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3-Way QB Battle to be Decided Soon at Cal

August 21, 2023
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With less than two weeks before the season begins at North Texas, California football coach Justin Wilcox isn’t ready yet to name a starting quarterback and is keeping his options available.

After an inter-squad scrimmage this past weekend, Wilcox wouldn’t even rule out the possibility of rotating quarterbacks when the Golden Bears play the Mean Green.

“I’d consider anything about right now,” Wilcox said, “We’re looking for the guys to keep competing and improving and for somebody to separate themselves. I would say everything’s on the table.”

Cal has spent the past few months of practice waiting for Sam Jackson V, Fernando Mendoza or Ben Finley to do something that would separate them from the rest of the pack.

Jackson, the redshirt sophomore who transferred to Berkeley after playing sparingly for two seasons at TCU, has spent the most time working with Cal’s starters and may be the most gifted athlete among the three but the 5-foot-11 quarterback is still very much a work in progress.

During one particularly rough afternoon, Jackson threw four interceptions. That’s not necessarily a shock, as Jackson didn’t have much experience as a pocket passer in high school or his first few seasons in college.

And although Jackson’s best skill might be his ability to scramble for big gains, Cal’s coaching staff has been adamant about getting him to feel more comfortable remaining in the pocket and waiting for receivers to get open rather than taking off running as a first instinct.

“It’s tough when that’s how he’s had success his whole life,” Bears offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said. “He can scramble around and make those kind of wild plays. We’ve talked about staying in the pocket, going through progressions and getting to check-downs when needed. I’ve seen a drastic improvement from practice one until now.”

Staying in the pocket waiting for a play to develop rather than breaking free on a scramble requires discipline both athletically and mentally.

That could be a challenge at times for Jackson, who is dwarfed by his much taller offensive linemen, which makes it difficult for him to see downfield at times.

To help Jackson get comfortable staying in the pocket, the Bears have had him periodically go live in drills and ditch the protective yellow jerseys that quarterbacks traditionally wear in practice as a warning to defenders not to hit him. The idea is that by refraining from running, Jackson will face fewer opportunities to get hurt.

“Sam does some really good things with his feet,” Wilcox said. “He’s also throwing the ball pretty well at times. He just has to be real clean on the decision-making.”

Cal didn’t have this sort of dilemma last season. Jack Plummer was the unquestioned starter and played in all 12 games of the 4-8 season before heading to Louisville as a graduate transfer. Plummer’s backup a year ago, Kai Millner, also left town and headed for Northern Arizona.

When Jackson has taken a break in practices, Mendoza and Finley have also spent time working with the 1s in, although the majority of their reps have come with the backups.

Mendoza passed for 16 touchdowns and nearly 1,400 yards over two seasons at Columbus High School in Miami.

The 6-foot-5-inch, 220-pound Mendoza is the biggest of Cal’s three quarterbacks and has become increasingly comfortable in the Bears’ offensive system.

“Through spring ball and going into fall camp, I feel like my footwork has improved tremendously,” Mendoza said. “I feel a lot more calm, collected. I feel like I’m in a pretty good state now with making decisions.”

While Mendoza admittedly would prefer to start for Cal, he says he’s ready to embrace whatever role the coaching staff wants him in.

“At the end of the day, I look up to Coach Spav and I love his coaching. Whatever he decides and what’s best for the team, I’m all for,” Mendoza said. ”No matter the outcome, I’m just happy I was able to compete with two great quarterbacks … it’s really helped me make strides in my development. I’m excited for this season. Whatever happens, happens. I’m always ready.”

Finley is another transfer who is figuring into the mix, a redshirt sophomore who led North Carolina State to a 30-27 double overtime win against then-No. 18 North Carolina in his first career start last season.

Finley, who Wilcox says is “a sneakier runner than you’d maybe give him credit for,” has been getting more comfortable in Cal’s offense and believes he will be ready to go if the Bears decide he’s the starter.

“I’ll be ready whether the decision’s made today or the day before the game,” Finley said. “That’s all I can do, work on myself and make sure that I’m prepared and can help this team win.”

Discussion from...

3-Way QB Battle to be Decided Soon at Cal

8,160 Views | 34 Replies | Last: 8 mo ago by Rushinbear
Nasal Mucus Goldenbear
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Quote:

Mendoza passed for 16 touchdowns and nearly 1,400 yards over two seasons at Columbus High School in Miami.


calumnus
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Trying to turn Jackson into a pocket passer that sits in the OC key and reads progressions when we return the same OL as last year is giving me Musgrave flashbacks.

