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Jared Goff's NFL departure leaves a gaping hole at Cal

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McShay breaks down QB draft prospects (2:38)

ESPN NFL draft insider Todd McShay analyzes Memphis QB Paxton Lynch's draft stock after an underwhelming bowl performance against Auburn, as well as how he stacks up with the rest of the quarterback draft prospects. (2:38)

It had been assumed for over a year, but now that Cal quarterback Jared Goff made it official and announced he will enter the NFL draft, the Bears can, if only reluctantly, turn their full attention to what’s next at the position.

It’s tough to understate what Goff has meant to Cal over the past three years and even tougher to project how significantly his departure will affect the team in the immediate future. He was far and away the program’s best quarterback since Aaron Rodgers and leaves with 26 school records, including passing yards, touchdown passes and total offense.

In other words, it would be unreasonable to expect anything other than a significant downgrade from whoever replaces him next year. And that’s not a knock on the guys vying for the job, it’s just the reality of replacing a guy who some NFL scouts think was the most talent quarterback in college football this year.

Goff’s backup this year, Chase Forrest, is the de facto candidate No. 1 to win the starting job. Forrest, who will be a redshirt sophomore next season, was lightly recruited coming out of Southern California-power Mater Dei High School, but the Cal coaching staff has always liked what it has seen from the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder.

Coach Sonny Dykes told ESPN.com in July that when he watched Forrest and UCLA starting quarterback Josh Rosen throw side-by-side at a camp while they were both in high school, Forrest “held his own.” Rosen, of course, was one of the most highly rated quarterback recruits in several years and turned in an impressive debut season for the Bruins this season.

Forrest completed 10 of 18 passes for 162 yards in three appearances off the bench this year.

Freshman Ross Bowers, who redshirted this season, was the more sought-after player during the recruiting process. A four-star pocket passer from Washington, Bowers was ESPN’s No. 13-ranked player in the Class of 2015 and likely will serve as Forrest’s primary competition.

The Bears could also look to Luke Rubenzer, who spelled Goff in 2014 as a running option and will return to quarterback after playing safety this season, Dykes said Thursday. In 12 games this season, Rubenzer finished seventh on the team with 43 tackles and was tied for second with a pair of interceptions, including one in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl win against Air Force.

Rubenzer completed 12 of 21 passes for 166 yards last season and finished third on the team with 207 yards rushing.

Max Gilliam, the country’s No. 26-ranked dual-threat quarterback, signed a financial aid agreement with Cal in September, will enroll in January and participate in spring practice. That’s the same route Goff took to winning the starting job as a true freshman in 2013.

Walk-ons Andrew Black and David Maaghul are also on the roster, but neither are expected to compete for playing time.