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Cal Football

New Bears on the Block: Cal RS Soph Grad Transfer QB Ben Finley

July 4, 2023

Cal grad transfer QB transfer Ben Finley‍ didn’t take the most conventional of routes to Cal, arriving with a degree in Business Administration from North Carolina State but still three years of eligibility as a Bear.

Finley starred as a prep at tiny Paradise Valley High School in Arizona, starting all four years and piling up more than 8,000 yards and 72 TDs in 39 games over his prep career before following his brother Ryan to NC State before his departure to the NFL.

"I didn't even know that," Finley said with a smile. "Yeah, so I started freshman year of high school. We had no more than 25 kids on the team every year but was a lot of fun.”

Having so few players on the team couldn’t have been easy and it forced his coaches to be creative with their personnel.

"No, it wasn't,” Finley said, noting that he didn’t play defense as well. “But I was a placekicker. I think I went 100% on the old extra points and a field goal here and there.”

Following his brother to Raleigh made sense for Finley, having had so much up close and personal exposure to the program on his many visits to the Tarheel State.

"Yeah, it was awesome," Finley said. "I got to go to many of his games so that's why I kind of leaned towards NC State. I was in Raleigh almost every week and I would go play Friday night and fly the red eye and go to his game and I just kind of fell in love with it. And that's why I found Raleigh as my home and I had a great time there but you know, I'm really excited to be here and start a new journey. Just kind of go off on my own."

Finley was a backup at NC State from his arrival in 2020 till late in the season, when multiple QB injuries forced him into action against Louisville followed by rival North Carolina, where Finley led the Wolfpack to an exciting 30-27 win over the eventual 9-3 Tarheels, completing 27-of-40 passes for 271 yards and two TDs with no interceptions.

"It was crazy,” Finley said of the win over their rivals. “It was a surreal moment. I mean, I hadn't taken a rep with the ones all year and just got thrown into the game. We had such a great defense and a great team. It was just a great team win. But it was a lot of fun with your first start just playing your rival."

Finley also started NC State’s bowl game, a low-scoring 16-12 defeat to the Terapins.

"That was a fun experience," Finley said of starting in a bowl game. "It was my third bowl game. So just getting to play in a bowl game it's different. It was a weird game. We were in the red zone, probably six times. We were just kicking field goals, couldn't put the ball in. And so it was a fun experience and definitely good for me to get that playing experience coming in here."

Coming into NC State with significant AP units, Finley was able to graduate in three years. With the covid-shortened 2020 season not counting towards eligibility and after redshirting in 2021, the now veteran QB will have three years of eligibility remaining should he choose to use them.

When he made his intentions known about transferring, Cal offensive coordinator Jake Spavital was quick to pick up the phone and make inquiries with Finley.

"He just called me up and said, 'Hey, we just watched your film and I'd love to talk a little more.' And I was like, 'Alright, cool.' And so we just talked on the phone a little bit and I came out for a visit and just decided this was probably the best place for me for the next three years just to be able to compete and try to win the job." 

A little bit of research on the new Cal OC’s offensive system along with Cal’s academic reputation were a quick sell for the Arizona native.

"It's different. I like it a lot," Finley said of Spavital’s wide-open offense. "I walked in and I was like, 'Hey, where's the playbook?' He's like, 'This is NFL-style. No playbook.' So I've just been watching films, trying to learn all the plays. It's different but I like his approach a lot. And I'm gonna be able to learn a lot and grow my knowledge as a quarterback here for sure with Coach Spav.”

Though Cal’s offense is different than anything he’s been a part of, the transferrable concepts he’s learned up to this point have allowed him to pick up things fairly quickly.

"Yeah, everyone runs the same thing," Finley said. "It's just different, whether it's mouse or cat or dog, you know, they're all the same. They're all the same plays, they're just called different."

So far, Finley’s transition has been smooth, with positive buzz coming from his new teammates.

'The team is tight," Finley said. "There's a lot of just awesome guys. Just getting kind of used to Berkeley, just the city. I've never lived in a city like this. It's very different but it's been easy to adapt and everything, just kind of getting to know all the guys."

With his degree already in hand Finley plans to be involved in several of Cal’s grad level certification programs to broaden his academic resume.

"I'm doing like a master's certificate program because I can't get into the MBA program since you have to have like five years of professional experience. So I'm just doing the master's certificate, which will still look good on the resume. It'll be great to have the Berkeley stamp. 

“Go Bears!”


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