By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com
When CAL Head Coach Sonny Dykes arrived back in Berkeley and plopped down into his Memorial Stadium office chair following the 2015 season, he no doubt had a lot of reflecting to do. With arguably the best quarterback in the nation (Jared Goff) leading his “Bear Raid” offense for the third year in-a-row, CAL turned in an exciting, but less-than-fulfilling year that included a three week stint in the Top 25, a losing record in the PAC-12 and a blowout win at the Armed Forces Bowl.
Early 2016 brought about the departure of offensive coordinator Tony Franklin to Middle Tennessee State, while Dykes’ decorated pupil Jared Goff jetted off to Chicago to shake hands with Roger Goodell as the very first pick in the NFL Draft. Dykes reliable group of veteran receivers were also long gone, leaving the fourth year head man left to wonder where to steer his ship next.
With Goff’s wake of passing records still rippling through Strawberry Canyon, Dykes knew he needed a new QB, and a good one at that. His stable of young quarterbacks coming up the pipeline in Berkeley weren’t going to cut it, he thought, at least not this year. So Dykes headed home to Texas to hunt for football talent. There he found Davis Webb, sitting on the bench at Dykes’ alma mater Texas Tech, hungry to lead an offense.
At 6’3”, 220 pounds, Webb fits the mold of your prototypical pro-style quarterback. Kyle Boller comes to mind if you were to compare him to a CAL QB of the past, and indeed, Webb will wear Boller’s #7 this fall for the Blue & Gold. The 21-year-old will only suit up for one year in Berkeley, as a Public Health graduate student. But for a variety of reasons, Dykes is banking on Webb making an immediate splash in the Bay Area.
As you could have almost predicted, Webb grew up in a household led by a Texas high school football coach in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, an area where amateur football is treated as religion. Webb originally was the QB at Keller High, but when his father was let go, he followed him up to Prosper High to play his senior year and win a district championship. Webb’s successful move between high schools and a stellar senior season landed him a gig at pass-happy Texas Tech. A perfect fit for a Texas born high school QB looking to put up big numbers with dreams of the NFL.
When Webb arrived on campus in Lubbock, he found himself thrown into a quarterback battle with Baker Mayfield, now a Heisman favorite at Oklahoma. Webb earned six starts as a freshman at Tech, while Mayfield got seven. Webb didn’t disappoint when he got his chances under center, throwing for 20 touchdowns, including a 45 for 71 performance vs. Oklahoma State. By season’s end, Webb set records for true-freshman QB’s in the BIG-12 and in the Holiday Bowl vs. Arizona State that year Webb got the start and won MVP of the game.
Webb had the Tech job all to himself as a sophomore, but his productive season came crumbling down due to various injuries including a broken ankle and a torn labrum. His job would be lost to the upstart Patrick Mahomes, and Webb was never able to get it back. Last year, as junior, Webb served as the backup. The restless competitor found time to not only get himself healthy and push Mahomes in practice, but also graduate from Tech with an undergraduate degree in only three years. Thus, making him a college football free agent of sorts. So long as he could get into grad school somewhere, he could play right away.
Webb originally committed to Colorado to play out his senior year in the PAC-12 and get back on track toward his NFL dreams (Mel Kuiper Jr. has Webb slated as the no. 1 senior QB draft prospect). But things changed when a perfect quarterback situation opened up in Berkeley and Dykes invited #7 onboard in Berkeley. It wasn’t long before Webb packed his car up with his mom and drove the 20 hour trip from the Texas plains to the Bay Area. If Webb could be the starter, you didn’t need to tell him twice.
CAL’s new offensive coordinator is 31-year-old Jake Spavital, who comes to Berkeley from Texas A&M where he cut his teeth coordinating SEC-level offenses. Part of Webb’s draw to CAL stems from Coach Spav’s “Air-Raid Offense” background which includes time at the innovative U of Houston. While at Texas A&M, Spavital coached with Kliff Kingsbury (Webb’s coach at Texas Tech). On top of that, Dykes coached offense at Texas Tech from 2000-2006, further solidifying the bridge between Lubbock, Texas and Berkeley, California (at least as far as football ideology goes).
With a familiar playbook under his arm and a healthy/mature body, Webb will try to lead the Bears to a breakthrough season they couldn’t quite pull-off with Goff the last three years. Webb will need to mesh with an inexperienced receiving corps extremely quickly, as the Bears will be playing for real on August 26th vs. Hawaii (in Australia). September 17th brings the improved Texas Longhorns to Berkeley in what will be a tall-task, not to mention Christian McCaffery’s Stanford Cardinal, Oregon, USC, and the rest of the usual suspects up and down the coast.
Whether CAL’s defense can summon the strength to slow down PAC-12 offenses enough to push Dykes and the Bears into a major bowl game is a tough question to answer, even for the most optimistic Old Blue. Fortunately, Bear fans can take solace in the fact that 2016 will have a battle-tested, shoot-first-ask-questions-later Texan to lead them into battle.