Cal didn’t have to travel 7,500 miles to realize it had a capable new quarterback.
Davis Webb arrived early at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley and left late much of this summer, convincing coaches and players the Bears are in good hands.
Sure enough, the 6-foot-5 graduate transfer from Texas Tech has exhibited every indication he’s the next Cal passer to behold. The trigger man to the “Bear Raid” offense has settled in nicely, taking over for Jared Goff, drafted No. 1 overall by the Los Angeles Rams.
His work ethic has been unparalleled.
Cal coach Sonny Dykes, on quarterback Davis Webb
After a roller-coaster career at Texas Tech, Webb is as motivated to go out strong as a collegian as the Bears are to elevate their program, which has gone from one win in 2013 to eight last season.
“We know what we have in Webb, how good he is, and we’re excited,” said offensive tackle Steven Moore, a team captain and a graduate of Elk Grove High School.
On Saturday, Webb completed 38 of 54 passes for 441 yards and four touchdowns and ran for a score as Cal opened the college football season by beating Hawaii 51-31 in Sydney.
The Bears lost their six leading receivers from last season, but a corps featuring heralded freshmen is ready to step in. Junior Chad Hansen led the way against Hawaii with 14 catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
Webb wowed his coaches with his commitment over the summer. They couldn’t keep him away from the football offices, field, weight room and film room. He regularly arrived on campus at 7 a.m. and left at 11 p.m. Those are coaches’ hours.
“His work ethic has been unparalleled,” coach Sonny Dykes said.
The Bears’ quarterback legacy goes back decades and includes Joe Kapp, Craig Morton, Steve Bartkowski, Joe Roth, Troy Taylor, Mike Pawlawski, Dave Barr, Kyle Boller, Aaron Rodgers and Goff. Webb isn’t awed by these names. He’s inspired.
Webb grew up in Texas dreaming of this opportunity. From age 6, he camped out in front of the TV to watch college football and charted plays on index cards. His father, a high school football coach, would take those cards and nod in approval.
At Texas Tech, Webb passed for 5,557 yards and 46 touchdowns in 23 games, but injuries hampered him, and he came West looking to bounce back. He beat out Cal returnees Ross Bowers and Chase Forrest for the starting job. Webb also is rated the No. 1 senior quarterback prospect in the nation by ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.
Said Webb after Cal committed no turnovers against Hawaii, “I’m just happy for my teammates and to get the win. I’m excited for what we can do this season.”
Last season, Cal finished 8-5 and tied for fourth place in the Pacific-12 Conference North with a 4-5 mark. It was the Bears’ first winning season since 2011, and a victory over Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl was the program’s first bowl win since 2008.
Cal had a wild ride in 2015, starting 5-0, losing four in a row, then winning three of its final four games.
We know what we have in Webb, how good he is, and we’re excited.
Cal offensive tackle Steven Moore, on quarterback Davis Webb
Cal bottomed out in Dykes’ first season, going 1-11 in 2013 and hemorrhaging yards on defense. The increase in victories is the program’s largest since the Bears went from 2-7 in 1946 to 10-1 in 1948.
Dykes, 14-23 in three Cal seasons, signed an extension through 2019. He said he’s most pleased with the academic progress of his players.
“We have a lot of momentum going right now in our program,” Dykes said this summer. “Our talent level has improved dramatically. I believe having a successful football program is all about finding a niche, and I think we have found our niche. We’ve gotten better every year. We went from one to five to eight wins, and the challenge for us is going to improve on eight, and that’s going to be a big challenge.”
A big challenge because the Pac-12 is expected to be powerful again, and Cal’s defense remains a work in progress.
“We know we can be better on defense, and we know we have to,” Dykes said, “This is a great conference.”
Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD
College football previews
- Sunday: The national scene
- Today: Cal
- Tuesday: Stanford
- Wednesday: Sacramento State
- Thursday: UC Davis
Three Cal players to watch
DAVIS WEBB, QUARTERBACK, GRADUATE TRANSFER
After passing for 5,557 yards and 46 touchdowns in 23 games at Texas Tech, Webb is the focus of the explosive “Bear Raid” offense. At 6-foot-5, he looks like NFL first-round material and can throw short or long with touch. He passed for 441 yards and four touchdowns and ran for a score in Cal’s season-opening 51-31 win over Hawaii in Sydney.
STEVEN MOORE, RIGHT OFFENSIVE TACKLE, SENIOR
A fourth-year starter from Elk Grove High School, Moore was chosen as a captain by his teammates. Coach Sonny Dykes called Moore “our most solid player in our program.” The 6-6, 305-pound Moore has started 36 games, including at guard and tackle. He wants to get into law enforcement if the NFL isn’t in his future.
CHAD HANSEN, WIDE RECEIVER, JUNIOR
Cal lost its six leading receivers from last season, but Hansen looks ready to step up and could become Webb’s top target. Hansen had 14 receptions for 160 yards and two touchdowns against Hawaii. This summer, Hansen and Webb spent countless hours working on routes in Berkeley.
Cal football schedule
vs. Hawaii (Sydney)
at San Diego State
at Arizona State
at Oregon State
at Washington State