If not all Cal fans are convinced quarterback Zach Maynard is the man for the job, the senior from Greensboro, N.C., isn't paying attention to the chatter.
"I don't get involved in the outside world," Maynard said Saturday before a spring practice. "If there is something I have to prove, I'm just going to come out and play as hard as I can every play and make it known I'm the right guy."
Coach Jeff Tedford has no qualms about Maynard, who last season fell 10 yards shy of becoming just the sixth Cal quarterback to pass for 3,000 yards in a season and completed better than 65 percent of his attempts over his final five games.
The Bears have five quarterbacks in camp this spring -- also including Allan Bridgford, Austin Hinder, Kyle Boehm and newcomer Zach Kline. One year after making his spring debut as a transfer from Buffalo, Maynard is the unchallenged starter.
"Last spring you were scratching your head and wondering what's going to happen. It was just so new," Tedford said. "Now he has great control of everything that's going on ... now he's a real field general."
Maynard rates his junior season performance as "pretty average," noting he made too many mistakes. "As far as experience, another year is huge for me," he said. "Just coming out and working with guys, building that chain throughout the offense that we all connect together."
Maynard has skipped several spring workouts to attend to academic responsibilities, as have several other Cal players. In his case, the absences have fueled persistent rumors he is struggling in the classroom and might be ineligible next season.
Asked directly if he has any concerns about his fall eligibility, Maynard said, "No doubts ... I'm solid."
Waiting in the wings is Bridgford, the junior backup from Mission Viejo. Bridgford completed just 13 of 32 pass attempts in mop-up duty last season but said he's "definitely" ready for any opportunity.
Ask him his goal for spring ball, and he responds without hesitation: "Being the best quarterback on the team."
Bridgford is convinced the coaches share his confidence. "If something were to happen to Zach and I was the one who was in there," he said, "I don't think they have any problem with that."
Agreed, said Tedford.
"He's healthy, throwing the ball very accurately. He's very, very smart and understands what we're doing," Tedford said. "So I feel really confident and would be really comfortable with him on the field for us."
Offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik said Bridgford's confidence sprouts from preparation. "A phenomenal work ethic," Michalczik said. "During the season last year, I started calling him Coach Bridge because he was always watching film."
Meanwhile, there is no set plan for Hinder, Boehm or Kline, and Michalczik said no decision has been made whether to redshirt Kline. The three will compete through camp in August to determine spots on the depth chart.
None of them has played in a college game.
Hinder, a redshirt sophomore from Steamboat Springs, Colo., is "pretty well-rounded," according to Michalczik, who said Boehm, a redshirt freshman from Archbishop Mitty in San Jose, has a better feel for the run game.
Kline arrived on campus midyear after graduating in December from San Ramon Valley High in Danville, where he was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 2 prostyle quarterback prospect in the nation and No. 4 by ESPN and Scout.com.
Tedford, concerned that expectations for Kline could soar out of control, announced a policy that freshmen will be off-limits for interviews until they have played in a game.
But Cal's coaches are impressed so far.
Tedford said Kline has a "presence about him" in the huddle, is bright and eager to learn, and is adjusting to the speed of the college game, at least in practice. Kline's arm strength was rated as among the best in his class, according to scouting services.
Kline also understands he is just getting started. "He's very respectful of the investment that the older guys have made," Tedford said. "He's going to be a great player before it's all said and done."
Michalczik joked that Kline "should be going to the prom here pretty soon" but otherwise is mature beyond his years. "How good does he become? Let's practice and see where we're at."
Even Bridgford is impressed, to a point.
"He's a good kid. He'll get it done," Bridgford said. "I'm looking forward to seeing him play when I'm gone."