Everyone’s certainly seen the play by now. Ross Bowers, the quarterback, takes the snap near the end zone, goes through his progressions and sees he has no other option but to scramble. As he approaches the goal line, he suddenly takes flight, jumping right over the defenders waiting to pop him. He clears them to score, but that’s nowhere near the best part. No, the best part is that the defenders hit the quarterback just enough while he’s in the air that he does a full front flip and lands right back on his feet.
“It was something that definitely got me a lot of notoriety,” Bowers said. “My mom’s a gymnastics coach, and I’ve been on a trampoline since I was however young, and then it just took over, you know — stick the landing. And then it was just mayhem from there.”
The play took the sports world by storm, as everyone wondered where this high schooler was taking his talents to next and what he’d be able to achieve at the next level.
Now, with Bowers starting his career with Cal, Bears fans will soon get a chance to find out.
Bowers’ first year will certainly consist of him sitting behind returning junior quarterback Jared Goff, a projected first rounder in next year’s draft. But Bowers seems to be the favorite to replace Goff when he eventually heads to the NFL.
Until that moment arrives, however, Bowers will get a chance to improve on all aspects of his game to become a worthy successor to the head of the team’s Bear Raid offense. In the 2014 season, the offense was prolific enough that it came just short of singlehandedly carrying the Bears to bowl eligibility, despite the fact that the team was anchored by a lackluster defense. Cal ranked 10th in the nation in offensive efficiency, according to ESPN. Head coach Sonny Dykes’ offense is ready made to help quarterbacks and receivers put up huge numbers in the passing game: Jared Goff put up almost 4,000 yards and threw for 35 touchdowns as a sophomore. Taking over such a high-powered offense will mean high expectations placed on Bowers when he eventually takes over as a starter.
Bowers comes to Cal with the tools that may give him a good chance to succeed. He is a very accurate passer and is especially adept at throwing successfully on the run, when his feet aren’t set — a tough skill for a young passer to pick up. He is also very mechanically solid and has a throwing motion he compares with that of Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Alex Smith. And, of course, Bowers’ front flip is a prime example of the deceptive athleticism the quarterback possesses.
As great as his strengths may seem, he has a few things he will need to work on and a few relative weaknesses to address before he eventually steps into the huddle as the Bears’ starting quarterback. First and foremost, Bowers will need to adapt to the Bear Raid. He comes from a high school team built on a more balanced offense, so coming to Cal, Bowers will need to adjust to throwing the ball about 40 to 50 times a game. Along with that, Bowers occasionally struggles to hit his receivers on the deep ball, and arm strength is not one of his strengths. While his is not terrible by any means, it is something he must work on to make the most of his time in the offense. At 6-foot-2 and about 180 pounds, Bowers isn’t small, but he doesn’t necessarily have prototypical size for the position.
Though Bowers probably would have loved to come into college and start right away, getting at least one year to sit behind Goff may be a blessing in disguise. It will give Bowers a much better chance to address the aspects of his game that he needs to improve on, and to mold himself into Cal’s next premier signal caller.
“I want to prepare so that when (the starting job) does come, I’ll be as prepared as I could be and be as ready for that moment as I could be,” Bowers said.
Hooman Yazdanian is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].