Zach Maynard's decision to transfer to California appears to have been the right move after all.
Maynard was picked as Cal's starting quarterback to open the 2011 season Saturday, emerging as the clear front-runner from one of the deepest and most wide-open spring competitions in coach Jeff Tedford's tenure.
Maynard, a dual-threat quarterback who led led Buffalo to its first bowl game appearance in 2009, sat out all of last year and had no guarantee of winning Cal's starting job once he transferred. He was among six quarterbacks in the spring competition.
"It was a huge risk," Maynard said. "It was something I really had to take into consideration trying to transfer. I think I made the right choice. Everything is working itself out."
The decision to start Maynard signals Cal's evolving offense to a spread system.
The Golden Bears limped home to a 5-7 record and missed out on a bowl game last season for the first time since Tedford's first year in 2002, in large part because of a sputtering offense that struggled to put up points. Tedford revamped his staff over the winter and plans to take a more active role calling plays.
The Golden Bears wrapped up spring practice two weeks ago. They open training camp Aug. 6 and play the season opener Sept. 3 at Candlestick Park against Fresno State.
"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."
Being picked as the starter was the culmination of more than year of work.
Maynard threw for 2,694 yards, 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his sophomore season at Buffalo. He also ran for 300 yards to lead the program to the International Bowl, where it lost 38-20 to Connecticut.
After coach Turner Gill left for the job at Kansas, Maynard decided it was best to leave Buffalo — even if it meant losing a starting gig. He considered Kansas, Clemson, North Carolina and North Carolina State among others, but there was a family appeal to Berkeley that no other program could match.
Maynard's half brother, receiver Keenan Allen, had just made the decision to enroll at Cal after a stellar career at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, N.C. He also loved the cool weather, laid-back vibe on the Berkeley campus and Tedford's approach.
From that standpoint, it was a natural fit.
"I think it was the right choice for me to leave from the start," he said.
Sophomore Allan Bridgford and senior Brock Mansion are co-listed at No. 2 on the team's depth chart. But the job is Maynard's to lose.
The fact that Tedford decided to call Maynard into his office earlier this week and deliver the news — as opposed to waiting until fall camp — was only further proof that Cal wants the speedy, elusive quarterback to lead them into what was already a year of change for the program. Besides the opener at Candlestick, Cal will play home games this season across the bay at the San Francisco Giants' home, AT&T Park, while Memorial Stadium is renovated.
Maynard, who has two years of eligibility remaining, was still coming to grips with the opportunity to shine in the inaugural Pac-12 season.
"I was really excited. Just a huge relief off my shoulders," Maynard said. "Now I can focus on getting in that film room, weight room and getting better over time.
"I'm not going to take it as I am starting because we have a long way toward the season coming," he added. "We have summer camp. We have workouts and conditioning right now. So I've got to stay on top of everything like I'm not the starter, like I'm working for a job. I've got to take it more serious now."