(image via SF Gate)
“I think he brings a little more speed and athleticism than we’ve had there in past years. You can kind of see that college football is moving in that direction. You have to have a guy, when things break down, that can manufacture some yardage.”
-Cal Coach Jeff Tedford on starting quarterback Zach Maynard
The announcement came in the form of a Cal Athletic’s press release last week, and was followed up with comments from Coach Tedford at the Cal-Fresno State press conference a few days later--Zach Maynard will be the Bears’ starting quarterback heading into this season.
The gamble of transferring from Buffalo to join his half-brother Keenan Allen at Cal appears to have paid off for the time being, as Maynard appears to have shown Tedford enough for him to have the coaches’ confidence that he is the player to lead the Bears.
A few thoughts on the announcement.
The timing makes sense.
Initially, I was surprised that the starting quarterback was named so early in the offseason. After all, Tedford had appeared to be hesitant to anoint Maynard the starter, despite him taking the bulk of first-team reps during the second half of spring practice. Also, most previous quarterback battles lasted well into fall camp, and it wasn’t until the final scrimmage that there appeared to be any indication that this season was going to be any different.
However, Tedford has stated that he wanted to make the QB decision early and public, so as to allow Maynard the entire summer to begin growing into the role as the team’s leader. Given Maynard’s short time with the team, Tedford wanted to use the next few months to let the team embrace and rally around Maynard as the leader, while giving Maynard more time to pick up the offense.
Also, with the decision of the starting QB out of the way, it gives other parts of the offense time to begin setting into place. We now know Mitchell Schwartz will start at right tackle to protect Maynard’s blindside (Maynard is a leftie). The coaching staff can also begin further considering how they might tweak the offense now that they know the more mobile and elusive Maynard will be at the helm.
And don’t underestimate the importance of the receivers taking their bulk of reps with the starter during offseason workouts, rather than splitting up the reps among three quarterbacks.
It’s a bit of a gamble, as this wouldn’t happen unless Tedford was fairly confident that Maynard was the guy, but if he’s going to take a shot, now is the best time to have made it.
Maynard brings a new face to the offense.
I’m not on the coaching staff so I’m not going to pretend like I have any sense of who should be the starting quarterback with two of the three top candidates not having taken a single live snap for the Bears. Those who gnash their teeth and claim to have the best idea of who should be the starter because they’ve seen a few live scrimmages are fooling themselves. Believe it or not, but these coaches know best.
I’ve written previously that despite the number of quarterbacking inconsistencies the past several years, Tedford has made the right decision every single preseason as to who should be starting the season as QB1. Every single year.
I’m not going to begin doubting him now, and the fact that Maynard was named the starter this early on only affirms that he must be happy about what he has in Maynard.
But if you read into his comments, it’s not just that he’s happy with Maynard’s ability to throw the ball, though he has said he’s been pleased with Maynard’s ability to make all the throws. Rather, Tedford has gone out of his way to also praise Maynard’s ability to create plays when things break down, and the added dimension that Maynard’s mobility and athleticism brings.
I’ve openly laughed at reports that claim Tedford is switching his offense to the spread this season, as they’ve been mostly lazy and egregiously incorrect examples of journalism. However, it’s not a stretch to consider that we’ll be seeing more spread elements this season than in years past.
Our offense has seen a number of multiple receiver sets, and handoffs from the shotgun, but I think we may see a few more zone reads and designed QB runs than in years past. The coaches will be looking to take advantage of Maynard’s athleticism in big ways, though it probably won’t be the fundamental shift that many may be thinking. It’s just that for the first time, the Bears have a QB they can actually starting designing such types of plays around.
Competition still exists, and for good reason.
I could bore you with details and statistics, but the simple truth is that very rarely does a team’s starting QB end up starting every game over the course of a season. Cal fans painfully saw firsthand the importance of having depth at the quarterback position, with a QB ready to come in to lead the offense at a moment’s notice.
Despite Maynard’s anointment as starter, there’s still a good chance that either Brock Mansion or Allan Bridgford will see quite a few significant reps this season.
Consider the fact that a more mobile quarterback is more prone to injury, simply by design. They’re involved in more running plays and opposing defenders are going to get after the QB a bit more aggressively to try and take away the running threat.
Even if it isn’t by injury, there are going to be games where the starting quarterback simply isn’t feeling it that day for whatever reason. They may simply be off or may not match up that well against an opposing defense. Although Tedford has shown the propensity to stick with a quarterback a bit longer than some would like, he’s also shown that he’s willing to throw in a backup quarterback to see if he can provide a spark to the offense.
The jury is still out on Allan Bridgford, and he’s going to get more opportunities to push Maynard in practice this fall. Mansion still provides a fair share of experience, and will be ready at a moment’s notice.
Let’s hope both players bring their A game in the next few months and continue to push Maynard. It will certainly make everyone better.
Maynard’s development will be interesting to watch.
Zach Maynard has had a pretty interesting career trajectory. It’s been far from the prototypical Elite-11, blue chip recruit that has either stepped in right away or quietly redshirted behind some established starter for a few years.
Rather Maynard was moderately recruited high school quarterback, before low ACT scores caused schools to back off. He ended up at Buffalo, committing after the national signing date.
He ended up starting in his sophomore season at Buffalo in 2009, completing 57.5% of his passes for 2,694 yards and 18 TDs and 15 interceptions. He also accounted for 300 yards on the ground on 87 carries (a fairly hefty amount for a QB) and a touchdown score.
Maynard then decided to transfer to Cal after the season was over after Turner Gill left for Kansas, and took advantage of the opportunity to start fresh and join his brother Keenan Allen. He then sat out the past year due to NCAA eligibility rules, and just began taking reps with the Bears during spring practice.
In a span of just two months really, Maynard went from third on the depth chart, to being announced the team’s starter headed into the fall.
The entire thing has been a bit crazay if you look at it really. So it’s not a surprise that I’m going to be following his career very closely for reasons other than the obvious ones that he’ll be quarterbacking for the Bears.
The simple fact is that there are a lot of crazy factors to consider with Maynard’s development.
Maynard has played just one year of FBS level football, but it was enough to have him be the most experienced quarterback on the roster in terms of playing experience.
He’s also had to sit out for a past year, and Maynard’s admitted to that leading to some early hiccups in performance in Spring ball.
He’s also only had one spring to work with the team, and the upcoming summer and fall camp will be the only time left to become a complete master of the playbook.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
(image via SF Gate)