Jake, remember Kyler Murray at Texas A&M? Do that.

I think Spavital needs to assume no pocket protection and rely on quick passing, throwing off play/action and moving the QB around, having him throw off bootlegs where he has both the option and the threat of running to keep pressure off of him and extend the play enough for receivers to get open downfield.
concernedparent
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calumnus said:

Trying to turn Jackson into a pocket passer that sits in the OC key and reads progressions when we return the same OL as last year is giving me Musgrave flashbacks.

Jake, remember Kyler Murray at Texas A&M? Do that.

I think Spavital needs to assume no pocket protection and rely on quick passing, throwing off play/action and moving the QB around, having him throw off bootlegs where he has both the option and the threat of running to keep pressure off of him and extend the play enough for receivers to get open downfield.
4 picks in one practice... he's more McIlwain than Kyler.
91Cal
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concernedparent said:

calumnus said:

Trying to turn Jackson into a pocket passer that sits in the OC key and reads progressions when we return the same OL as last year is giving me Musgrave flashbacks.

Jake, remember Kyler Murray at Texas A&M? Do that.

I think Spavital needs to assume no pocket protection and rely on quick passing, throwing off play/action and moving the QB around, having him throw off bootlegs where he has both the option and the threat of running to keep pressure off of him and extend the play enough for receivers to get open downfield.
4 picks in one practice... he's more McIlwain than Kyler.
Guess you missed the post about Brock Purdy's 4+ picks in practices...seems like that's turned out OK
Econ141
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91Cal said:

concernedparent said:

calumnus said:

Trying to turn Jackson into a pocket passer that sits in the OC key and reads progressions when we return the same OL as last year is giving me Musgrave flashbacks.

Jake, remember Kyler Murray at Texas A&M? Do that.

I think Spavital needs to assume no pocket protection and rely on quick passing, throwing off play/action and moving the QB around, having him throw off bootlegs where he has both the option and the threat of running to keep pressure off of him and extend the play enough for receivers to get open downfield.
4 picks in one practice... he's more McIlwain than Kyler.
Guess you missed the post about Brock Purdy's 4+ picks in practices...seems like that's turned out OK


What's more likely - 4 picks in a practice projecting to a less than average QB or one of the best.

I really hope we don't try and make him what he's not (a pocket passer). If the guy just thrives on chaos, just let there be chaos (and the o-line will be sure to provide that) - we have no time to develop QBs...just win (now) baby!
DoubtfulBear
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91Cal said:

concernedparent said:

calumnus said:

Trying to turn Jackson into a pocket passer that sits in the OC key and reads progressions when we return the same OL as last year is giving me Musgrave flashbacks.

Jake, remember Kyler Murray at Texas A&M? Do that.

I think Spavital needs to assume no pocket protection and rely on quick passing, throwing off play/action and moving the QB around, having him throw off bootlegs where he has both the option and the threat of running to keep pressure off of him and extend the play enough for receivers to get open downfield.
4 picks in one practice... he's more McIlwain than Kyler.
Guess you missed the post about Brock Purdy's 4+ picks in practices...seems like that's turned out OK
Last time I checked, Jackson isn't recovering from surgery on his throwing arm...
Golden One
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calumnus said:

Trying to turn Jackson into a pocket passer that sits in the OC key and reads progressions when we return the same OL as last year is giving me Musgrave flashbacks.

Jake, remember Kyler Murray at Texas A&M? Do that.


Exactly. Trying to convert him into something he isn't is a huge mistake. Let him make use of his natural abilities and adapt the offense accordingly.
BearHunter
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Rotating QBs? I think I remember when Justin Wilcox and his offensive coordinator put in their backup QB for his very first game on the road as a starter. against Arizona.
calumnus
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BearHunter said:

Rotating QBs? I think I remember when Justin Wilcox and his offensive coordinator put in their backup QB for his very first game on the road as a starter. against Arizona.


Opposite. That is an argument for rotating your QBs so your backups have experience in case your starter is unavailable. It also points to the need to have depth on your OL in case 3-4 starters are unavailable.
calumnus
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DoubtfulBear said:

91Cal said:

concernedparent said:

calumnus said:

Trying to turn Jackson into a pocket passer that sits in the OC key and reads progressions when we return the same OL as last year is giving me Musgrave flashbacks.

