BERKELEY -- California head coach Sonny Dykes stopped short of saying that there is any true clarity to the Golden Bears' quarterback race, but judging by the reps, and by what we've seen over the first eight practices of spring, there is a pecking order emerging.
"A little bit here and there," Dykes said when asked if there's any certainty with a top three. "We'll know a little bit more after tomorrow. We'll have a long, extended scrimmage tomorrow, and put those guys in as many game situations as we can put them in, and then try to evaluate it from there, and hopefully, make a little bit of progress, in terms of heading the direction we want to head to."
That open scrimmage will be held at 10:30 a.m., at California Memorial Stadium, but judging by what we've seen so far, it's hard to say that redshirt sophomore Chase Forrest isn't the frontrunner. Dykes said that Forrest is the "most consistent" of the clutch of signal callers, and he looks every bit the confident veteran. He has an easy delivery, smooth footwork and an air of confidence not unlike that possessed by Jared Goff, who returned to Berkeley on Friday afternoon to throw out the first pitch before the No. 12 Cal baseball team took on UCLA, and watched the balance of the game in the stands with former Cal receiver Bryce Treggs.
That confidence was on full display when Forrest calmly stepped up and delivered a strike to Carlos Strickland in the front corner of the end zone, fitting the ball inside against Chibuzo Nwokocha for a touchdown in 11-on-11 work.
"They've all had good moments," Dykes said of his quintet of quarterbacks. "Chase has been, up to this point, has probably been the most consistent, but we'll know more, tomorrow."
Redshirt freshman Ross Bowers has really come on this spring, with very deft footwork (leaps and bounds better than last year, and even his first practice this spring), and a consistent ability to drive the ball down field.
Bowers threaded a 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ray Hudson in the back corner of the end zone in 11-on-11s, and then later found Brandon Singleton up the seam for a 40-plus-yard gain, but the play as blown dead. Bowers certainly looks like he's the No. 2, just based on his performance so far, regardless of reps.
"Ross is good," Dykes said. "He didn't practice on Wednesday. He had some nasal surgery over the break, but he's fine. He'll go full tomorrow. I thought he's looked good at times, and really, they've all done some good things. Zach [Kline]'s done some good things at times. Max [Gilliam] has done some good things."
Kline was, as has been expected of him, been driving the ball well up the middle of the field, and showed a bit of touch on longer balls, more than we've come to expect from him. He looks to be the No. 3 at the moment.
"We'll know more after tomorrow," Dykes said. "He's got a big arm, and you can see it at times. It's just working on the other things, and being more consistent."
Dykes still wants to get the quarterback race down to three by the end of spring.
Slot receiver Melquise Stovall was not dressed, as he had "a headache," with possible concussion-like symptoms after he "got tackled a couple times pretty good" on Wednesday. He'll be out through the weekend.
Dykes said that Tennessee transfer Vic Wharton -- who looked very smooth, particularly in the hands department, but a step slow -- will be a full-go for the scrimmage, as will fellow receiver Austin Aaron (collar bone).
"I don't know if Wharton's going to be 100 percent, through spring football," Dykes said. "He's grinding through it the best he can every day. He's sore, but he just needs to get out and keep working. He's not in great shape. He knows that. He needed to lose some weight, and he's probably lost close to 10 pounds. He's making progress. He's working through it."
By June, Dykes said, Wharton should be 100 percent.
While the quarterback situation may be getting settled, the offensive line seems to be anything but. Patrick Mekari played center, guard and tackle during the day, and his versatility could help him be the sixth man up front. Another versatile body -- Texas A&M grad transfer Jeremiah Stuckey -- was in attendance, as he's returned to his Northern California home, but he could not practice. He won't be able to be on the field until the summer, but he said he's excited to compete. He'll be a student at the Graduate School of Public Health.
"He can come watch practice, and that's really about it," Dykes said. "The good thing about Jeremiah is that he's played everywhere. That's the thing that is the deal with him. He's played center, guard and tackle, so that's the big thing we're trying to do right now, is figure out the best five, and figure out the best five positions for them to play. The interior guys that needed to make improvement have made improvement. I think we're improving at the center position. We're starting to develop some depth."
"The biggest thing we've got to do right now, is to get through spring, figure out who the best five are, because there's good competition right now, especially at the guard and center spots," Dykes said.
Converted defensive tackle Chris Palmer got some time with the first team at right guard, as did Semisi Uluave and Dwayne Wallace. Palmer turned in a nice one-on-one rep, locking out to stymie defensive tackle Russell Becker.
Palmer, Dykes said, is "making a lot of progress." Wallace is "making mistakes you'd expect a new guy to make, but is showing up."
Billy McCrary III continues to impress at running back/slot. He's going to make some decisions very tough for the staff, and he looked very smooth and explosive on Friday. A source said he had a 70-yard run on Wednesday.
"We thought he would be a good offensive player, because he was as a high school player, but he's shown up in the scrimmages," Dykes said. "All the scrimmages up to now, that we've tackled in, he's made a pretty big run. He's been a bit of a pleasant surprise. We'll see how consistent he is."
Walk-on receiver-turned-running back Alex Netherda was also very active, looks to be making the switch to running back quite easily and is definitely an intriguing option.
More Condiments on Order?
"I know he's got some paperwork he just got from Washington State, and we're trying to assess it," Dykes said. "We'll see if he potentially can get a sixth year. That'd be great, just to give us a guy that's played a lot. We feel like we have a lot of depth there, but David's played in a lot of college football games. Some of those other guys haven't played in that many, yet, so if he was able to do that, that'd be another guy that we could count on that's got experience."
Defensive highlights of the day included a touch sack of Bowers by Ray Davison during full 11-on-11s, though Cal did only practice in helmets. Also during 11-on-11s, James Looney tallied a sack on Bowers, and before that, he stripped Vic Enwere for a fumble, clearing the way for a Noah Westerfield scoop-and-score. Looney also used a double-rip to get past Ooms during one-on-one work.
Linebacker Devante Downs was a full-go in seven-on-seven work, but it was another DeVante -- DeVante Wilson -- who was the real star, tearing around the edge in 11-on-11s, pressuring and flushing quarterbacks, and during one-on-ones, where he turned in several very impressive reps. He beat Aaron Cochran, who was as good as he's ever looked through the course of the day.
Another impressive name up front was Luc Bequette, who's been one of the buzzer names in spring ball among coaches. Bequette ripped past Uluav during one one-on-one rep, only to try a bull rush on the sophomore guard the next time out, and get stymied.
"Luc Bequette's done a lot of good things," Dykes said. "Malik Psalms has done some good things for us, at times, at corner. He's a guy who's just got to be more consistent. Those young defensive ends, Zeandae Johnson, has shown up, at times. He'll flash one play, and get out of a gap the next. It's those guys coming on and being consistent."