Who exactly is Devon Modster? Meet Cal football’s new starting quarterback

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Just when starting quarterback Chase Garbers began to hit his stride, the football gods struck a tough blow.

A hard fall in the second quarter of Cal’s 24-17 loss to Arizona State last Friday resulted in an upper body injury, which officially forced Garbers “out long-term” with potential to return before the season’s end.

The absence of Garbers means that UCLA and Palomar College transfer Devon Modster will be Cal’s arm under center for the foreseeable future. Despite a rocky showing as Garbers’ replacement Friday, Modster’s strong arm and big-play potential offer hope that the Bears’ offense can regroup in the coming weeks.

Here’s the story on how UCLA’s prized prospect became Cal’s new starting quarterback:

Modster was originally committed to Arizona in 2015

A highly coveted four-star recruit out of high school, Modster received his first offer in 2014 from the University of Arizona as one of the top pocket passers in his class. In the coming months, he was offered by both UCLA and Cal, among others — before verbally committing to the Wildcats’ program.

In December of his senior year, however, Modster decommitted from Arizona and flipped to UCLA, just three days after taking an official visit to Westwood.

He competed in five games as a redshirt freshman for UCLA

After redshirting his first full season with the Bruins, Modster solidified himself as Josh Rosen’s backup in 2017, seeing action in five games. He displayed both deep ball accuracy and solid pocket awareness, compiling 671 yards through the air and four touchdowns with no interceptions. His most notable action came in the 2017 Cactus Bowl, and during the final game of the regular season against…

Modster defeated Cal in a game two seasons ago

… the Cal Bears, led at the time by quarterback Ross Bowers and breakout star Patrick Laird. With both teams a single win from bowl eligibility, Rosen suffered a shoulder injury and was replaced by Modster midway through a tight contest.

Modster would finish the night 14 of 18 through the air for 191 yards, including several strikes to dynamic wideout Jordan Lasley. After Cal tied the game with a couple minutes left in the fourth quarter, Modster led a game-winning drive to set up J.J. Molson’s go-ahead field goal with four seconds remaining, sending the Bruins to a pivotal sixth win on the year.

He announced his commitment to Cal in December 2018, a week before the Cheez-It Bowl

After Rosen’s departure and Chip Kelly’s arrival in Westwood, Modster battled with Michigan transfer Wilton Speight and current UCLA starter Dorian Thompson-Robinson for the starting job. Speight won the job, with Thompson-Robinson firmly solidified as the No. 2. After sticking around for a few games, Modster announced his decision to transfer in September and enrolled at Palomar Community College, although he did not join the football program.

Three months after leaving the UCLA program, Modster took an official visit to UC Berkeley, announcing his commitment Dec. 19. He battled Garbers throughout the spring and into fall camp for first team reps, but was not active for Cal’s first three weeks of 2019.

Modster made his Cal debut at Ole Miss and played one full half of a game against Arizona State

By September, Garbers had solidified himself as the starter, giving way to Modster for one play against Ole Miss after taking a hard hit on a sack. Modster’s first play as a Bear was a 16-yard screen pass to Jeremiah Hawkins.

Garbers suffered his upper body injury near the end of the half last Friday against the Sun Devils, handing the reins over to Modster. Playing his first meaningful snaps in nearly two years, Modster struggled with accuracy and mobility, completing five of 14 passes for 23 yards with one interception.

Josh Yuen covers football. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @joshcal2020.