Position Preview: Quarterback

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The Year That Was

Kevin Riley declared that 2010 would be his best season ever.  Things didn’t go according to plan. Though Riley’s offensive line didn’t make it easy for him, the fifth-year senior never moved past his accuracy and consistency issues — as was the case for much of his career, Riley bounced between sharp and dreadful.

That tumultuous campaign ended in heartbreaking fashion, as Riley suffered
a season-ended knee injury
— quite cruelly — against Oregon State on Oct. 30.

For his replacement, Brock Mansion, there were no ups and downs — just ineffectiveness throughout. Mansion started the final four games, completing less than half of his passes and failing to throw a meaningful touchdown.

Key Changes

Riley has graduated and was last seen trying out for the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions before getting cut.

Buffalo transfer Zach Maynard — the half-brother of receiver Keenan Allen — was named the team’s starting quarterback in May, beating out Mansion and  sophomore Allan Bridgford during spring practice.

The offensive staff has undergone changes as well, with Marcus Arroyo being named the team’s quarterbacks coach. Jim Michalczik returns to coach the O-line and will also take on offensive coordinator duties.

Keep an Eye

Maynard, obviously. His running ability helped him win the job during the spring, and he could prove to be an extra play-maker for an offense that often looked anemic last fall.

But how will he fare as a passer? Maynard’s most recent numbers at Buffalo — 18 touchdowns, 15 interceptions — aren’t glowing. And the past couple of seasons have shown that Cal won’t go far in the conference standings without competent quarterback play.

Outlook

Previously, Cal’s offense has been steadied by a dependable running game. That may not be the case this fall, making Maynard’s performance even more crucial.

The Greensboro, N.C. native was constantly called a “wildcard” during the offseason– and for good reason. His athleticism has obviously intrigued Jeff Tedford, who may add more spread and option elements to take advantage of it. But even with elite speed and a pair of talented receivers to throw to, Maynard is facing major conference competition for the very first time.

Right now, there are many more questions than answers. How sharp will his accuracy and decision-making be? If he struggles, how long will Tedford wait before making a switch for Bridgford?

These won’t be answered against Presbyterian.

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