NCAA

How Texas-made quarterback Davis Webb fell in love with Berkeley

How Texas-made quarterback Davis Webb fell in love with Berkeley

Texas is all Davis Webb knew for the first 21 years of his life. The 6-foot-5 NFL hopeful grew up in the Dallas area of Prosper, excelled at Prosper High School and became the second true freshman ever to start at quarterback for Texas Tech University — a five-hour drive from his hometown. Calling his transition West to Berkeley a whole new world is easily an understatement. 

"I knew it was going to be different, but I don’t think I knew how different it is compared to Dallas, Texas, or Lubbock, Texas," Webb told CSNBayArea.com in an exclusive phone interview. "It’s a complete 180 from where I spent the first 21 years of my life. 

"But at the same time, I’m in love with Berkeley."

Webb's love for Berkeley began where you might expect — on the gridiron. As soon as he arrived on campus in late May, Webb hit the field to throw with his eventual leading receiver, Chad Hansen, and other new teammates as well.

"I created a bunch of new friendships and we competed and got after it hard that summer," Webb said. "I fell in love with Cal, I fell in love with my teammates and I fell in love with the university.”

After acclimating with his new teammates and feeling more comfortable in his new home, Webb soon indulged all the Bay Area has to offer. The new guy on campus frequented the press box atop Memorial Stadium and gaze out to the Golden Gate Bridge and the arresting view before it. He attended Oakland A’s games at the Coliseum, San Francisco Giants games at AT&T Park, and Cal basketball games at Haas Pavilion.

“I love that place,” Webb said. “I love the [Berkeley] strip, I love my teammates, I love the Bay Area. I love the weather, obviously. The food was great and there’s beautiful women everywhere.”

Coming from one of the most conservative areas in the country, Webb quickly immersed himself in Berkeley's liberal landscape.

“It was a great experience and it was different," he said, "but I was prepared for it and my teammates helped me along the way.”

He made it an easy transition, but it wasn't one Webb ever expected to make. He broke Big 12 records as a true freshman at Texas Tech and ended his first season with an upset win over No. 15 Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl, earning MVP honors. His efforts on the field even helped force 2016 Heisman runner up Baker Mayfield to transfer to Oklahoma. But a torn left labrum and a subsequent ankle injury limited him to eight games as a sophomore and he eventually lost his starting job to Patrick Mahomes II (another top prospect in the 2017 draft). In Webb's junior year, head coach Kliff Kingsbury went with Mahomes, spurring Webb's transfer.

Webb initially signed financial aid papers in January 2016 to enroll in the University of Colorado, but when Cal hired Jake Spavital -- who Webb calls the best offensive coordinator in the country -- he maintained an open mind. 

And there was one specific attribute that cemented Cal as the gunslinger's final decision.  

"It’s 'QB U.' It really is," Webb professed. "It’s kinda 'Silent QB U,'" he added, rattling off a list of the school's first-round draft picks.

The decision to join Cal in 2016 put Webb at the helm of former head coach Sonny Dykes' Air Raid Offense.

“Everybody wants to hate on the Air Raid system, but it’s a fun game and without the Air Raid system I wouldn’t be where I’m at today,” Webb said.

At Texas Tech, Webb experienced the highs and lows of a college athlete on the biggest stage. After losing his job, a sour taste could have followed him to Cal. But Webb took the same approach he always has — to lead on and off the field. Webb was named a captain after just eight weeks at Cal, a goal he made coming to the school after wearing the "C" for Texas Tech.

Academically, Webb maintained just under a 4.0 GPA in Cal’s graduate public health school. Webb is taking a break from his studies to pursue an NFL career, but he understands Cal's academic prestige, and, with one third of his graduate degree complete, Webb vows to finish what he started.

“To get a Cal degree is something not many people can say and I want that degree, and I’m gonna get it” Webb said. “It’s just a matter of needing a little break right now and focusing on my football abilities. Having that public health degree, being the No. 1 public institution in the country isn’t something I take lightly.”

With most of Cal’s games coming on Saturdays, Webb knocked out as much schoolwork as possible on Sundays and Mondays and then it was all football for him, either in the facilities or on the field from 7:30 a.m. to nearly 11 p.m. every day.

“It was a great day. It was a great three months that I had there and I’m never gonna forget it,” Webb said.

Four years of college at two different schools put Webb on a long, winding road toward the draft. Through it all, Webb moves on from collegiate sports bleeding just under 10,000 yards and 83 touchdowns of Red Raider and Golden Bear blood. 

“I got everything I wanted out of Cal and then some,” says Webb. “I’m gonna call Cal my home for the rest of my life. Cal and Texas Tech are always gonna have a place in my heart. I’m just thankful Cal gave me an opportunity. I’m gonna go back there and get my degree and be around Cal as much as I can for the rest of my life.”

Three months on campus is all it took for the Texas-made quarterback to fall in love with Berkeley. With unfinished business in the classroom, he will be back in the Bay Area — perhaps for the long haul in the place he can already call home.

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Check out Part 1 of our interview with Davis Webb as he looks at the NFL Combine and how he's preparing to separate himself from the other quarterbacks in the 2017 draft class.

Pac-12 to experiment with ways to shorten football games

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AP

Pac-12 to experiment with ways to shorten football games

LOS ANGELES -- The Pac-12 will shorten halftime and reduce the number of commercial breaks during its non-conference schedule this season as part of a trial program to reduce the length of its football games.

Halftime will be 15 minutes long, cut down from the usual 20-minute break. The number of commercial breaks will be reduced and they will be shorter in length, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said Wednesday.

Scott announced the initiative as the Pac-12 kicked off its media days in Hollywood. The experiment is intended to shorten ballooning game times in an era of up-tempo offenses running more plays and the increased scoring that comes with it.

"Just because metrics show robust ratings and attendance doesn't mean we shouldn't be experimenting and piloting with formats that will keep the sport attractive," Scott said. "It's incumbent on us to look at the presentation of the sport and make sure the pace of play is moving as much as possible and without changing the fundamentals of the game."

Scott did not completely dismiss potential rule changes in the future to address the length of games, saying that the upcoming experiment was part of a larger, more comprehensive review.

Scott noted that Pac-12 games have averaged nearly 3 hours and 30 minutes, more than 30 minutes longer than NFL games. Some of that discrepancy can be attributed to stopping the clock after first downs in college football, a rule not used in the NFL.

The halftime reduction could be a significant incentive to keep television viewers tuned in. Scott said up to 30 percent of the audience is lost during that break.

The changes could also have a positive effect on stadium attendance since Pac-12 fans have complained about the increase in late starts under the conference's most recent television deal. Fans might be more likely to watch a game in-person on a Thursday or Saturday night if they have a chance to get home before midnight.

For Arizona and Arizona State, which hold their early-season home games after dark to avoid the desert heat, it could mean their fans spend less time in triple-digit temperatures.

Pac-12 coaches consulted about the change did not believe it would hinder their ability to make adjustments at halftime, Scott said.

"I was delighted to hear our coaches feel like 20 minutes is more than they need from a student-athlete health and rest and X's and O's perspective," Scott said.

Scott also announced the league's plans to operate a centralized replay center, joining other conferences in consolidating its video review facilities.

The Pac-12 title game will stay at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, through 2019, Scott said. The league also has the option to hold the 2020 game in Santa Clara.

New Cal coach Wyking Jones ready to prove critics wrong amid changes

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AP

New Cal coach Wyking Jones ready to prove critics wrong amid changes

Even the most passionate Cal fan might struggle to name a single player on the current basketball roster. The team's top five leading scorers from last season have all departed. Ivan Rabb and Jabari Bird moved on to the NBA, Grant Mullins graduated, and both Charlie Moore and Kameron Rooks elected to transfer.

But perhaps the most significant change is on the sideline. Out is Cuonzo Martin, who agreed to a massive seven-year contract with Missouri, worth a reported $21 million. Replacing him is 44-year-old Wyking Jones, a longtime assistant coach, who spent the past two seasons as Martin's top aide in Berkeley.

Jones' promotion was met with heavy criticism from many in the media, both locally and nationally. Skeptics believe Cal settled for the cheap option, rather than the best option. But why can't both be true? There's no denying that salary played a factor in the hire - the athletic department's financial troubles have been well documented in recent years. But Jones impressed Athletic Director Mike Williams in other areas too, reportedly acing his job interview with a detailed plan for the program moving forward. And unlike the other candidates, Jones already has direct experience dealing with Cal's unique set of circumstances.

“It's not something that you can walk into and just get a really good grasp of,” Jones explained. “It's a learning curve that, if you walk into this situation for the first time, it would take you a tremendous amount of time. Knowing who to go to when you need things, who's in charge of this, who's in charge of that, just having a familiarity of how to really get things done around here.”

Jones also discovered the challenges of recruiting at a school like Cal, where not every athlete can qualify academically. While many coaches would view that as a negative, Jones chooses to embrace it.

“In my mind, that's what makes this place special,” he said. “It's the number one public institution in the world for a reason. Your recruiting pool shrinks quite a bit, but that's okay because typically what happens is if you get a kid who has a lot of discipline on and off the court, you're not going to run into troubles on the weekends when they're in the dorms. They're usually kids who have a lot of respect for the community and other students.”

From a coaching standpoint, Jones has unquestionably paid his dues in the world of college basketball. Prior to joining Cal as an assistant in 2015, he made stops at Louisville, New Mexico, Pepperdine, and Loyola Marymount, where he also played from 1991-95. Now, after nearly 15 years in collegiate coaching, Wyking Jones is a head coach.

“I think initially it's very exciting to have an opportunity to coach, have your own program at a storied program like Cal, to follow in the footsteps of some great coaches,” he said, smiling. “But now the smoke has cleared and it's time to get to work.”

That work has already begun. As previously mentioned, Jones will have to replace his top five scorers from a year ago, who accounted for nearly 56 points per game. The Bears will count on increased production from senior center Kingsley Okoroh and junior guard Don Coleman. They will also rely heavily on redshirt senior forward Marcus Lee, who sat out last season after transferring from Kentucky.

“It's an adjustment, for sure,” Jones admitted. “But you have 13 scholarships for a reason. It's just an opportunity for the guys who are still here to earn their scholarship. It's an opportunity for them to make a name for themselves and have an impact on this program.”

Under Cuonzo Martin, Cal established itself as one of the best defensive teams in the country. Last season, the Bears ranked 18th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 63.4 points per game. Jones hopes to continue that trend while also implementing a full-court pressure defense, similar to the one he coached at Louisville, which resulted in a national championship in 2013.

“It's a process,” he acknowledged. “In year one, hopefully we can be good at it. In year two, look to improve. In year three, hope to be great at it... It's a type of defense, when you're talking about pressing, it's reading all the other guys on the court. It's never scripted. It's being able to read when is the right time to go trap, when is the right time to go switch, when is the right time to bluff and stunt at a guy to slow him down. So there's a learning curve in it.”

Jones knows there will also be a learning curve for him personally as a head coach, especially with such a young and inexperienced roster. He expects his team to be overlooked and undervalued by much of the college basketball world, but that's just fine with him.

“I think a lot of people will probably guess that we won't be very good, and that's motivation right there. That's motivation for my staff, for our managers, for the support staff. It's motivation for everybody that's a part of this program to exceed those expectations. So I think that makes for an exciting season.”