Zach Maynard

Zach Maynard named Cal’s starting QB heading into ’11 season

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Nearly 16 months after abruptly announcing he was transferring from Buffalo and ultimately winding up at Cal, and after sitting out the 2010 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, Zach Maynard has officially become Kevin Riley‘s successor under center at Cal.

Following a spring-long battle that included Brock MansionAllan Bridgford and the since-departed Beau Sweeney, head coach Jeff Tedford announced Saturday that Maynard, the press release states, will be the team’s starting quarterback heading into the 2011 season.  The wording in the release seems to indicate that the battle for the starting job has ended and will not resume in summer camp.

“Zach showed a tremendous amount of upside during spring practice and is the quarterback that gives us the best opportunity to win football games,” said Tedford. “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.”

“I’m excited and honored to have been named the starting quarterback at Cal,” said Maynard. “I enjoyed competing for the job with some excellent competitors during spring practice and will continue to work hard to keep the starting role. I have an excellent opportunity to help lead this football team and plan to take full advantage of it.”

Maynard started 11 of the 12 games in which he played in 2009 for the Bulls before deciding to transfer from the school in January of 2010.  Maynard’s decision to head to Cal became a “package deal” after five-star recruit Keenan Allen, who is the QB’s half-brother, flipped his commitment from Alabama to the Golden Bears when it was learned there was no room for his relative in the Tide’s ’10 recruiting class.

As a true freshman, Allen led the Golden Bears in receiving touchdowns with five, and finished second in receptions (46) and receiving yards (490).  Now, the second half of the package is apparently delivering as well.

Incidentally, the release stated that the senior Mansion and sophomore Bridgford would be listed as co-No. 2’s on the post-spring depth chart.

USC’s Max Tuerk already questionable for Notre Dame game

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 11:  Center Max Tuerk #75 of the USC Trojans prepares to snap the football during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona.  The Trojans defeatred the Wildcats 28-26.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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As if the questions about the head coach’s future aren’t enough, now USC could have a rather significant issue in the middle of its offensive line to deal with as well.

Early in the first quarter of what would turn out to be an embarrassing loss to Washington Thursday night, Max Tuerk sustained a sprained knee. Upon further examination, it was determined that the veteran center would be unable to return to the game.

Not only that, Tuerk, who was wearing a brace on his right knee following the loss, is already labeled as questionable for what it in every sense of the phrase a must-win game for Steve Sarkisian against Notre Dame eight days from now.

With Tuerk sidelined for the remainder of the game, he was replaced by Toa Lobendahn. It’s unclear which direction the Trojans would go if Tuerk is a no-go this weekend, although Khaliel Rodgers, who had been dealing with a personal issue, has been Tuerk’s backup.

Tuerk has started 38 games in his Trojan career — 18 at center, 14 at left guard, five at left tackle, one at right tackle. Lobendahn started all 13 games as a true freshman last season, the first eight at left guard and then five at right tackle.

Was Washington loss the beginning of the end of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC?

Steve Sarkisian

Steve Sarkisian’s win totals in his six previous seasons are both a positive and a negative.

On one hand, he resurrected a moribund Washington program that went 0-12 under Ty Willingham in 2008 and took them to four consecutive bowl games from 2010-2013. He won nine games his last year in Seattle, then led a talented-yet-thin USC team to a nine-win season and AP No. 20 finish in 2014.

Those are good accomplishments. But the flip side of the argument is Sarkisian has never won double-digit games in a season, something that’s a necessity to keep one’s job at USC. The Trojans’ 17-12 loss to Washington last night — at home, no less — means the road to 10 wins and a Pac-12 title will be awfully difficult.

And worse yet, there are plenty of arguments to be made Sarkisian doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and a little more time in Los Angeles to turn things around (#SarkAfterDark, his drunken rant at a booster event, certainly doesn’t help). The reaction from national media to last night’s loss looked like this:

Mandel, in his column, argued USC is right where it was two years ago with Lane Kiffin as its coach. And there’s this embarrassing thought, that looks more and more like a truth, for Pat Haden:

This one, however, was the most damning by far for many reasons, most notably that it came at the hands of Sarkisian’s old team. The sense among many Washington fans nearly two years ago was that the Huskies managed to upgrade coaches when the school lured Chris Petersen from Boise State upon Sarkisian’s departure to USC.

They were right.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken similarly wrote that USC needs to drop Sarkisian and bring in Chip Kelly from the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is the state of USC, and it may not get better. The Trojans start a brutal three-game stretch next Saturday at Notre Dame in primetime, then welcome Utah to Los Angeles the next week. A Halloween trip to Berkeley to face Jared Goff and Cal finishes it up. There’s a very real chance USC, for all its talent and all its hype, limps into November with a 4-4 or 3-5 record.

Sarkisian will have to engineer and sustain a major turnaround in these coming weeks, otherwise he’ll give Haden all the ammo he needs to unceremoniously jettison him after two years.