Saturday was the day that Zach Maynard validated his evaluation of risk vs. reward.
Maynard knew there would be some risk of giving up his starting job at Buffalo. But he determined the potential reward of earning a No. 1 job at a major program was worth transferring.
Cal coach Jeff Tedford named Maynard his starting quarterback for the 2011 season Saturday, officially making Maynard's decision to come west worth it.
"It was a huge risk -- getting back on the football field and earning another starting job, or at least get into the second string category or above," Maynard said. "This is my dream, always has been my dream -- to play at a huge university. Having a chance to do that coming from Buffalo, it's a huge blessing. Everything is working itself out."
Maynard, a junior, beat out senior Brock Mansion and sophomore Allan Bridgford for the job. Mansion started the final four games last year after a season-ending calf injury to Kevin Riley and averaged 126.2 passing yards while completing 47 percent of his passes. He threw one touchdown pass with five interceptions.
As a starter at Buffalo in 2009, Maynard completed 58 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He threw for 2,694 yards and ran for 300 more, and it is that dual-threat ability that gave him an edge in Cal's quarterback competition.
Tedford said multiple times since the end of last season that having a quarterback who can run is becoming more and more paramount in college football. With his quick feet, Maynard demonstrated during the spring that he has the ability to get out of the pocket and make positive plays and also capitalize on designed quarterback runs.
"Zach showed a tremendous amount of upside during spring practice and is the quarterback that gives us the best opportunity to win football games," Tedford said. "He has the ability to both throw and run the ball effectively, giving us another dimension at that position that we haven't had in a while."
Maynard was recruited by major programs such as LSU, Oregon and West Virginia coming out of Grimsley High School in Greensboro, N.C., but reportedly didn't earn his necessary score on the standardized ACT exam until late in the recruiting process. By that time, bigger programs had backed off and Maynard wound up at Buffalo.
Turner Gill left Buffalo to take the head coaching job at Kansas after the 2009 season, which came at the same time Maynard's half-brother, Keenan Allen, was coming out of high school. Maynard wanted to leave Buffalo after Gill departed and he and Allen decided to go to college as a package deal. They wound up at Cal, where Allen was the Bears' second-leading receiver last season as a true freshman.
Tedford said Mansion and Bridgford will enter fall camp as co-backup quarterbacks on the depth chart and compete for that role in August.