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Spring Football QB Recap

May 5, 2022
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Spring ball started in early April, with a whole lot of questions. Questions like, would Cal field a competitive team? Would any of the extremely young crop of receivers stand out? Would there be enough reps for 6 quarterbacks? And, who are you, again?

Those questions are not all answered, not fully. But we, you, and most importantly, the Golden Bears coaching staff, have a lot more knowledge available to construct those answers.

We’ve got an idea of the quarterback progression. We now know that no one receiver stood out, but rather, the entire receiving corps did. We know Cal will be able to run the football; they will be able to throw timing patterns and utilize the middle of the field on pass plays, and they will have an effective linebacking corps.

And we know everyone’s name now.  Well, I might not, but Jack Plummer does. In fact, the speed with which he learned everyone’s name impressed his teammates.

As for Mr. Plummer, it appears that he will bring his considerable experience to bear as the starter in fall, although no such announcement was made, of course.  The number of reps he took throughout the spring, and their timing, made it seem the job was his to lose, so to speak.

Practices throughout the spring were spirited. Players were enthusiastic and vocal, as were coaches. And the learning happening was evident even to outside observers.

But, don’t just take my word for it (actually, please DO, and finish the article). Instead, let’s recap what Travers Family Head Football Coach Justin Wilcox and his top three quarterbacks had to say about spring, and the spring game after it was completed.

Asked about the experience of the spring showcase after COVID-affected years, Wilcox was effusive. “(It was) incredible to interact with the fans. It’s been such a long time since we’ve been able to do something like this, the excitement of the fans. We had a ton of alumni here, some old players. It’s awesome.

“On top of that, getting to go out and compete, watching some young guys go out and get their reps in front of people and officials --- it was a great day.”

“Part of what makes college football so great is the passion within the fan bases. You know, we love Xs and Os and all that. We spend a lot of time out here practicing and in meetings and in workouts, but the fans who are so passionate about it – it’s nice to meet them face to face and tell them how much we appreciate them. I know the players really feed off that energy, and so do I.”

So, if you were there, pat yourself on the back and take a little bit of credit for the team’s successes this fall.  If you weren’t there, make plans to do so next year; it’s not an exaggeration to say everyone has a good time.

As for those quarterbacks, we will take their comments “top down”, as we at Bear Insider see the situation at QB.

First, the former Purdue starter, Jack Plummer. He was clearly happy to play a full-contact scrimmage:  “It was good to get out there. I wasn’t live, but seeing live tackles, getting to see the run plays finish, making the tackle and seeing how well we did on the run play. It was good to see that. Just the live experience. Calling plays when you don’t know what the script is going to be.”

Asked what he thought was the most important thing he accomplished in spring, Plummer said, “I would say, learning to take control of the offense, knowing what guys are going to do on their routes, and where to put the ball for different receivers.”

In other words, building chemistry with his receivers? “I think I’ve done a good job (of building chemistry with the receivers). We didn’t go full speed on routes before spring, we didn’t work hard on speed stuff because we don’t want to kill their legs. Working in practices has been good, them running full speed on routes and working against defenders, too. We’ve made some good progress.”

When asked how he likes his receiving corps, Plummer did not hesitate for a moment and was fulsome in his praise of the group. “We’ve got guys all over the place that can get open outside and inside, guys you can throw it up and they will go get it, and guys you can throw to at the line of scrimmage and they will get you the yards. We’ve got good weapons on this side of the ball.”

Running backs came in for their share of compliments also. “The running game looked good today. I liked seeing the guys getting yards, finishing runs. If you get 5 yards a run, that is a win for the offense. We will take that all day long. We had quite a few runs that were the 5 yards, and a little bit extra. That just makes my job easier.

We’ve got sure-handed guys who can catch it out in space and make guys miss. We will take those yards; you’ll never go broke taking a profit.”

Asked about Plummer’s performance in the spring game, Wilcox said, “I thought Jack started out strong, very much in control. It’s been impressive to watch how very quickly he has picked up the system. I think you could see his accuracy throwing down the field and intermediate routes, and even the quick game, timing stuff.  I thought he did a nice job.”

Redshirt freshman quarterback Kai Milner, like Plummer a native of Gilbert, Arizona, sputtered a little at the start of his on-field time in the Spring Showcase.  Wilcox saw it this way: “Kai started a little slow and developed some rhythm. Unfortunately, you start that way in games sometimes, and you’ve got to be able to battle through it, gather yourself and finish, and I thought Kai did a real good job of that today.”

Milner’s own critique of his performance was similar: “We came out and had a couple of bumps, which is normal, I mean, this is our first time out here (in full scrimmage), right?  Coming out for the spring game, everybody’s juiced, everybody’s hyped up.

“We were able to find a rhythm in the end. I was glad the offense stuck to it, kept improving and bounced back, which I thought was really important.”

Milner was asked what was his biggest takeaway from spring, and he talked about what he felt he learned. “My biggest strides since fall are definitely in leading, in getting guys to where they need to be, and in understanding the offense.  There’s knowing the playbook, and there’s really feeling and understanding it, and getting turns (to execute it).  I’ve started to really get better at that since the fall.”

Third on the QB depth chart is redshirt sophomore Zach Johnson. Many words come to mind to describe Johnson – affable, enthusiastic, expressive – let’s just say the young man is personality-forward. He’s heading to his third year at Cal – he’s a bright kid, and can read the runes. Johnson knows he’s not at the top of the depth chart, but that does not suppress his joy in the game.

“It (the spring showcase) was amazing.  First of all, it was amazing to have so many people in the stadium, because, obviously, last year we could not have anybody here.  The energy was incredible, having fans go nuts was SO fun for us. It was great just being able to play again and get some live action, so it was awesome.”

When Johnson was asked the somewhat difficult question of how he approaches the game knowing he’s the #3 option, he did not flinch. “I think I just take the same approach I’ve been taking every day, and that’s just to have one goal: come out here and get better.  Every single day.  Find something to get better at. Go back and look at film, find something else to get better at. Keep doing that every day and then see what happens. You can’t get caught up in all that other stuff.  Control the controllables, as Coach Wilcox says all the time. I’m here to keep doing that and trying to get better.

I’ve got to just keep working hard.  Coach Musgrave says the month of May is really important.  Work with that mindset, put our eyes on fall camp, and come back with that same energy.”

The head coach appreciated what Johnson brought to the spring game: “Zach is a guy who has a really good grasp of our offense.  In terms of that quarterback room, he knows that stuff really really well. He’s a guy that can move in the pocket, make some plays with his feet. I thought he threw some balls on time today in good spots and gave the receivers a chance to make a play on them, which our receivers and tight ends did.”

It wouldn’t be an accurate recap of spring without at least a mention of Ryan Glover, who is a redshirt senior in his 6th and final year of eligibility. Glover has announced his entry into the transfer portal, doing so with the full blessing of the coaching staff. Wilcox had this to say about Glover, “Ryan Glover is entering the transfer portal. We support him 100%. He came to us a year ago. It’s not always easy getting guys an equal amount of reps. We fully support Ryan and appreciate everything he’s done for us here. He’s a heck of a good guy.”

Next up is offseason work between the QBs and receivers. Plummer indicated he would go home for a while and work with a QB coach there. Then, it’s “fall camp” in August. Only then will we see whether Golden Bear football fans can dare to indulge in the audacity of hope for the 2022 season.

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Spring Football QB Recap

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