needed to address and we felt like we did. You see it on the tape. They have demonstrated an ability to make some of those plays. We knew we had to add that. The work starts now.”
Noa missed five games this season with an undisclosed injuries but still led the team in receiving yards per game, at 46.1. Noa was sixth in the Pac-12 in receiving yards per game in 2017 when he had 56 catches for 788 yards (71.6 yards per game).
The departure of Noa continues the exit of wide receivers from the program. The most significant departure was Demetris Robinson, who was the Bears’ most explosive receiver but transferred to Georgia last summer. Sophomore wide receiver Greyson Bankhead and junior receiver Brandon Singleton announced last month they plan to transfer.
Quarterback remains an issue for the Bears. Redshirt freshman Chase Garbers returns as the primary starter from 2018, but he was replaced at halftime of the Cheez-It Bowl after he threw three interceptions in the first half.