In January, it appeared that rising sophomore Chase Forrest was in line to become Cal's starting quarterback. After spring practice, having fended off an unexpected challenge from on-again off-again QB hopeful Zach Kline, his frontrunner status remained intact. But with the arrival of grad transfer Davis Webb, who played in 23 games during three seasons at Texas Tech, Forrest's path to the starting job has become much less clear.
We probably won't know who the Bears' new quarterback will be until the offense takes the field on August 26th. But in the time-honored tradition of uninformed speculation, let's try to piece together the depth chart. Does Webb's recruitment (as some of us have speculated) signal the coaches' mistrust in the other QBs, or is he just an insurance policy should things go wrong for Chase Forrest? The reality is surely somewhere in between. My thinking is that the coaches saw an opportunity to pick up a potential starter and figured it couldn't hurt to let him compete. Webb's starting experience in a similar offensive system should give him a leg up, but he'll have to demonstrate his ability to execute Jake Spavital's playbook if he wants to take the starting job away from...
#14 Chase Forrest
Forrest's 2015 season was pretty much the perfect scenario for a backup quarterback: he trained under the tutelage of a future NFL #1 pick, wasn't needed in any emergency situations, and performed serviceably in garbage time (10-17, 1 TD, 1 INT vs. Grambling State). That, plus the high praise he's received from his coaches, makes me think he has a fair shot at earning the starting job. Coach Dykes has called Forrest the most consistent passer of the homegrown QBs, not to mention his ability as a runner.
It's fun to compare the recent reports on Forrest's progress to where he was two years ago. At the time, he was the second QB commit in his class behind Luke Rubenzer (who has returned to the secondary...for now). A year ago he was being compared to Josh Rosen, and now he's fighting for a starting job in his sophomore season. That all speaks to his growth as a player and, perhaps, to his potential as a QB. Will this be his chance to prove himself as a starter, or will he have to wait a bit longer?
#7 Davis Webb
While Chase Forrest may be the more interesting prospect in terms of future development, Davis Webb represents the opportunity for consistency now. He's got three years of starting experience, played in an Air Raid offense under Kliff Kingsbury, and has put up solid numbers (46 TDs, 22 INTs) in that time. Yes, he lost his starting job at Texas Tech—to one of the most productive QBs in the Big 12, it should be said—but he's still a Power Five caliber QB and a potential NFL draft prospect. Mel Kiper, who knows a little bit about this sort of thing, thinks Webb could be a first round pick.
So what should we expect from Webb if he wins the job? There's going to be a learning curve no matter who starts, considering Cal will be breaking in a new offensive system, a new QB, and an almost entirely new WR corps, but Webb will have the benefit of 700+ FBS passing attempts to help slow things down. To that end, Kingsbury has praised Webb for his quick thinking and good vision on the field. He has struggled with interceptions, however, so ball protection will surely be a point of emphasis as he competes for the starting job.
#3 Ross Bowers
The redshirt freshman from Bothell, Washington will likely land at third on the depth chart. Bowers performed well in spring camp, but the addition of Webb makes it unlikely he'll push his way into the first string just yet. In the long run, Bowers' mobility and accuracy could make him a valuable asset. He was an Elite 11 prospect, after all.
Cal has a few more QBs on the roster, but those three project to be the main competitors. Zach Kline will seek to transfer and play elsewhere, Luke Rubenzer is back with the secondary (unless that's just a clever ruse), and early enrollee Max Gilliam will likely redshirt this season.