Max Gilliam had reported offers from two schools before he was offered and committed to Cal: Marshall and Toledo. That's not exactly Alabama and Ohio State and Gilliam having no Pac-12 offers, or even Mountain West offers, for a quarterback in California is not exactly a comforting thought for Cal fans.
His recruitment was picking up steam though and he was considered in the next tier of west coast quarterbacks. The May evaluation period was coming up and it's likely that a lot of schools were going to come visit his high school and see him throw live. Sonny Dykes and the Bears decided to beat them all to the punch.
That may turn out to be a very shrewd move by Dykes. Gilliam is a good prospect that has awareness in the pocket that many quarterbacks can never develop.
Gilliam is a good athlete that runs really well. I was surprised by his long speed and lateral movement. He does not look like he weighs 190 pounds and needs to add weight to both his upper and lower body. He's someone who should benefit greatly after spending a couple of years in Cal's strength and conditioning program. He's plenty tall enough to play in the pocket.
What stood out most to me with Gilliam was his willingness to hang in the pocket to take a hit to deliver a pass. He showed no fear or hesitation with pressure in his face and made accurate throws even when he couldn't deliver the football as well as he would have liked to.
He also wasn't blind to the pressure either. He knew it was coming, but kept his focus downfield. He showed awareness to step up when he had to and also the mobility to escape outside if needed to as well. He is actually at his best when he is out of the pocket whether it is a designed rollout or him scrambling. He does a good job of finding the open man and getting his feet under him when he throws.
He has good feet in the pocket the majority of the time. He is light and balanced, but maybe a bit too light at times. I think he may get too concerned with touch and should do a better job of digging his cleats in to put more zip on some throws. He flashes solid arm strength when he does step into his throws and utilizes his lower half. Like a lot of right handed quarterbacks, he does have an issue with fading away when throwing to his left. Because of that, he floats some throws in that direction.
He throws a nice, high arching deep ball. Early in his junior season he might have waited a half-beat too long to deliver it and ended up under throwing a few of them, but his anticipation got better and he did a better job later in the season.
I mentioned his ability to escape and his mobility earlier. It's an asset to buy time to make plays down the field, but he can make plays with his feet and move the chains on scrambles too. He's a good enough runner to be used on designed runs and has the speed to make plays if the opportunity is there.
He should be a good fit in the Bear Raid and I see him as a pretty similar players to early enrollee Ross Bowers.
I didn't expect Cal to take another quarterback with Armani Rogers already committed, but Gilliam is a good second quarterback for their class. I can understand the hesitation by other schools to offer without seeing him in person because I would have probably made the same decision, but his presence in the pocket and his mobility are definitely intriguing.
He does not have the raw tools that Rogers possesses, but I think he has the potential to develop into a player who can win from the pocket and also contribute as a runner. I see him as being a viable competitor for the starting quarterback job down the line at Cal.