Though Cal football coach Jeff Tedford insists there will be competition for the starting quarterback position this fall, Zach Maynard emerged as the top QB in the spring and should be under center when the Bears open at Candlestick on Sept. 3 against Fresno State.
“He can make all the throws,” Tedford said this week. “He throws a nice deep ball and he has the arm strength to zip the ball on the intermediate routes.”
Maynard also has some running ability, which is a positive.
“Plays don’t always go the way they’re drawn up,” Tedford said, “so when a pass play breaks down, it’s a plus if your quarterback can run outside or even up the middle to get a first down.”
Maynard rushed for 300 yards in his one year as a collegiate quarterback at Buffalo. He transferred to Cal and sat out last year before becoming eligible to play for the Bears.
“He’s been in the arena, playing against teams like Pittsburgh,” Tedford noted.
Maynard has also has a new system to learn, and that started in the spring.
“We like to put in the whole offense at once [as Bill Walsh did with the 49ers, too] in the spring,” Tedford said. “We’ll do the same thing now. We want our quarterbacks to see everything, so they’re not surprised when we go to any play later.”
In any game, there will be limits on the offensive game plan.
“You never use everything in your offense in one game,” Tedford said. “The main thing is for the quarterback to be comfortable with what we’re calling. I always talk to the quarterback and say, ‘What plays are you most comfortable with?’ He’s the one who has to make them work.”
Maynard has one big advantage: If all else fails, he can always go to his half-brother, Keenan Allen. Maynard transferred to Cal because Allen was already here. Allen is a tremendous threat who probably wasn’t used as much as he should have been as a freshman last year. Tedford promised that Allen will be much more involved this season.
Maynard is a left-hander, which makes it somewhat more difficult for Tedford to work with him.
“I can still simulate right-handed throws,” said Tedford, a quarterback at Fresno State before he went into coaching, “but everything is different from the left-handed side, from where the feet should be to handing the ball off.”
Ultimately, though, the test is whether the quarterback is accurate, not which hand he throws with. Last year, the Bears struggled with quarterback consistency with right-handed quarterbacks. Kevin Riley had his ups and downs before he was knocked out for the season with a knee injury in the Oregon State game. Brock Mansion mostly had downs when he replaced Riley. Now, he and sophomore Allan Bridgeford are both listed at No. 2 on the depth chart.
Tedford has repeatedly said the Bears must improve at quarterback to get back to the bowl-eligible level, so the spotlight will be on Maynard this season.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.