Cal has developed a deep and versatile receiving corps but if Makai Polk departed after last season to get more work, he found his happy landing spot with coach Mike Leach at Mississippi State team.
Polk, who played two promising seasons for the Bears, has caught 33 passes for the Bulldogs through four games to lead the Southeastern Conference. He ranks in a tie for fourth nationally with 8.2 receptions per game.
At Cal, Polk caught 36 passes in 12 career games.
"It was the Air Raid and knowing that I'd get a chance to get the ball a lot," Polk said of his decision to transfer to MSU. "I wasn't solely looking to go to an Air Raid offense, but I wanted to go somewhere that the competition was high and I could see myself thriving at and this was the place."
Even so, it has to be a culture shock, moving 2,265 miles from the Bay Area to a small town in Mississippi.
"Being in the city of Starkville is much different than where I'm from in California," Polk said in an athletic department interview. "I'm used to tall, 15-20 story buildings since I'm from the city. Here there's just 2-3 story buildings and a lot of woods and grass. I'm not really used to that but I like it.”
Separately, he told CBS Sports, “I feel at home.”
A 6-foot-3, 200-pounder from Richmond in the East Bay, Polk already knew all about Leach’s approach to the game. Leach tried hard to recruit him at his previous coaching stop in the Pac-12.
"We recruited him at Washington State, we just didn't get him," Leach said. "And then he recruited us at Mississippi State. It's kind of funny. We said, 'Well, you'll catch a lot more balls at Washington State.' And then we go to Mississippi State and he goes, 'Yeah, I want to catch a lot more balls.' So he came here, so it was a good deal.”
The Bulldogs’ ball-control pass attack is essentially their ground game. They average just 63 rushing yards per game, but Will Rogers has attempted 225 passes — most of any quarterback in FBS.
And he completes 75 percent of those attempts, the very definition of high-percentage passes. MSU’s 169 completions are the second-most in FBS through four games since 2000. Only Leach’s Texas Tech 2007 team had more with 178.
Of course, Rogers isn’t on the mark three-quarters of the time by throwing the ball deep downfield. MSU is sixth nationally in passing yards (363.5 per game), but its 6.46 yards per attempt is the lowest of any team rank among the top-50 in passing yards.
Polk, who has covered 303 yards with his 33 catches and has scored a pair of touchdowns, says the transition to Leach’s offense was seamless. He gives credit to Cal offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, who uses a pro-style attack.
“He prepared me a lot,” Polk said.
Polk had 10 catches for 57 yards in Mississippi State’s opener vs. Louisiana Tech. In the team’s past two outings — losses to Memphis and LSU — he had 11 catches for 136 yards and eight for 78, with a touchdown in each game.
"He is dynamic and he does play the ball in the air well," Leach said. "He's a skilled guy. I think he's really done quite a lot as far and put good stuff on film that we can use to illustrate examples for our other players."
Mississippi State (2-2) hits the road Saturday to take on No. 13 Texas A&M (3-1).
Cover photo of Makai Polk by Matt Bush, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo