April 8, 2011
BERKELEY (AP) California coach Jeff Tedford has about the deepest and most wide-open quarterback competition he can remember, and there's one common theme among the candidates this spring.
"They all have to get a lot better," Tedford said.
Six different players are competing for the job, and there's no clear front-runner to fill the spot vacated by Kevin Riley. At the very least, Tedford hopes a few emerge from an overcrowded competition this spring.
"You'd like to be able to have somebody separate themselves," Tedford said. "If that's going to happen in the spring, I don't know. But we have the summer and the fall camp as well."
A sputtering offense and uncertainty at quarterback were some of the biggest drawbacks for the Golden Bears last season.
They posted just a 5-7 record and missed out on a bowl game for the first time since Tedford's initial season in 2002. Tedford has since revamped his staff and plans to take a more active role calling plays next season.
The next step comes this spring. Brock Mansion, Beau Sweeney, Allan Bridgford, Austin Hinder, Ryan Wertenberger and transfer Zach Maynard all are vying to be the starting quarterback.
And all of them want to lead the Bears back to prominence.
"We don't want to have any .500 or below .500 years," Mansion said. "That's not what we came to do. That's not what the coaches are expecting from us. We want to get back to the top teams, we want to compete for a Pac-10 title and get back on the national spotlight."
All the quarterbacks have their own levels of experience and style.
Mansion started the final four games last season after Riley suffered a season-ending knee injury. While he might be the favorite in spring camp, he wasn't effective enough last year to be declared the permanent starter.
Maynard, a dual-threat quarterback who started at Buffalo in 2009, didn't enroll at Cal until January. And the rest of the candidates have even more limited starting quarterback experience.
"Each guy definitely has their own nuances and strengths," receiver Keenan Allen said. "For us, it doesn't matter what quarterback is out there, we still have to run our routes the same and we still have to catch the ball the same. It's still a competition right now, so we'll see who's the best man who can get it in our hands."
This spring also begins a year of other changes at Cal.
The Bears have been on a constant road trip already, practicing at high schools and small colleges in the Bay Area and beyond while the facilities at Berkeley are renovated. The 15 allotted spring practices are spread out through the end of April and will take the Bears from Oakland to Berkeley to as far as Sacramento.
They also will play their home games in the fall across San Francisco Bay in the World Series champion Giants' ballpark while Memorial Stadium receives an extensive, 321 million renovation.
"It's definitely something we have to get used to," receiver Marvin Jones said. "We're in a good situation. It's all a process. We're not used to traveling, going off site and stuff like that so much. We're going to get used to it, and it's just going to be the same."
The one thing Cal would like to get settled soon is quarterback.
Whoever wins the job, they'll be working with new offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik who was the offensive line coach for the Oakland Raiders last season and is a previous Cal assistant along with other new assistants.
So there's only so much time to install a new offense and put a quarterback in place.
"I'm not going to put a timeline on it and force it," Tedford said. "When I feel that we have a guy that has good control of the offense and performing, then he'll take that position."