Jake, remember Kyler Murray at Texas A&M? Do that.

I think Spavital needs to assume no pocket protection and rely on quick passing, throwing off play/action and moving the QB around, having him throw off bootlegs where he has both the option and the threat of running to keep pressure off of him and extend the play enough for receivers to get open downfield.
4 picks in one practice... he's more McIlwain than Kyler.
Guess you missed the post about Brock Purdy's 4+ picks in practices...seems like that's turned out OK
Last time I checked, Jackson isn't recovering from surgery on his throwing arm...


Aaron Rodgers regularly throws an alarming number of interceptions in training camp and then proceeds to throw almost none in the regular season. Practice is not for "game management" you don't know the matchups, the play calls and DBs get to know the plays pretty well. The article also makes it clear Spavital is having Jackson wait in the pocket and make (force) throws when he would normally take off running if no one is open. Personally, I'd prefer the later and expect tgst is more what he would do in a game.

That said, Spavital will know the context and make the call.
southseasbear
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calumnus said:

Trying to turn Jackson into a pocket passer that sits in the OC key and reads progressions when we return the same OL as last year is giving me Musgrave flashbacks.

Jake, remember Kyler Murray at Texas A&M? Do that.

I think Spavital needs to assume no pocket protection and rely on quick passing, throwing off play/action and moving the QB around, having him throw off bootlegs where he has both the option and the threat of running to keep pressure off of him and extend the play enough for receivers to get open downfield.
This reminds me of Beau Baldwin trying to make McIlwain into a pocket passer and Musgrave doing the same with Chase Garbers.

Come to think of it, Tedford over adjusted Joe Ayoob who had been phenomenal at CCSF.

We have a lesser than average OL with little or no depth. This guy can run. Have him run out of the pocket and make the passes while moving.
CAL4LIFE
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DoubtfulBear
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calumnus said:

DoubtfulBear said:

91Cal said:

concernedparent said:

calumnus said:

Trying to turn Jackson into a pocket passer that sits in the OC key and reads progressions when we return the same OL as last year is giving me Musgrave flashbacks.

Jake, remember Kyler Murray at Texas A&M? Do that.

I think Spavital needs to assume no pocket protection and rely on quick passing, throwing off play/action and moving the QB around, having him throw off bootlegs where he has both the option and the threat of running to keep pressure off of him and extend the play enough for receivers to get open downfield.
4 picks in one practice... he's more McIlwain than Kyler.
Guess you missed the post about Brock Purdy's 4+ picks in practices...seems like that's turned out OK
Last time I checked, Jackson isn't recovering from surgery on his throwing arm...


Aaron Rodgers regularly throws an alarming number of interceptions in training camp and then proceeds to throw almost none in the regular season. Practice is not for "game management" you don't know the matchups, the play calls and DBs get to know the plays pretty well. The article also makes it clear Spavital is having Jackson wait in the pocket and make (force) throws when he would normally take off running if no one is open. Personally, I'd prefer the later and expect tgst is more what he would do in a game.

That said, Spavital will know the context and make the call.
The season hasn't even started yet and we're already talking about the tried and true Plan D play of the desperate QB scramble. Going to be a long final season season against the strongest PAC12 QB group possibly of all time.

I had a dream last night that we were demoted to playing in Edwards Stadium to save money. Guess that may not be far from the truth soon.
evanluck
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Exactly. The QB needs to have the basic discipline to stand in the pocket and go through progressions. It gives the OC and the rest of the offense a chance to execute and contribute. If the pocket collapses, he can always take off but that can't be his first instinct anytime he sniffs a little pressure. Needs to learn how stand in or make subtle slips to avoid pressure while keeping his eyes downfield.

