What seemed clear at the end of spring practices was made crystal Saturday by California coach Jeff Tedford: Zach Maynard is going to be the Bears' starting quarterback.
“Zach showed a tremendous amount of upside during spring practice and is the quarterback that gives us the best opportunity to win football games,” coach Jeff Tedford said in a statement. “He has the ability to both throw and run the ball effectively, giving us another dimension at that position that we haven’t had in a while.”
The mobility, in particular, seemed to give Maynard an edge. He gives the Bears spread-option possibilities as well as a weapon when plays break down, which Brock Mansion and Allan Bridgford do not. The post-spring depth chart will list an "or" between Mansion and Bridgford, which is clearly a challenge to both not to slack off after losing the battle for the starting job. There certainly are no guarantees that Maynard will start all 12 games.
Maynard, a junior, was the starter at Buffalo in 2009, and he completed 57.5 percent of his passes for 2,694 yards with 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He also rushed for 300 yards. His half-brother, Keenan Allen, is a budding star at receiver.
Couple of notable elements here:
This was Tedford's call based on thorough observation. While that might seem like it has a "duh" factor to it, the point is Tedford was more involved with the quarterbacks this spring than he has been in recent years, both in meetings and on the practice field.
You'd think this might signal some tweaks to the Bears' offense that take advantage of Maynard's athleticism. Most likely: Some spread-option elements that force defense to account for quarterback runs. It also seems likely that Maynard won't be asked to be a pure pocket passer, which means more roll outs with run-pass options.
Maynard will be immediately thrown into the competitive fire against Fresno State and on a nonconference trip to Colorado. It might have been nice to play Game 3 foe -- the doughty Blue Hoes of Presbyterian -- first, so Maynard could get his feet under him.
That said: Experience probably helped Maynard. While Mansion was the quarterback of record during Cal's late-season slide -- experience, but not exactly the impressive sort -- Maynard owns 11 FBS starts, even if Buffalo isn't exactly the Pac-12. Bridgford, perhaps the best pure passer of the troika, has no experience.