Spring Review: Cal's QB Room Has A Clear 'One,' for Now
Throughout any spring practice, the focus will be on the quarterback room, whether there's an entrenched starter or otherwise. For the third consecutive spring, the Cal staff has the latter situation, as Chase Garbers started ten games a year ago, but was far from entrenched.
That said, Garbers has looked the part of a starter, with the challenge of holding of UCLA transfer Devon Modster, and CCSF transfer Jack Newman. There will be competition into the fall, but Garbers is the top guy for now.
"Today, Chase is the one, Devon is the two, and there's still a lot of time," Justin Wilcox said on March 22nd, "I think Chase got a lot better throughout the spring, he was driving the ball, I think his demeanor and his command was notable and we need him to do those things."
The most notable area of improvement for the redshirt sophomore QB has been the leadership aspect, per Wilcox.
"That's one area that Chase has been notable," Wilcox noted, "you hear him more, you notice him in some of those leadership moments where there's an opportunity to right a wrong or correct somebody. I noticed him in stretch lines correcting a newcomer on one of the stretches. Those are little things, but they matter and I think that's important, speaking to spring and summer PRPs, you want the quarterbacks to be that voice on offense. They are in a position to do that."'
Going into the fall, Modster will have the opportunity to make headway toward the starting spot, as Beau Baldwin said "never say never" to any of the other QBs making a jump heading into the fall.
"Devon, in fifteen practices did a nice job," Wilcox said, "It's probably not fair totally because it's only fifteen practices, so he'll still have time to continue to push."
The Depth Right Now and a Breakdown of their Games
To put it succinctly, during the spring, Garbers had command. His arm strength is better than what it was during the season, and he had the confidence to test smaller windows over the middle, especially to McCallan Castles, Nikko Remigio, and Jeremiah Hawkins. He's getting more confident keeping the ball on zone reads as well, something that ostensibly opens up more lanes for the running backs.
He'll have a greater compliment of wideouts to test some of the stuff outside the hashes, but he looked solid throwing comebacks and deep outs.
His arm strength, something that Wilcox noted upfront, was as good as advertised, and he wasn't afraid to test the deep ball, a welcome sight to many, but he's still a year plus removed from his last game action, which is tough for someone at a position that needs reps to overcome. He's athletic on read plays, but he's going to need a bit more seasoning in order to really challenge for the job.
3. Jack Newman and Robby Rowell
Newman looked solid for the first few practices, but didn't separate himself like Garbers and Modster did. He has a strong arm and can put the deep ball on a specific side, which takes a lot of accuracy to do, but he still needs reps and time going through the reads. That was evidenced by a Kuony Deng interception in the spring game, as Deng read Newman's eyes and jumped a slant. Newman's still young and he's a confident player, which you like to see.
With Rowell, he has his ups, like a beautiful wheel route to Nikko Remigio for a score in one of the final practices, and his downs, like underthrowing Gavin Reinwald on a corner enough for Daniel Scott to undercut it and make the interception in the spring game. He ran the scout team for a lot of last fall, but he'll learn more in the playbook going forward.
Who's Next: Spencer Brasch
Spencer Brasch comes into the program this summer, and the three-star QB from Higley HS (Gilbert, AZ), can do plenty, as Beau Baldwin said in March:
"He has a quick release, he has a really live arm, so he can flick it from different angles. He can throw on the run well, he can bring some things within the read game athletically. What I liked is he, at different times, was in tough situations this past year where they were down early. One game I was at, they were down 21-0, and he always had a way of not letting that affect him, except in a positive way, still bringing those guys up when they're down and finding a way to rally.
"He's got those skillset things that I loved about him, because he can do a lot of things that we want in this offense, then on top of that, some of the adverse situations I saw him in, it was great to see him lead the team out of it. Those are a couple things that are huge at the quarterback position."
Brasch, who visited Cal for the spring game, is a 6'4", multifaceted athlete who has shown an ability to make plays with the ball in his hand, most notably a walk-off TD throw against Casteel in the playoff. Brasch may not win the job in fall camp, but he'll have the opportunity to compete for the position.