Econ141
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Was taking the risk on Jackson worth it given that we lost a known commodity in Plummer? Seems like a gamble gone wrong....
bearsandgiants
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Econ141 said:

Was taking the risk on Jackson worth it given that we lost a known commodity in Plummer? Seems like a gamble gone wrong....
I think he'll give us more than Plummer, no matter what, and I think either of the other two will give us as much of more than Plummer would have, too. I just don't want us to stick with "the NIL guy" because we spend money, if he's not the best fit for the team, and there's always the risk of that. If mendoza is doing so well as to not be sure who to put in, and he's very tall and still mobile, and great in the pocket and not missing receivers, and protecting the ball and handling snaps, and putting in extra work and knows the offense like the back of his hand...well, I just hope he gets a shot, or I hope if he doesn't it's because one of the NIL guys is simply lights-out. Seems like we're going to see if the latter is what we get. Fingers are crossed.
Rushinbear
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Econ141 said:

Was taking the risk on Jackson worth it given that we lost a known commodity in Plummer? Seems like a gamble gone wrong....
Sam to wr or rb if he doesn't work out quickly.
BearSD
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southseasbear said:

calumnus said:

Trying to turn Jackson into a pocket passer that sits in the OC key and reads progressions when we return the same OL as last year is giving me Musgrave flashbacks.

Jake, remember Kyler Murray at Texas A&M? Do that.

I think Spavital needs to assume no pocket protection and rely on quick passing, throwing off play/action and moving the QB around, having him throw off bootlegs where he has both the option and the threat of running to keep pressure off of him and extend the play enough for receivers to get open downfield.
This reminds me of Beau Baldwin trying to make McIlwain into a pocket passer and Musgrave doing the same with Chase Garbers.

Come to think of it, Tedford over adjusted Joe Ayoob who had been phenomenal at CCSF.

We have a lesser than average OL with little or no depth. This guy can run. Have him run out of the pocket and make the passes while moving.
McIlwain wasn't much of a passer of any kind, pocket or no pocket. He could have been a fit as an option QB who occasionally threw a pass, but he wasn't suited for a role that required more passing than that.
Bobodeluxe
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BearSD said:

southseasbear said:

calumnus said:

Trying to turn Jackson into a pocket passer that sits in the OC key and reads progressions when we return the same OL as last year is giving me Musgrave flashbacks.

Jake, remember Kyler Murray at Texas A&M? Do that.

I think Spavital needs to assume no pocket protection and rely on quick passing, throwing off play/action and moving the QB around, having him throw off bootlegs where he has both the option and the threat of running to keep pressure off of him and extend the play enough for receivers to get open downfield.
This reminds me of Beau Baldwin trying to make McIlwain into a pocket passer and Musgrave doing the same with Chase Garbers.

Come to think of it, Tedford over adjusted Joe Ayoob who had been phenomenal at CCSF.

We have a lesser than average OL with little or no depth. This guy can run. Have him run out of the pocket and make the passes while moving.
McIlwain wasn't much of a passer of any kind, pocket or no pocket. He could have been a fit as an option QB who occasionally threw a pass, but he wasn't suited for a role that required more passing than that.
J Torchio with some wheels?
southseasbear
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BearSD said:

southseasbear said:

calumnus said:

Trying to turn Jackson into a pocket passer that sits in the OC key and reads progressions when we return the same OL as last year is giving me Musgrave flashbacks.

Jake, remember Kyler Murray at Texas A&M? Do that.

I think Spavital needs to assume no pocket protection and rely on quick passing, throwing off play/action and moving the QB around, having him throw off bootlegs where he has both the option and the threat of running to keep pressure off of him and extend the play enough for receivers to get open downfield.
This reminds me of Beau Baldwin trying to make McIlwain into a pocket passer and Musgrave doing the same with Chase Garbers.

Come to think of it, Tedford over adjusted Joe Ayoob who had been phenomenal at CCSF.

We have a lesser than average OL with little or no depth. This guy can run. Have him run out of the pocket and make the passes while moving.
McIlwain wasn't much of a passer of any kind, pocket or no pocket. He could have been a fit as an option QB who occasionally threw a pass, but he wasn't suited for a role that required more passing than that.
Agree, but Baldwin didn't seem to realize that.
oskiswifeshusband
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Can we stop worrying?

Spav basically had his pick on a QB. He knows what he is doing.
bluehenbear
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Sam throwing 4 INTs in a scrimmage is concerning.
concernedparent
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calumnus said:

DoubtfulBear said:

91Cal said:

concernedparent said:

calumnus said:

Trying to turn Jackson into a pocket passer that sits in the OC key and reads progressions when we return the same OL as last year is giving me Musgrave flashbacks.

Jake, remember Kyler Murray at Texas A&M? Do that.

I think Spavital needs to assume no pocket protection and rely on quick passing, throwing off play/action and moving the QB around, having him throw off bootlegs where he has both the option and the threat of running to keep pressure off of him and extend the play enough for receivers to get open downfield.
4 picks in one practice... he's more McIlwain than Kyler.
Guess you missed the post about Brock Purdy's 4+ picks in practices...seems like that's turned out OK
Last time I checked, Jackson isn't recovering from surgery on his throwing arm...


