BERKELEY -- Saturday marked the completion of a six-day rotation, of sorts, for the three California quarterbacks vying for the starting gig. After three days of sharing essentially equal reps in seven-on and full 11-on-11, and two days where Jared Goff and Austin Hinder took limited reps, it was redshirt freshman Zach Kline's turn to take the fewest snaps. All three saw improvement from the past two days, which saw the defense come out on top.
"It was better today," said head coach Sonny Dykes. The energy was better from the start. The focus was better. We've kind of hit that point during two-a-days where guys are – or during camp, rather; we don't do two-a-days anymore – but during camp, where guys start to lose their legs a little bit, and then everybody becomes a step slower and the execution's not very good. We didn't have a very good mentality yesterday, and thought the mentality on the offense and on defense was really good today. I thought it was a competitive practice."
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After a poor Friday, redshirt junior signal-caller Hinder was much improved on Saturday, getting the majority of first-team snaps without throwing an interception or getting sacked.
Hinder started off against the No. 1 defense in the middle of practice with a seven-yard completion to Jackson Bouza, and after a run by Jeffrey Coprich, faked a handoff to Khalfani Muhammad and then found a wide-open Bouza on the left side for a gain of about 15 yards.
Hinder struggled a bit on his next few throws, overthrowing Bryce Treggs on a screen to the left, which led the sophomore receiver into a teeth-rattling hit by cornerback Kameron Jackson. Hinder than hit Treggs on a quick button hook, but he was stopped by defensive end Kyle Kragen. Treggs took the next pass in the chest for about seven yards, using a nice step-back to get away from Cedric Dozier before being brought down by safety Jason Gibson.
Treggs then turned in his second drop of the day, seeing Hinder's next pass sail through his hands
All in all, Hinder was much more accurate and made better decisions on Saturday than he did when taking first reps over the past two days.
"I thought Hinder was better today," Dykes said. "We'll just look at it and see. I thought – based on what I saw today – I thought they all performed pretty well. I think the timing was better, the throws are getting out a little sooner. I thought the accuracy was better, particularly with Hinder, so we'll see how it plays out."
Dykes said that, ideally, he wants to get at least some decision on quarterbacks made by the beginning of next week.
"We'll sit down tonight and kind of evaluate those things and then try to see if we can't make a decision and see where we go from there, whether it's naming a starter or whether it's to narrow it down," Dykes said.
While Monday's scheduled scrimmage – the first time the Bears will put on full pads – will play into that decision, it won't be the final word.
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"You want to look at the whole body of work, and we don't have that much to make the decision, so it's got to be a little bit based on what we saw in the spring, as well," Dykes said. "You've got to factor that in, because we had 15 chances to evaluate guys. Then, you've got – more importantly – what's been going on out here today. We just haven't had as many opportunities. You don't want to base it on one performance. You want to try to look at the body of work, but again, the team setting in the scrimmage is going to be important."
Goff got the second-most reps with the first team on Saturday, and was very steady, particularly in the seven-on-seven period.
After seeing Muhammad pull a Brendan Bigelow Ohio State move to spring out of Khairi Fortt's grip, Goff hit Jacob Wark on a drag route, and after spinning out of a hit by Nathan Broussard, the 6-foot-4 former tight end got free and made for paydirt.
Goff finished his seven-on drive with a zinger over the middle to Ray Hudson in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
Kline was the most accurate of the three on the day, and made the most out of the fewest reps, showing good zip and check-down skills, as well as precision on the timing routes.
The redshirt freshman started his seven-on drive with a throw over the middle to Kyle Boehm, but the wildcat QB/receiver was tripped up by Lucas King, and the pass fell, incomplete.
At his own 40-yard line, Kline fired his next pass just outside the right hash to speedy Caleb Coleman for a first down, but was nearly picked on his next throw, going for Hudson. Kline threaded the needle over King and hit the true freshman inside receiver right in the numbers, but it popped off of his shoulder pads for an incompletion.
After hitting Jack Austin on a quick timing route to the left, Kline looked right on his next snap, then came back on his third progression to find Patrick Worstell -- his former Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Valley teammate – for about 20 yards.
Inside receiver Bryce McGovern then came up with a big diving grab on a crossing route for 10 yards, and running back Daniel Lasco took an underneath pass from Kline and trucked Isaac Lapite for an extra handful of yards.
Lasco and Muhammad got the lion's share of first reps at running back, as Bigelow was once again limited during contact periods.
"He didn't practice today. We held him out of the contact stuff," Dykes said. "We'll do that again, from time to time. That's kind of what we've been doing with Nick Forbes. He was back out today, doing some stuff, so the guys that are a little bit banged up, we're going to hold them, some."
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With Bigelow limited, Muhammad saw more time in kickoff return live periods, taking back several big runs.
"He'll be in the picture from Day One on the kickoff return stuff," Dykes said. "He could be the starter. We'll see. There will be good competition back there. Kam [Jackson] will be back there, Treggs will be back there, Bigelow when he gets healthy will be back there.
Walk-on running back Mitchel Bartolo made an appearance on Saturday, his first day of camp.
"We had a spot – I don't even remember why we had a spot, truthfully – so we brought him in, and he's got to go through a little bit of acclimation – three days of acclimation with no shoulder pads – and then he'll be free to go," Dykes said. "He had a chance to come in to camp, so he's done a good job of getting in here and getting things going. He's a great kid, a hard-working kid and brings some energy to that running back spot."
Inside receiver Spencer Hagan did not dress on Saturday, as he hit a snag with his surgically-repaired knee.
"He's struggling a bit, health-wise, so we'll see," Dykes said. "We'll kind of see how that plays out with him."
Despite the two drops by the usually-reliable Treggs, the receivers were much better on Saturday, with Hawaii transfer Trevor Davis drawing a lot of praise.
Wide receiver Maurice Harris continued to favor his injured finger, catching most of his passes with one hand.
Walk-on quarterbacks Jake Geringer and Joey Mahalic each got one drive in 11-on-11s against the third-team defense, with freshman offensive linemen Aaron Cochran (RT), Chris Borrayo (LG) and Vince Johnson (LT) and Mark Brazinski at center.
"It was good to get everybody some work, get those guys in there and see how they do and mix it up a little bit," Dykes said. "It was good to see. It's good to see some of those freshmen start to get a little bit more and more comfortable."
Nick Forbes was in pads today, but was a bit limited. He didn't participate in much contact, but did get into contact at the end.
Avery Sebastian was out today, but without the walking boot. Dykes said that he'll be "good to go" for the scrimmage, but that's a big "probably."
Chris McCain was in and out, and still has some pain in his surgically-repaired shoulder, though Dykes said it's not related to the surgery. He said that "it's more of a bruise."
Viliami Moala once again was dressed, but did not really do anything. Dykes said that there are some academic things he needs to take care of, and he should be good to go by the second half of next week.
Trey Cheek felt his hamstring grab during practice today and was carted off the field. Dykes said he "could be out for a little bit of time."
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