When asked about who the starting quarterback will be for the Golden Bears this season, head coach Justin Wilcox and offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin have yet to give definite answers. Each quarterback on the roster has skill. Last season, Ross Bowers won the role as the starter—and as the season progressed he got better. Whether it is him or one of the other reserves, the starting quarterback has high expectations to meet in order to help the Golden Bear Football team reach greater heights in Coach Wilcox’s second year as head coach.
Let us review them all individually:
ROSS BOWERS (3), 6’1/200 lbs, Bothell, Washington
Bowers has one clear advantage in this battle for the starting position—he is the returning starter. He has the in-game experience that no other quarterback has, minus garbage-time minutes given to backups. Bowers led the Golden Bears in big moments last season, one of which was when he threw for 259 yards with 21/38 completions, leading the Golden Bears past the then–eighth ranked Washington State Cougars. Bowers completed the season throwing for 3,039 yards—including 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions—with a quarterback rating of 122.06.
In order to retain his starting job, Bowers must improve issues of accuracy, decision-making, and awareness. Though some of his issues were caused by having a faulty offensive line that caused him to be sacked 34 times last season and forced him to get rid of the ball earlier than he would have desired, there were some mistakes made that were solely on him. However, errors are expected out of a first-year starter. If chosen to start again this season, expect Bowers to come out strong and take command of the Cal offense.
CHASE FORREST (14), 6’2/200 lbs, Santa Ana, California
Chase played quarterback at Mater Dei High School before joining the Golden Bears in 2014. He is a redshirt senior who has served as the backup to Jared Goff (the number-one overall selection in the 2016 draft by the Los Angeles Rams) and Davis Webb (current reserve quarterback of the New York Giants). He has never started for the Golden Bears and has seen limited playing time, getting minor minutes late in blowout games. Last season, he shared reps as QB1 with Bowers in the spring—giving Bowers toe-to-toe competition for the starting position going—but eventually lost the competition to Bowers. He is back for his final year of eligibility to give one last push for the starting position.
BRANDON McILWAIN (5), 6’1/180 lbs, Newton, Pennsylvania
Winner of the Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year in high school, Brandon McIlwain is a dual-sport athlete, playing both collegiate football and baseball. He began his collegiate career at South Carolina, playing in eight games for the Gamecocks while producing 600 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
He transferred to Cal for his sophomore year, being a redshirt for the year. However, he did take plenty of reps in training camp at the QB1 position, competing for the starting job that ultimately went to Ross Bowers. McIlwain played well in the spring and now in the fall as he took reps as QB2—and he will have to continue to grow and improve to have a chance for the starting role this season.
Chase Garbers (7), 6,2/205 lbs, Newport Beach, California
Chase Garbers was an amazing player out of high school, finishing his career at Corona del Mar High School with nearly 8000 yards, including 90 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He redshirted the 2017 season, but was also in the fight for the starting QB job last season. Many believe that Garbers has a lot of potential and that down the road he could be the starting quarterback for this team. When will that happen? We do not know. Though, as long as he continues to develop his skills, his potential as a great quarterback will increase.
Robert Rowell (13), 6’2/200 lbs, Lafayette, California
Rowell is local, as he is a graduate of Acalanes High School. This is his first year at Cal, and he will likely redshirt.