Aaron Rodgers regularly throws an alarming number of interceptions in training camp and then proceeds to throw almost none in the regular season. Practice is not for "game management" you don't know the matchups, the play calls and DBs get to know the plays pretty well. The article also makes it clear Spavital is having Jackson wait in the pocket and make (force) throws when he would normally take off running if no one is open. Personally, I'd prefer the later and expect tgst is more what he would do in a game.

That said, Spavital will know the context and make the call.
Damn I didn't realize Jackson was Aaron Rodgers.
Ccajon2
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I've been a sports fan since 1968. I never realized till I read this board that when the coach hasn't settled on his starting QB with a week to go till opening day kick-off, it's considered a good thing?
DoubtfulBear
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Ccajon2 said:

I've been a sports fan since 1968. I never realized till I read this board that when the coach hasn't settled on his starting QB with a week to go till opening day kick-off, it's considered a good thing?

Conventional logic doesn't apply here. This board is already convincing itself that losing against North Texas is ok because that actually increases the chances of us beating Auburn the following week.
oski003
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Ccajon2 said:

I've been a sports fan since 1968. I never realized till I read this board that when the coach hasn't settled on his starting QB with a week to go till opening day kick-off, it's considered a good thing?


Try reading the posts in this topic again. With a better effort, you will realize that folks aren't saying it is a positive indication.
Bearspot
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Expecting Jackson to be named QB1. But could the present uncertainty combined with the 103 degree furnace of Denton, Texax play a role in the potential for seeing not only two but all thee of our QBs getting some action against UNT?
StillNoStanfurdium
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Bearspot said:

Expecting Jackson to be named QB1. But could the present uncertainty combined with the 103 degree furnace of Denton, Texax play a role in the potential for seeing not only two but all thee of our QBs getting some action against UNT?
I mean Jackson came from TCU so he should be somewhat used to Texas heat I'd think.
MinotStateBeav
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Oregon QBs rarely were in the pocket for more than 2 seconds. It was almost always play action off the read option or read/option running with some planned running back runs and some QB drop back draws. Keep it quick and simple and they come up, u bomb it.
calumnus
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MinotStateBeav said:

Oregon QBs rarely were in the pocket for more than 2 seconds. It was almost always play action off the read option or read/option running with some planned running back runs and some QB drop back draws. Keep it quick and simple and they come up, u bomb it.


Exactly. Use quick passing, the threat of Ott and the threat of Jackson running to open up the passing game. That should be the offense, at least with Jackson at QB and until our OL proves it can can maintain a pocket long enough for a QB to stand back and go through progressions.

That said, I'm looking forward to seeing all three QBs get some reps next week, both to deal with the heat and hopefully in a big Cal win.
Boot
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Play Mendoza then Jackson then Finley. It's fricking North Texas State!
StillNoStanfurdium
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Boot said:

Play Mendoza then Jackson then Finley. It's fricking North Texas State!
On the other hand, we're Cal so we regularly play down to the level of our competition and lose games we should win. I've learned to never count my chickens in these scenarios.
chazzed
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StillNoStanfurdium said:

Boot said:

Play Mendoza then Jackson then Finley. It's fricking North Texas State!
On the other hand, we're Cal so we regularly play down to the level of our competition and lose games we should win. I've learned to never count my chickens in these scenarios.
Precisely. The term gets thrown around a lot but this is a must-win, and it is on the road in very hot and humid weather. Play your best QB and, as necessary, give him the occasional series off.
Rushinbear
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calumnus said:

MinotStateBeav said:

Oregon QBs rarely were in the pocket for more than 2 seconds. It was almost always play action off the read option or read/option running with some planned running back runs and some QB drop back draws. Keep it quick and simple and they come up, u bomb it.


Exactly. Use quick passing, the threat of Ott and the threat of Jackson running to open up the passing game. That should be the offense, at least with Jackson at QB and until our OL proves it can can maintain a pocket long enough for a QB to stand back and go through progressions.

That said, I'm looking forward to seeing all three QBs get some reps next week, both to deal with the heat and hopefully in a big Cal win.
"...it can can maintain a pocket..." Freudian slip, there. Hope it doesn't prove true.
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