For the first time in a long time, our likely Cal starting quarterback is coming into camp a total mystery to most of us. Zach Maynard has barely any video on him worth noting from his high school days, and as a Buffalo Bull, he played mostly in the obscurity of the MAC his sophomore year, and accumulated totally nondescript stats (57.5 completion percentage, 2,694 passing yards, 18 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 300 rushing yards). None of us quite know what we're getting this fall if Maynard's the guy who's making drop steps in the pocket.
So we have to get a perspective from someone who watched him up close. We talked to Tim Riordan of UB Bull Run (our Buffalo Bulls SB Nation affiliate) to learn more about Maynard and what he potentially brings to the table.
1. What style of offense does Buffalo run and how did Maynard do in that offense?
I think that Turner Gill ultimately wanted to get to an option offense, but he was a pragmatist who saw the program he inherited lacked the tools to make that work. The offense that Maynard ran could be be described as a pro set, but I believe that Maynard was brought in for the purpose of fulfilling Gill's ultimate goal.
In Gill's offense, passing was conducted mostly from the pocket, and it was a team that relied heavily on the ground game and balance to set up opponents.
2. What did Buffalo fans see as the biggest weakness in Zach's game during his year as the starter for UB?
It's a toss-up between his situational awareness or his lack of touch. There were a couple of times where Zach seemed unaware of the down and distance, once near the end of a game where he ran out of bounds five yards short of the sticks on fourth down. That one really sticks with me because it killed a comeback. There are other occasions where he started to head back to the huddle after a failed third down conversion.
His lack of touch had to do with him relying way too much on the strength of his arm, which he has in spades. He seemed unable to drop a ball in to a wide open receiver behind the defense.
3. One thing that reportedly has Cal coach Jeff Tedford intrigued is Zach's running ability. How would you characterize Zach as a running threat?
As a QB, Maynard is one of the most dangerous runners I have ever seen. It was nothing short of infuriating to Bulls fans that he did not run more often but Gill seemed to have him on a leash for most of the season. When he did run, it was amazing to watch. He was a very talented runner who sees the field well. What he lacked in decision making throwing the ball he made up for with his field vision running it.
As the season went on there were more and more designed runs and they were usually big.
4. What should Cal fans be most excited about at the prospect of Zach being our starting quarterback? Conversely, what should we be most worried about?
If used correctly by a coach--and if he can stop trying to force every pass--Maynard has the potential to be a game-changing QB. All he was missing was touch. With that there is not a single aspect of the position in which he can't match up with anyone. He has had two years to work on it so I assume you'll see improvement in that aspect of his game.
Once in a while (Temple Game 2009) Zach can get rattled and then the train goes off the tracks. Bad decision after bad decision would take a game that we were in and put it completely out of reach. The only way to know if that is any better will be to see how he handles close games in which he makes killer mistakes.
5. What was the reaction of the UB fan base to Zach's decision to transfer after Turner Gill took the KU job?
Mixed. I for one was furious, inappropriately so. But many fans understood that Quinn was not looking for the type of QB that Maynard wanted to be. Nobody was 'happy' he was leaving but there were some who thought it was best for everyone.
He and several other players felt betrayed that the offensive coordinator, Coach Danny Barret, was turned down for the head coaching Job when Gill left. Several players and coaches told me that Barret was all but promised the role and they were all looking forward to it. Maynard took it hard when Coach Quinn got the job, his body language at the presser where it was announced was telling.
That, and a personality clash with Quinn led Maynard to look elsewhere.
6. What was Zach's reputation as a leader and teammate?
He never seemed to be a leader to me. I am not privy to what went on during practice and in the locker room but on the field and on the sidelines Buffalo had established leadership from the 2008 championship team. If he was not a leader it might have just been a lack of opportunity. How do you march in and take the leadership mantle from Naaman Roosevelt or James Starks?
7. Maynard didn't have a very good TD to interception ratio in his year at Buffalo. Why did he toss so many picks? (bad timing? inaccuracy? poor decision-making? miscommunication with receivers?)
A little poor decision-making, but more often it was because he always threw on a rope. Even if a receiver had a step or two on the defense, the pass was low enough to give the a defender a crack at int. In all fairness to Zach, the bulk of those picks came in two games: Once against Pitt in a game where he threw for more than 400 yards and a handful of TD's and once against Temple where he was just terrible.
8. How was Maynard's pass protection at Buffalo? Was he effective at picking up yards (on the ground or through the air) when his protection broke down?
Pretty solid. That unit gave Zach a decent amount of time. When he had to move he was actually a better passer than he was in the pocket (except when he tried throwing across the field).
9. What do you see as Maynard's ceiling? How good do you think he could be if he fully realizes his potential at Cal?
Zach Maynard was one of a handful of NFL potential players on Buffalo's roster. I have heard from many of the ex-Buffalo coaches that they were confident he would be playing on Sundays if he kept his head on straight.
10. What do you see as Maynard's biggest assets when it comes to playing the QB position?
The guy is an amazing athlete, and he seems willing to be coached. That kind of athleticism combined with the wisdom to listen to those who might no better will be key to any success he has at Cal.