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May 14, 2011"I was really excited and a huge relief [came] off my shoulders," said California's newly anointed starting quarterback: junior Zach Maynard, during his conference call with Bay Area reporters Saturday.
"Now I can just focus on getting in that film room, that weight room, and getting better over time."
Maynard, who transferred from Buffalo after starting every game his sophomore season, is looking forward to guiding the Bears' offense in 2011. After beating out senior Brock Mansion and sophomore Allan Bridgford, he'll need to get more creative in order to keep improving.
"I'm not going to take it as I am starting because we have a long way towards the season coming," said Maynard. "We got summer camp, we have workouts and conditioning right now, summer school, so I've got to stay on top of myself and on top of everything pretend I'm not the starter, like I'm still working for a job. So I gotta' take it more serious now."
The timing of Maynard's transfer to Berkeley gave birth to the rumor that he had been guaranteed the starter's role in order for Cal to obtain the services of his brother Keenan Allen -- who committed to Cal at, or about, the same time that Maynard did. Without any proof of a Tedford commitment to Maynard, the Buffalo starter took a huge gamble on coming to Berkeley.
"Shoot, it was a huge risk," said Maynard of deciding to transfer. "It was something I really had to take into consideration, trying to transfer. I think I made the right choice and everything is working itself out."
While taking a season off last year, Maynard was his brother's confidant after games, worked on getting better at schoolwork, learned some of the playbook when he got the chance, and focused on staying in shape.
For Maynard, the most difficult part of the transfer was academics, saying, "I think that was the hardest aspect for me, getting all my units right and in place."
After allowing an average of 26 sacks a year for the last three seasons, Maynard's mobility will come in handy -- and it may be why he's been handed the reins to the offense so early.
Earlier on in spring practice, Tedford gushed about Maynard's athleticism. "He's the guy that can make something -- he can make a difference with his legs," said Tedford after Cal's sixth spring practice.
What Maynard lacked in arm strength, accuracy, and knowledge of the playbook in spring practice, he more than made up for in his ability to move around in the pocket and scramble for yards when the pressure was too great.
"I was using my speed for an advantage," said Maynard of his spring performance. "That opened up a lot of ways for us, some of the read-option type stuff. That opened up the offense a little bit more."
Chemistry with his receivers shouldn't take too long to develop. With his brother on one side and senior Marvin Jones on the other, Maynard already has a head start from years of throwing to Allen. According to the signal-caller, he and Jones are already on the same page, but he did say that isn't the only one able to create chemistry with Allen.
"Me and Marv Jones, have good chemistry," said Maynard. "I'm trying to get that feel with everybody besides just my brother. Some quarterbacks have the same chemistry with him too. They've been playing with him for a year now."
As with many quarterbacks, Maynard looks up to NFL players such as Tom Brady and Brett Favre, but his favorite quarterback may surprise you -- Dennis Dixon. Dixon, who came out of Oakland to play for Oregon prior to landing with the Pittsburgh Steelers, could be a good role model for Maynard.
"I'm a finesse-type runner," said Maynard of his style of play, but he was quick to point out that he's a pass-first quarterback that will use his feet as a last resort during plays.
Any sort of speculation that Cal's offense would look more like the Ducks' with Maynard at the helm was disputed by the junior on Saturday.
"We're going to be pass first, or hand the ball to the running back," Maynard said. "I'll get yards when I can, when we need to."
Maynard was a two-star recruit out of high school and didn't get the type of consideration from big Division I schools that he did when he was transferring from Buffalo. Now, he'll be the starter for a high-profile school in a quarterback-rich conference.
Redemption? You bet.
"It does feel that way," said Maynard. "This is my dream. It always has been my dream since I was little, playing at a huge university, and having a chance to do that for two years coming from Buffalo, I mean, it's a huge blessing.
"I really count my blessings, and this is one I'm looking forward to."
While there are still nearly four months before Maynard takes his first official snap as a Bear, when he finally does, it will be his job to reinvigorate a Cal offense that has hobbled in the previous few years.
If he does that, Bear Backers will be the one's feeling blessed.