Four days before what could be his final game for the Cal football team, senior quarterback Chase Garbers left all of his options open regarding his future plans.
Bottom line: Garbers did not unequivocally rule out returning to Berkeley next season.
He also didn’t say he plans to do that.
Garbers has the option of returning because the NCAA granted all athletes an extra year of eligibility after the 2020-21 school year was disrupted by COVID-19.
With the Bears' season finale vs. USC looming on Saturday night, here’s how my give-and-take with Garbers unfolded after I initially asked him about whether he was feeling the same nostalgia this week that fellow seniors Elijah Hicks and Valentino Daltoso expressed a day earlier.
“The last game with this team, with this special group of guys, there definitely will be some emotions flying high. We’re fortunate enough to be playing this game in the first place and I think our sole goal is to go out there and beat USC.”
The last game with this team? But not necessarily the last game at Cal? Has he made a decision about whether to pursue the NFL or consider returning for another season?
“I haven’t thought about it too much. We’ll see what happens at the end of the year. What I mean by that (comment) is each year it’s a different team. So obviously we’ll lose seniors and guys will leave via transfer.”
Would the NIL opportunities he has begun to receive be any factor in his decision?
“No, the NIL opportunities I have right now won’t be a factor in me coming back or me leaving. It’s just what I feel is right and when the time comes to make that decision I’ll make one.”
So it will be based on what he views his NFL opportunities to be?
“Yeah, I’d say so. That’s been a childhood dream of mine, to play in the NFL. Weighing that option is definitely a big one and we’ll see what happens come the end of the season.”
And if the feedback he gets suggests he won’t be drafted — or drafted as high as he’d like — is he open to playing another year of college ball?
“I’m open to both. I’m open to returning to college football or leaving. We’ll just see what happens after this season and the next couple weeks.”
And would it definitely be another season at Cal, rather than elsewhere?
“Yeah, I believe so. I’ve been at Cal for quite a while now. No reason to leave. If I were to come back, I’d definitely have to weigh the possibility of staying at Cal.”
My take here is Garbers is a smart young man, he’s done a lot of interviews and so he is able to choose his words carefully and not say more than he wants to say.
All of which makes sense, but it leaves us still waiting to know what the Bears’ four-year starter intends to do.
*** Cal offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave talks in the video above about freshmen quarterbacks Zach Johnson and Kai Millner — neither of whom has taken a college snap, but could contend for the starting job next fall if Garbers departs.
I think Garbers is sincere that he just doesn’t know at this point. Waiting to get as much information as he can is the smart move.
Still, this is as close as Garbers has come to saying he might be back.
Reviewing mock NFL drafts and pro football prospect ratings, Garbers seems unlikely to be drafted, which would require him to try making a roster as a free agent.
Pro Football Focus includes just seven quarterbacks among its top-100 NFL prospect. The only Pac-12 player included is Stanford’s Tanner McKee at No. 82.
Pro Football Network ranks its top best quarterback prospects and the only one with a connection to the Pac-12 is Jake Haener, who began his career at Washington, played this season at Fresno State and is expected to follow coach Kalen DeBoer back to UW. Haener is ninth on their list.
Walter Football lists its top 23 quarterback prospects and the top Pac-12 players are Arizona State's Jayden Daniels at No. 10 and USC's Kedon Slovis at No. 12.
UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson is No. 18, according to Walter Football, followed by Garbers at No. 19.
And how high do they believe he'll be taken?
“Garbers looks more like an undrafted free agent for the NFL,” the site said.
Cover photo of Cal quarterback Chase Garbers by Kelley L. Cox, KLC fotos
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo