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Cal Football Spring Position Battles: The Quarterbacks

For the first time in years, Kevin Riley won't be available to be our resident lightning rod and whipping boy. Instead, we turn to a brand new cast of signal-callers in hopes that one of them can follow in the footsteps of senior Boller, pre-injury Longshore...and dare we dream of Rodgers 2.0? No, of course not. At this point, I think we'd all be content with a QB that doesn't short hop deep outs or throw swing passes 5 yards over the head of an open receiver. In terms of reasonable expectations, we have to realize that 1st years starters rarely excel in Pac-10 play. But if we can just see a glimmer of hope...a hint of competence, it'll keep us dreaming for one more year.

Brock Mansion(Sr) - Didn't do too badly in his debut against WSU, but really struggled down the stretch. By the UW game, we were game-planning to take the ball out of his hands and to minimize the number of checks/reads/decisions that he had to make. It still seems like he has the physical ability to play better than he has, but it's highly likely that he's slated to be our designed holder on field goals.

Beau Sweeney(Jr) - Played well enough to win the backup job in last year's camp, then struggled and got bumped to #3. In what limited time we've seen, he's a better runner than passer at this stage of his development.

Ryan Wertenberger(Jr) - Reportedly plays pretty well in practice and on the scout team, but there are too many talented arms in front of him. Really nice guy who was kind enough to give a shout out to one of our favorite CGBers at last year's Spring Game.

Allan Bridgford(So) - Supposed to be fully recovered from his shoulder injury now. He played in a pro-style offense in high school and broke a number of Mark Sanchez' passing records. Has a strong arm and is supposed to be the most accurate QB on the team. The reported knock on him is his relative lack of mobility and a bit of a slow, quirky release. If only we had a guy on staff who specializes in teaching young QBs proper mechanics...ball on a shelf, anyone? If the reports are true, he's been the top performer in the spring workouts. And to put the mobility concerns to rest, he timed better than all the other QBs in the 10m speed/agility drills, and was second by tenths of a second in 20m. But, performing in drills and running a team are two different things entirely.

Zach Maynard(Jr) - This lefty played sparingly as a true frosh, then became a starter as a soph in Turner Gill's spread offense at Buffalo. After Coach Gill left, he sat out last year as a transfer. He has a slight build, but also has a strong arm and is athletic enough to make plays with his legs. Has had some accuracy and consistency issues during the spring, but has also thrown some really nice balls. Besides being a legitimate dual-threat, his big edge is that he's already been through the fire of several Div-I starts.

Austin Hinder(Fr*) - Tedford has already stated that Hinder will get a look, but is probably still too young to be in the mix. Has great athleticism, but needs to get stronger and to work on his mechanics. Very vocal and shows great leadership potential.

Kyle Boehm(Fr)
- Known more for his running in high school, he has the prototypical build and cannon arm for a quarterback. In case there were any questions about his passing ability, he won the prestigious Steve Clarkson Super 7 award by playing in several post-season all-star tournaments, including the Super 7 national championship game. To earn this award, he beat out several more touted prospects including Max Wittek ('sc) and Brett Hundley(ucla).

Projected Depth Chart:
1a) Bridgford
1b) Maynard
3) Mansion
4) Hinder/Wertenberger
5) Sweeney
6) Boehm

Overview: This is the marquee position battle of the spring and will likely continue all the way into fall camp. Ideally, one guy just dominates and makes it very clear that he's the man. But as we've seen over the past few years, it's also important to have a capable backup waiting in the wings. All accounts indicate that it's going to be Bridgford versus Maynard for the lion's share of the snaps. Bridgford might have the stronger, more accurate arm. But, Maynard has actual game experience and offers another dimension with his mobility. I could easily see us winning with either guy. The big question is whether one of these young men will be able to develop the poise necessary to perform in clutch situations. Now that Tedford is going back to being more hands-on with the quarterback coaching, we can only hope to see some immediate dividends. In some ways, picking this year's starting quarterback is the most significant decision of Tedford's coaching career at Cal. Knowing how 1st-year starters rarely succeed at the Pac-10 level, I think most of us are prepared to see some growing pains during the upcoming season. But, if we're still seeing poor QB play when we return to Memorial Stadium, it's going to raise some difficult questions. CGB Roundtable here.

Biggest Questions
: Who positions themselves to take the starter's snaps heading into fall camp? Will this be a drawn-out competition, or will someone emerge as the clear favorite?

Offensive Summary:
There are more questions than answers at this point. Coach Tedford is trying something new with Eric Kiseasu as the passing game coordinator, Ron Gould as the running game coordinator, and Jim Michalczik as the titular offensive coordinator. Although we had suspected that Tedford will be very involved with the game-planning, until recently it was still unclear who will be calling the actual plays. We did know that Tedford was going to be very hands-on working with the quarterbacks with the help of new position coach Marcus Arroyo.

Now that Tedford has announced (Per Crumpacker, SF Chronicle) that he will go back to calling the majority of the plays, we still have questions about the look of the offense itself. Will this be a return to the classic Tedford pro-style look from the early/mid 2000's? Are we going to try to go with a "modern" look and use our quarterback as more of a running threat? Will we still incorporate shotgun/spread packages? And is the WildBear going in mothballs, or do the guys need to work on their loud CLAP-CLAP cadence all spring? Considering that practices will be largely closed to both the public and to the media, we'll likely have to wait for our answers until the season opener at Candlestick on September 3rd.

The playcalling and the signal-caller may prove to be secondary concerns if the Oline can't help us establish the run and keep our young QB's jersey clean. We looked at the offensive line here. (Updates: Schwartz out/limited for the spring with back issues. Galas out/limited for the spring with shoulder surgery.)

What we do know is this: Tedford has gone back to doing what he does best; working with the offense and developing quarterbacks. We have a proven set of position coaches with Kiseasu, Gould, and Michalczik. Now we just have to wait and take the leap of faith that these men can re-create their magic from previous years.