NFL DRAFT: Cal QB Davis Webb tries to shed Air Raid stigma
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Davis Webb has the arm strength, confidence and leadership skills that NFL teams covet in quarterbacks.
The key task for Webb leading up to this month's draft is to prove to teams that he is more than a product of the Air Raid offense and can transition to the pros.
Webb heads into the draft with a bit of a stigma after spending three years running that spread offense at Texas Tech and then at California as a graduate transfer. With his predecessor at Cal, Jared Goff, having struggled as a rookie with the Rams after being the No. 1 pick, Webb is out to show he is more than a system quarterback with little experience calling plays from a huddle or taking snaps from center.
''It's difficult for me to understand how people knock the Air Raid offense,'' Webb said. ''Everyone in college football nowadays is running the spread. Alabama was pro-style as it gets and now they're spread. About 90 percent of teams are now spread. The thing with the Air Raid is we throw it more in this spread.''
Webb is not alone coming into the draft looking to prove he has what it takes to translate to an NFL offense.
Pat Mahomes also ran the Air Raid after taking over for Webb at Texas Tech. Two other top quarterback prospects in the draft, Clemson's DeShaun Watson and North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky, also mostly ran versions of spread offenses in college.
''The biggest fear these quarterbacks have is how will I remember the play to actually call it in the huddle and how will I act in the huddle,'' said former NFL quarterback and head coach Jim Zorn, who is tutoring Webb. ''You have to have a presence in the huddle. Those are the things that set guys back a bit. You have to have strong confidence and a personality because when you walk in as a quarterback, there is an expectation.''
Zorn began working with Webb in January and has done extensive work teaching him the verbiage of the West Coast offense so he can better communicate with coaches during pre-draft meetings, and get a head start on his NFL career.
Webb has also been charting five NFL games a week to better understand how the pro game is played on both sides of the ball; working on his footwork coming out from under center; and trying to have a more efficient throwing motion.
By doing all that now, the hope is Webb will be ready to compete for a job right away.
''I would not have a problem of having Davis coming in and starting right out and being a part of the fit right now,'' Zorn said. ''I think there are really good qualities there for him to have a faster start than a system quarterback might be.''
Goff's struggles last season have thrown a cloud over Webb. Goff couldn't beat Case Keenum for the starting job out of camp and then lost all seven starts he made, completing just 54.6 percent of his passes for 5.3 yards per attempt, five TDs, seven interceptions and a 63.6 rating.
But Webb is quick to point out that despite both playing at Cal, there is little in common between the two quarterbacks.
''We're different quarterbacks, different people,'' Webb said. ''The way we carry ourselves on and off the field, we're just totally different. We have different body types, different personalities. I'm a little bit more high-strung and passionate and he's more laid back.''
Overcoming doubters has been a constant part of Webb's development. He was more advanced as a hockey player than in football as a kid and was the backup B team quarterback in seventh grade and backup C team QB the next year.
He got the chance to play as a freshman at Texas Tech, splitting time with Baker Mayfield. He then began his sophomore year as starter before going down with an ankle injury that allowed Mahomes to take over as starter. After a junior year as a backup, he transferred to Cal last season, where he threw for 4,295 yards and 37 touchdowns despite playing the second half of the season with a dislocated thumb on his throwing hand.
''I was always kind of behind when it came to football,'' he said. ''Hockey always came to me. Football, I had to work at it a little bit harder. I didn't really start until my junior year of high school. I really figured it out. I've always had that work ethic. To have someone not want you to be their quarterback drives me today.''
That work ethic carried on and off the field, where understanding the intricacies of plays and doing the board work has always been important to Webb.
The son of a high school coach, Webb started drawing out plays he'd give his father when he was a young kid. Those early plays varied from the simple smash runs to numerous trick plays and are now part of a playbook of nearly a thousand plays that Webb hopes to use one day as a coach.
While at Texas Tech, Webb ran Friday film sessions to go over the game plan for the next day. He continued that practice at Cal, where he put together a cutup of 40 to 50 plays each week for the half-hour meeting he held.
Now he wants to show off that knowledge for NFL teams.
''They all know I can throw,'' he said. ''Just put on my highlight tape and you can see I threw the deep ball. I'm not worried about that. I want to go in to these meetings and try to show them I have a good foundation. I try to show off and can go in depth with it.''
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