DAY THREE: QB Race Heats Up

After Zach Kline and Jared Goff split the first two days with the first team, Day Three saw all three quarterbacks -- including Austin Hinder -- get time with the top unit.

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BERKELEY -- If there's one thing that the addition of a little Southern blood to the California football program brings, it's a fighting spirit. So far, on the field, the Bears have gotten into a few scuffles since the offensive and defensive lines dusted up on Day One, and head coach Sonny Dykes is just fine with that.

"You want to see it be competitive. The good thing is that they're not getting out of hand. You want guys competing against each other, and they know. Guys may get in a shoving match, or whatever, and then, it's over," Dykes said after Day Three. "You watch NFL practice, and there are going to be some guys mixing it up from time to time. It's what you want. I've been places where I was begging them to fight. Nobody cared enough to fight. No one was competitive enough to fight. Luckily, we're not having to deal with those issues, because those are much bigger issues than a couple of guys shoving each other."

The biggest battle brewing, though, remains that for the starting quarterback gig. Each of the three contenders -- Jared Goff, Austin Hinder and Zach Kline -- got a fair amount of reps, with Kline and Goff splitting most of the time with the first unit offensive line.

[READ MORE: Day Three Live Thread]

Over the previous two days, Goff and then Kline took almost all of the first-team reps, and while Goff showed well on Monday and Kline really got into a groove on Tuesday, Wednesday saw Goff finally settle in a bit.

"We rolled some guys through a little bit more today, but I thought they all did well," said head coach Sonny Dykes. "I thought, today, was probably Jared's best day. He looked more comfortable today than he did the other two days."

Goff had a bit of a dip on Tuesday, but bounced back well on Wednesday, finally getting to use his legs a bit – the biggest tool he has over Kline. During team 11-on-11s, defensive end Chris McCain speed rushed tackle Matt Williams back five yards, and charged headlong toward the true freshman signal-caller. Goff saw a hole open up in front of him and shimmied through for a gain of about 15 yards on the ground. A few plays later, the pocket absolutely evaporated around Goff, but he remained calm and was able to make his read, step up under pressure and take advantage of blown coverage to hit Bryce Treggs on a deep post for a touchdown.

"I thought he was better today. I thought he did a lot of good things today, and distinguished himself, probably, more today than he has, at any point up to now," Dykes said of Goff. "I thought he was accurate, I thought the ball got out on time pretty consistently today, and that happens. It's funny: The first couple of practices, normally, the quarterbacks are just (snaps fingers) a little bit late. All the throws are a little late, all the reads are a little late, and it starts to get a little bit quicker and things kind of start to sort themselves out."

Goff started with a few misfires, but got better and better as practice wore on, particularly on the shorter timing and touch routes, hitting a shallow drag route to Bryce McGovern coming out of the Y-receiver slot. Goff also benefitted from a one-handed grab by Chris Harper over sophomore corner Stefan McClure at the right front corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

"What happens is these guys go all summer, seven-on-seven, and then you stick an offensive line in front of them, and it's a whole different ballgame," Dykes said. "You've got all of these defensive guys and their sight lines are all messed up and they don't see as well, so there's a period of adjustment to that, and then just the speed of it all. It's usually three or four practices before you start to see guys settle in. The good news is that I thought we've performed pretty consistently at that position. I didn't like the interceptions. We've got to not throw interceptions. That's going to be a big part of figuring out who's going to be the quarterback."

In the latter half of practice, Goff delivered a 25-yard seed down field to Stephen Anderson, one-on-one with safety Michael Lowe. On the next throw, Goff sent an inside screen on a line to Chris Harper, showing off good vision and timing. Inside screens were the order of the day for the offense, which helped all three quarterbacks get into a better rhythm, and then later on, the offense opened up the down-field game, which is where Kline, in particular, shined.

Perhaps the best way to describe the practice as a whole is to say that it started slow, and yes, maybe a bit on the boring side, but as the day wore on, the offense seemed to open up, tempo sped up, and intensity picked up. From inside screens and early touch passes at the beginning of the day, the quarterbacks – and receivers, for that matter – got to stretch things out towards the end. Treggs, for one, after a particularly well-contested one-on-one rep with Kameron Jackson -- sighed and smiled.

Then, he sprinted back to the wide receiver line for another rep.

Jalen Jefferson started off the final scrimmage period with a quick interception on Kline, and nearly notched another one (as the defense tallied five on the day), doing his best Star Wars impression by jumping a route by Kyle Boehm and leaping high into the air to bat down a Kline missile.

For the first time in the past 17 practices – including most of spring ball – Kline's gunslinger mentality cost him, but on the very next throw, Kline settled down and surveyed the field on a slow-developing play, finding Trevor Davis in stride on a skinny post from 45 yards out for an over-the-top touchdown – showing both the best and worst of Kline's attributes on three consecutive plays.

Kline again tried to thread the needle several plays later, looking to Boehm in double coverage against Damariay Drew and Cameron Walker, leading to a three-Bear mid-air collision and an incompletion. Again, on the very next play, Kline hit Davis in stride on the right sideline for a touchdown.

Later, Kline found speedy Caleb Coleman with a dart on a slant route in the red zone as he got into more of a rhythm.

Hinder took the earliest reps with the first-team line, and started out fairly uneven, with a bad overthrow of Jeffrey Coprich in the back of the end zone and a botched handoff.

In the final set of full 11-on-11s, Hinder benefitted from some superb grabs by the wide receiver corps on the outside, finding Treggs on the right sideline in double coverage for a nice gain. Several plays later, Deandre Coleman attacked the left side of the offensive line and flushed Hinder from the pocket. Hinder escaped to his right, took two steps and found a tip-toeing Jackson Bouza at the right edge of the north end zone for a touchdown. On the next play, though, Hinder lost the snap and had to run right with it, losing about 15 yards as Jefferson came up with the flag-football sack, pulling the hand towel out of Hinder's waistband.

"I thought Zach continued to look pretty good. He's gotten better and better every practice. Austin's done some good stuff as well, so I feel good about those guys," Dykes said. "I don't know that there's been a separation yet. [It's] still probably a bit early. We'll start to see one of those guys get a little bit more settled, a little bit more confident, and, typically, you guys will know about the same time we do, when the starter kind of takes the reins. You say, ‘Well, how do you know when it happens?' You don't, really. You get that sense, as teammates start to respond to him. Then, you say, ‘Here's the guy.' We're going to try and let it happen, naturally, and if it doesn't happen, we'll force the issue a little bit." Top Stories