There are many reasons Jeff Tedford suffered his first losing season at Cal this fall, but none so big as the quarterback problem.
So the most important goal is finding a quarterback who can return the Bears to a bowl, where they are notably absent for the first time in eight years.
“We’re going to concentrate on finding that one guy in the spring, so we can work with him for the season,” Tedford said in a recent interview.
Brock Mansion, who ended the season No. 1 after Kevin Riley’s collegiate career was ended by a severe knee injury in the Oregon State game, returns for his senior season, but he’ll have to show much more than he did at the end of the 2010 season.
Mansion has shown the ability in practice to make all the throws, but he was tentative and inconsistent in games.
“It was like the game was too fast for him,” Tedford said. “We kept waiting for that breakthrough when he’d take charge, but he’d make some nice throws and then just throw one into the dirt. The good thing was that he didn’t turn the ball over.”
In the spring, Tedford said he’ll put Mansion in competitive situations to see if he can develop the poise he needs.
“You can’t do it with 7-on-7 drills,” he said. “It has to be as close as possible to a live game situation.”
Another returning quarterback is Beau Sweeney. At one time, Tedford was very high on Sweeney, but after playing some in early games, he slipped to No. 3 in the rotation, behind Mansion.
“He just got into a slump and wasn’t throwing the ball well,” Tedford said. “I don’t know what it was. He’s doing fine in school, so it wasn’t that.”
There are other quarterbacks on the team roster with impressive backgrounds, but no playing time yet at Cal.
Allan Bridgford redshirted as a freshman and then was hurt in spring practice last year, so he didn’t play at all. He was rated as a four-star prep and the No. 7 pro-type quarterback by one rating service.
Austin Hinder redshirted last year, so he will be a freshman in eligibility this year. He was rated a five-star recruit and the fifth-best pro-type quarterback in the country by one service when he was in high school.
Zach Maynard, the half-brother of freshman receiver Keenan Allen, is expected to transfer in next semester. In fact, it was supposedly Maynard’s impending arrival to Cal that persuaded Allen to come to Berkeley. Maynard previously played at Buffalo under coach Turner Gill. He will come in as a sophomore.
Four-star prep Kyle Boehm (Archbishop Mitty, San Jose) will come in this fall, but with five quarterbacks already here, he’ll be redshirted.
Tedford plans to talk to players, individually and in groups, to see what ideas they have about getting back on track, as he’s been doing from the time he was first hired.
But as a coach who developed quarterbacks who were high draft picks in the NFL, such as Akili Smith and Trent Dilfer before he came to Cal, and Kyle Boller and Aaron Rodgers at Berkeley, he knows how important it is to get the right quarterback for 2011.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.