Cal's passing attack must gel quickly in camp

The Bears were at their best last season with a controlled passing offense, but Zach Maynard must show continued improvement in his second season as starting quarterback.

BERKELEY, Calif. – California has been consistent.

For all the wrong reasons, in all the wrong ways.

They are good at home, bad on the road. The Bears went 4-1 at AT&T Park, 2-4 away from the Bay Area last season, and have a .357 winning percentage the past five years.

They are good against bad teams, bad against good ones. Cal went 1-5 against teams over .500 last season and hasn't beaten an opponent that finished with a winning record on the road the past two years.

They are good when the quarterback has to only manage the offense, bad when forced to carry the offense. In Cal's six losses last season, they averaged 39.6 passes per game, but in wins, that tally plummeted to 28.8 During the three wins in November, it was even more deliberate as quarterback Zach Maynard attempted just 21.6 throws.

That was when Cal was truly at its best, running the ball effectively with Isi Sofele, avoiding turnovers, and demonstrating sound defense to keep Maynard from having to chuck it in a desperate bid to catch up.

That is the formula Cal will need to display again this season, the form it will be looking to find when fall camp opens Saturday evening.

The biggest agent of that approach must be Maynard, the senior who threw for 2,990 yards and 17 touchdowns against 12 interceptions last season. He played his best late in the 2011 campaign, but wasn't entirely able to capitalize on that momentum after missing much of spring practice for academics.

Coach Jeff Tedford has frequently praised Maynard's improved understanding of the offense, which was backed up by a strong performance in the spring game, but that will have to be quickly melded to one of the conference's youngest and least experienced group of wide receivers.

Take away junior All-America candidate Keenan Allen, still recovering from ankle surgery, no other Cal receiver has caught more than three passes in his career. Five true freshmen will immediately compete for playing time, with five-star prospect Bryce Treggs of Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco leading the group.

But with early September road games at Ohio State and USC, neither Maynard nor his receivers have the time to slowly work their way into form.

That means consistency will be measured by Cal's ability to play its best against the best immediately. That means a passing attack capable of taking advantage of the extra attention dedicated to Allen and Sofele, no turnovers, smart decisions and an offense truly capable of doing more than sneaking out seven wins.

That would be consistency in all the right ways.

Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and covers the Pac-12 for Fox Sports/Scout.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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