BERKELEY -- Despite head coach Sonny Dykes's assertion that redshirt junior Austin Hinder was the quarterback who has "improved the most" since last spring, on Sunday, in his very next breath, Dykes said that the California quarterback race is down to two: Jared Goff and Zach Kline.
"I think what we're doing, we're going to give Zach and Jared right now the majority of the first-team reps," Dykes said. "We'll split it up from there, and Austin won't get as many. We'll let those two guys kind of compete and see what happens between the two of them. They both did good things today … I think Zach and Jared have really set themselves apart."
Kline completed 5-of-6 passes for 124 yards and two TDs during team periods Sunday, while Goff was 10-of-13 for 77 yards.
Kline turned in one of the biggest plays on the day, hitting Jackson Bouza on an inside slant route from his own three-yard line, hitting the redshirt senior in-stride at midfield for a 97-yard touchdown in full 11-on-11s.
Not to be outdone, tailback Brendan Bigelow took a handoff from Goff during earlier 11-on-11s and got to the corner on the right side, turning up field behind a block from Chris Harper and cutting hard enough to leave Adrian Lee standing in disbelief, as the junior rushed for a 76-yard TD.
"I've been testing it in practice here and there, but that was the big test, right there," Bigelow said of his thrice-operated-on right knee. "That was the first test."
What was going through Bigelow's mind when he made that hard plant?
"I was just trying to stay on my feet, make a couple moves and get the feel of how it is when I really get in a game, so, just: ‘Run fast,'" Bigelow said.
But, big plays were not the only order of the day, as the Bears got into three separate scuffles – two of which involved nearly the entire team.
With seven practices now gone without full contact or full pads, the defense has begun to get a bit chippy, and the first defender to show that on Sunday was defensive end Chris McCain. During the second set of 11-on-11s, with the first-team offense facing the first-team defense, Goff took his first snap, found nothing open on the outside and elected to run. McCain, trying to keep containment, yanked the true freshman signal-caller down with a horse-collar tackle, prompting inside receiver Richard Rodgers to race quickly over to the east sideline and confront McCain. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound defender threw several punches at Rodgers's helmeted head before the two were swallowed by a mass of players.
"As smart as our guys are, sometimes, I'm not sure they understand that that's not a winning proposition," Dykes said of the fists-on-helmet punches.
On the next play, Goff's deep post to Harper was broken up cleanly by Lee, and all seemed to be forgotten. But, on the very next snap, after a big – but clean – hit by Stefan McClure to stop Khalfani Muhammad -- offensive lineman Geoffrey Gibson got into it with the redshirt sophomore corner, and tempers immediately re-ignited, with Gabe King flying into the fray with arms spread.
After the second dust-up, Dykes called an immediate halt to practice and gathered the team at midfield. The first-year head coach didn't pull any punches.
"We are a team. We've come a long way. We cannot afford to let anything divide us," he told his team, before admonishing them for not thinking about the harm they could cause to themselves and their teammates.
"We're doing everything we can to keep you guys healthy, and the way you're going, we're not going to have anybody left by Aug. 31" Dykes said to the Bears.
After practice resumed, McCain again got into it with Steven Moore during OL-DL one-on-ones.
"We had an emotional practice, a little bit, which was good. It's that time in camp where guys get tired and get a little beat up, and are competing hard against each other. Then, guys start keeping score, to an extent – this guy punched him or whatever – so we had our little flare up, we got past it, and we'll move on and learn from it," Dykes said afterward. "As I said before, I think it's a positive sign, but we've got to learn how to handle it. It's positive that our guys care and compete against each other. Now, they've got to learn to keep their emotions a bit more in-check, but that's part of the process."
Lost in the commotion was a very fine day by Bigelow, who was a bit more active in contact drills than he's been over the past two days, as Cal looks toward Monday's scrimmage, where Bigelow is expected to get more time in full-contact situations.
"We'll see. We'll probably let some of those guys get some reps," Dykes said. "That'll be a discussion we have tomorrow as a coaching staff. I would anticipate almost everybody will play some, other than some guys. It's important to get Bigelow out there and let him get hit a little bit, let him finish some runs and get his pads down. I think that's always the next step in getting comfortable after injuries: Going live and getting to test it."
Bigelow, for his part, is more than ready. At the end of 11-on-11s to conclude practice, Bigelow ran onto the field for a snap with Hinder and the second-team offense, but he was pulled back, much to his displeasure. If the first game was tomorrow, he said, he'd be ready to go.
-- Harper not only continued his strong camp at wide receiver, but got into the wildcat formation for three plays early in practice. He fumbled the first snap, but was clean on the other two.
"We'll play around with it," said Dykes, who has had former quarterback Kyle Boehm as his go-to Bone and wildcat signal-caller. "We'll roll some guys through there and get different guys and what they bring us and how they handle it and see if there's an advantage to that."
