Two hundred and fifty-five days ago, a defeated Cal football team sat in the UCLA locker room. Three points and a couple passes ending in favor of the Bears are all it would have taken to make the outcome of Cal’s season look a lot different.
Redshirt junior quarterback Ross Bowers, who is ready to take on the role as a starter should his name be called, looked back on last year’s disappointing end during Cal’s fourth day of fall camp. Unable to change the past, though, Bowers is using the team’s shortcomings to fuel his fire heading into the 2018 season.
“I don’t want to let our guys down; that’s all it is,” Bowers said. “Love the fans, love our coaches and everything, but the 10 guys out there with me, the five that block for me, you know, all the guys on the roster — those are the guys I want to do it for.”
Bowers has owned the starting role in almost all the drills in camp thus far. Along with physicality, his mental toughness and awareness have grown in the offseason, and it is a regular occurance to hear Bowers chirping at his teammates throughout practice — giving them pointers, encouragement and maybe even some tough love.
“I feel like I can help our guys because of the stuff I’ve studied and all the meetings that I’ve had with coach (Marques Tuiasosopo) and coach (Beau) Baldwin,” Bowers said. “Just trying to take that quarterback role to be the ‘coach on the field’ type of deal.”
On day one of camp, senior offensive lineman Patrick Mekari praised Bowers for being a tough, physical quarterback — a fearless leader who makes his players not only want to work for him, but alongside him.
“You gotta act and prepare like a champion first, before you can be one,” Bowers said.
Should Bowers take the helm for Cal, he will have a solid array of weapons at hand, from more veteran players including junior Jordan Duncan — who has been eager to bust out the gates and sprint full force past defenses — to new faces such as redshirt senior Moe Ways and freshman Nikko Remigio.
“Jordan and Moe have really been setting the tempo,” Bowers said. ” ‘Hey, let’s go throw just any time we can.’ ”
While redshirt sophomore Brandon McIlwain offers a change of pace to the Cal offense with his speed and mobility, it doesn’t seem as though he is yet ready to overpower Bowers’ sheer amount of experience and comfort within Wilcox’s system. The duo, however, will allow for many one-two scenarios and options to play out come the fall.
Should Bowers earn the starting spot and not live up to expectations against a UNC team that is now out 13 players, or BYU, McIlwain should be ready to step up.
Four fall camp days down, 10 to go, with action resuming Wednesday.
Christie Aguilar is the sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].