Cal Football: Quarterback Competition -- Has Chase Garbers Already Won the Job?
Cal's 2019 hopes of improving on last season's 7-6 record depend largely on getting better quarterback play.
Certainly there are other elements that will be involved, but Cal ranked last in the Pac-12 in passer rating, passing yards per game and passing yards per attempt last season. There is no way a team can compete for a Pac-12 title with that inglorious trifecta. How the Bears managed to have a winning record is surprising enough.
So much of the focus this fall is on the competition between redshirt sophomore Chase Garbers, who was the starter for the second half of last season, and junior Devon Modster, a transfer from UCLA.
Garbers entered fall camp as the clear leader in the competition, and nothing has happened over the first three preseason practices to change that. In fact, it would be a major surprise if Modster were to win the starting job for the August 31 opener against UC Davis.
The coaches are not ready to officially name Garbers as the starter, however. When asked whether Modster still has a chance to be the starte for the opener, offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Beau Baldwin said Sunday in the video above, "Absolutely."
"You can take any position on the field, and take their backup and say, 'Does he have a shot?' And I know you guys say, 'Oh, that's coach-speak,' but it's legit. Yeah, everyone of those guys has a shot. If that guy gives us a better shot to win, then he's the starter."
Coaches often say the quarterback competition is the same as the competition at any other position. Of course, we know it's not the same. The quarterback position is more pivotal to a team's success than any other position in sports, with the possible exception of an ice hockey goalie. (I'd add baseball pitcher, but they start only every fifth day; quarterbacks play every game.) Quality at the quarterback postion is a must.
The true test for the Cal quarterbacks will come when players are in full pads and practice live. That is expected to start sometime midweek.
For now, let's just say Modster will have to be quite impressive while Garbers would have to regress over the next three weeks for Garbers to lose the starting job. At least that's the way I see it.
Neither has been extraordinary in the first three days of practice, and Baldwin admitted there have been "ups and downs at times," but Garbers continues to take the snaps with the first-team offense.
Obviously Modster was at a disadvantage last spring, when he was new to the Cal scheme while Garbers had two years in the system. Garbers was clearly the better quarterback in the spring, but Modster should be catching up in terms of his knowledge of the offense.
"When you say something it's not like a second language (anymore) for him; it's more like a first language" Baldwin said of Modster. "It allows him to play quicker."
Modster agrees that he "absolutely" feels more comfortable in the Cal system than he did during the spring. Adjusting to new offensive schemes has become a habit for Modster, who had to learn three different offenses in his time at UCLA.
His offseason goals were to improve in two areas.
"Commanding the offense, and I really wanted to work on driving the ball," Modster said Sunday.
One deals with image -- how a quarterback must portray himself on the field. The other deals with mechanics -- putting more zip on his passes.
For Garbers, it's just a matter of making progress.
"Physically I've gotten stronger and faster," he said Sunday. "And mentally just being in the offense for a full year and a season, I think enabled my abilities to make the offense better."
His offseason goal was to get a more intimate understanding of the offense.
"Just knowing the ins and outs of the offense, knowing what we can do on every play at every single position," he said.
Garbers seems to be the better runner of the two quarterbacks, and that gives him a sizable advantage since Cal uses a lot of run-pass option.
The quarterback competition will continue to be watched closely, but it seems to be Garbers' job to lose.