-- Now that Hinder is effectively out of the running for the starting gig, there will be some thought to using him in the wildcat, as well.
"Yeah, that's a possibility," Dykes said. "He's a guy who certainly comes to mind as a good runner, and there's a lot of different ways to get something out of that. Sometimes, you want a powerful guy – a short-yardage guy – and other times, you want a fast guy who can run your traditional zone-read stuff with. There's a lot of different guys that check the boxes."
-- The first-team offensive line looked quite different on Sunday, with redshirt freshman Matt Cochran at right guard and Steven Moore at right tackle.
"We're trying to find the best five guys, and we're going to play Cochran a little bit at guard, which is something we've talked about doing," said Dykes. "We did roll him between center and guard today. That's something that we'll do. We played Matt a little bit at right tackle, as well, and we'll do that form time to time. We're just trying to see what's going on. Steven Moore played right tackle, as well, today. Steven's a guy who, we think he's right in the mix of being one of the best five linemen, so if he is, we want to try to get him over, playing opposite of Freddie [Tagaloa], and just let that stuff play out."
Tagaloa went down late in 11-on-11s, favoring his right leg, but walked off the field under his own power, albeit gingerly.
"I don't think it was anything serious," Dykes said. "If I was guessing, I think he probably got stepped on."
-- Jordan Rigsbee -- who has become very much a leader along the offensive front, and one of the mainstays along with Tagaloa, turned in a big drive block during 11-on-11s. With the defense showing blitz on wildcat QB Boehm, the redshirt sophomore rushed right, where Rigsbee pulled over and drove back a linebacker to spring Boehm for about 15 yards.
-- The center position – which has been filled on the first team by Chris Adcock -- is still, according to Dykes – up for grabs. With Cochran's move to right guard on Sunday, JuCo transfer Donovan Frazer served as third-team center, with Mark Brazinski moving up to the second line. Cochran spent the better part of the final period of practice giving Frazer a little one-on-one snapping instruction.
"He was really good in the spring," Dykes said of Cochran. "It'll be a good battle between both he and Adcock, and also between Crosthwaite and him at right guard. We're just trying to find the best combination of linemen and develop some depth. We'll continue to let him and Chris battle for the center job, and if Chris takes the lead, then we're going to try to get Cochran battling over there at the right guard spot."
-- Chris Borrayo -- who offensive line coach Zach Yenser said was by far the most physically-ready freshman – got some time with the second unit, as did Vince Johnson.
-- In shadow 11s, Bill Tyndall -- who's been recovering from ankle surgery – saw time with the second team offensive line.
-- Inside receiver Ray Hudson had his third straight strong day, hauling in two passes from Kline during seven-on-sevens. Kline started the period with an underneath completion to Trevor Davis, then overthrew Caleb Coleman on the right side after freshman DB Cameron Walker roughed Davis up for what would likely have been a pass interference. On the next rep, Kline hit Austin coming back over the middle for a touchdown.Kline then hit Jacob Wark on a quick out for five yards, and then handed off to Daniel Lasco for a seven-yard touchdown. Starting his next drive back at his own 40, Kline found Darren Ervin on a comeback route on the right side, then hit Hudson for 19 on the right sideline, before finding the Pleasanton (Calif.) Foothill product underneath against Hardy Nickerson.
-- Kline's decision making was perhaps the best it's been all fall camp, showing on one particular play in the last set of 11-on-11s, when he stepped up and hit a leaping Rodgers in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown, putting it in the perfect spot for the jumbo inside receiver instead of trying to force a ball into coverage.
Kline was not without his struggles, at times, with a wrong-route overthrow to the left and a low pass to Kenny Lawler which was only saved by a great sliding grab from the redshirt freshman receiver.
-- Goff took the majority of reps with the first team, throwing the back-shoulder fade better than the other two quarterbacks during seven-on-sevens. Goff only had one incompletion and a coverage sack during his seven-on reps, and had a nice touchdown to Davis in his first drive.
When Goff took the helm for the second set of 11-on-11s with the first team line, he immediately hit Bouza on the right sideline for about seven yards, before the next play went to Bigelow for his big touchdown.
On the next drive, Goff hit Darius Powe for a four-yard gain, only to see the big receiver stopped cold by Avery Sebastian, who was back with the first-team defense after sitting out the last two days.
Goff's most notable play showed the kind of calm and maturity that has allowed him to compete neck-and-neck with Kline over the first week. Under pressure from a charging Jalen Jefferson -- who leaped into the air in an effort to spook the true freshman signal caller – Goff stepped up and found James Grisom on the right side for a good gain against Cedric Dozier.
-- The Monday freshman development practice at 9:30 AM has been cancelled. The scrimmage will start at 4 PM.
DAY SEVEN: Fight Night at Memorial
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