For all of his flashes of brilliance — 12 touchdown passes, there are also maddening moments of mistakes — nine interceptions — that drive Bears fans insane.
It’s rarely dull or predictable when Maynard drops back to pass. But for the Washington Huskies, their main concern on Friday night is keeping Maynard in one small area when he does so.
“The guy is very athletic,” said Huskies defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. “He can throw the ball, and he does a very good job outside the pocket of keeping things alive and making plays downfield. I’m very impressed with him.”
Maynard can be very impressive when he leaves the pocket. He’s quick and more than comfortable scrambling around and throwing on the run.
“At times, it’s where he’s most effective, when he’s running around back there,” said UW defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi.
For Lupoi’s players up front, it will be vital to maintain pass rush lanes to keep Maynard hemmed in.
As a lefty, he will scramble to his left more often than not — something teams aren’t used to.
“We are trying to get some good edge rush from our ends this week,” Lupoi said. “We’ve also got to get an interior push up front. We’ve got to improve at that, so that’s what we’re working at this week.”
And while the big men up front try and keep Maynard hemmed into the pocket, it’s the secondary’s responsibility to make sure he doesn’t find open receivers as he improvises.
“We call it plastering,” said cornerback Marcus Peters. “The play is not over until the ball is thrown. So wherever the receiver goes, we go with him. We have to lock on their hips the whole play.”
It only took a little bit of film watching to see that Maynard on the run is more dangerous than Maynard standing still.
“To me, he makes most of his plays outside of the pocket,” Peters said.
Cal’s receivers are well aware and adjust accordingly.
“Once they see he’s out of the pocket, they try to make a move to get open — a lot of times they track back to him,” Peters said.
It seems like such a simple philosophy. And yet, Maynard still seems to make plays when he scrambles.
Why? Well, it’s partially human nature. Defensive backs get caught peeking or watching Maynard running around and dodging tacklers, meanwhile the receiver they are covering suddenly sneaks away and is open and alone and waiting for a pass.
“The main thing is keep to your eyes on your man,” said safety Sean Parker. “We call it losing your eyes, when you take your eyes off your man and stop doing your responsibility. Anything behind the line has nothing to do with us. If we stay back we should be fine.”