Cal offensive coordinator Jake Spavital breaks down the quarterback competition

What does Cal offensive coordinator Jake Spavital think of each of his five quarterback competitors? We had a one-on-one sit-down with him earlier this week.

On Monday, we caught up with California offensive coordinator Jake Spavital to talk about his five quarterback competitors, ahead of Wednesday's scrimmage. The Bears ran 140 plays in a long scrimmage on Saturday, and here are the main offensive numbers:

Passing (Comp-Att, Yds, TD, INT)
Ross Bowers (17-23, 206, TD, INT), Chase Forrest (9-18, 104, 3 TD), Zach Kline (7-9, 87, 2 TD), Max Gilliam (7-15, 59), Luke Rubenzer (2-6, 22, TD)

Rushing (Att-Yds, TD)
Vic Enwere (11-72, TD), Patrick Laird (7-41), Fabiano Hale (6-29), Billy McCrary (7-13, TD), Zach Kline (6-6), Alex Netherda (2-5, TD), Luke Rubenzer(4-0), Max Gilliam(3-0), Chase Forrest (2-(-4)), Ross Bowers(1-(-9))

Receiving (Rec, Yds, TD)
Chad Hansen (8-109, TD), Jordan Duncan (6-40), Patrick Worstell (5-47), Brandon Singleton (4-73, 2 TD), Bug Rivera (4-44), Raymond Hudson (3-37, TD), Austin Aaron (3-30), Greyson Bankhead (2-8, TD), Justin Dunn (2-4), Jordan Veasy (1-34), Vic Wharton (1-32), Carlos Strickland (1-12, TD), Bug Rivera (1-5), Jack Austin (1-1, TD)

Here's our conversation:

General thoughts on the quarterback competition: "They're still going through the learning curve. The thing is, like I said after the scrimmage, they're expanding it a little bit more. You can see them evolving. They're not making the same mistakes twice, which is always good. Defensive coordinators are always going to have their adjustments, and their adjustments to the adjustments. You've got to get them to stop thinking as much. There's a lot of positives that you can take out of it, but we've still got a ways to go."

Ross Bowers got a lot of reps on Monday, was that because of a hierarchy, or another reason? "Yeah, in all honesty, it was because he missed two practices, so I was trying to get him caught up to speed on some things that he hasn't had a chance to rep, and things that he's kind of struggling with. You'll see me do that with some kids that I feel like they need to get more reps in a certain type of scheme, and then I'll rep them even more at it."

Head coach Sonny Dykes has said that Max Gilliam has made a jump, what does that mean substantively? "A lot has to do with just he's now understanding that this is college ball. I forget that he should be going to prom next week. I think the speed is starting to slow down, and in this system, we put so much on the quarterback. They've got to communicate everything out, get the right checks, make us right at times, and it's taken him a little bit, but you can see it's starting to slow down for him."

During the scrimmage on Saturday, it seemed like Gilliam looked a bit robotic at times, slow and you can hear the servos moving: "A lot has to do with his thinking too much. He's just not confident, and he just doesn't understand what to do yet with certain things. I try to make certain adjustments, because you can make one scheme look 50 different ways, and his head was spinning a little bit on that. When he did look good, it was on things that he's very comfortable with, and that he's repped."

Zach Kline looked so confident and comfortable during the scrimmage, and obviously, you don't want him running, but he looked so sure, like the Kline from high school: "I think he's getting better. I think he's got some of the best arm talent I've ever seen, and that's been the line on him for four or five years. I've heard about it, but you can tell he's got a very strong arm. The ball comes out tight, and the ball comes out clean, which, it's tough to do."

It's also tough to overthrow Brandon Singleton."Yeah, and he's working more on touch. That's where he's got to get better at, and he knows that. We spend a lot of time working on the little things, working on his touch. He's very confident in his arm talent, and you can see that, especially when he knows where his first read is. He's very confident at fitting it in there."

Kline does, however, catch guys on the back hip and spin them towards open grass, and around the defensive backs, and we've seen that several times recently, and that seems to be fairly advanced: "It is. You'll see that a lot on Sundays. That's kind of where the game is going -- a lot of back shoulder throws, where it's a thing that can go a lot of different directions. It's one play, but it can look, there can be very many presentations on it, just based on how they're going to be covered. I think we've got to the point where we're evolving, and we're seeing where Zach can't make the throw if the DB's one over the top, so he's going to throw it to the grass, to the spot where it's going to be an easier catch for the receivers. I've hit my head on a wall for a while with it, but we're starting to get to the point where we can hit those."

Hitting your head against the wall with Kline? 'With all of them. They start to understand where the ball placement should be, and, 'Do I throw it deep? Do I throw it short?' That's just a lot about reps and just getting comfortable with who they're throwing to."

Thoughts on Luke Rubenzer? The arm strength, he's a very different QB from Kline, didn't get a whole lot of throws in the Saturday scrimmage, and he didn't run: "I didn't get to him enough. I'm trying to rep these kids and give them fair evaluations. If you go through all the plays, him and Max got 18-20 plays, and the rest got around 30-35 plays."

Note: On Wednesday, Rubenzer got 19 plays in an 80-play scrimmage, while Bowers got 12, Kline 15, Gilliam 16 and Chase Forrest 15. Rubenzer was 2-for-6 passing with three sacks and two rushes on Wednesday.

Forrest, if he's good, you don't notice him, and he's been here the longest, so of course he looks the smoothest and the most confident. What's your take on him? "I think he's a very intelligent kid. I think he thinks everything through. He understands what we're doing. He studies it and takes a lot of pride in it, and you can see that he's got that game experience. Like I've said, he's very calm out there, and that's probably the reason why you don't notice him. Whether it's good or bad, he stays the same, here a lot of kids, like Ross, is emotional when good things happen, or bad. Same with Luke. That's just who they are, as kids, and you want them to be their own man when they're out there, and be their own personality. I think he's coming along. I think he's a very intelligent kid, who can get us in the right spots."

Forrest didn't have the greatest scrimmage on Saturday. "This is what I always tell them: It's never as good or never as bad as you think. If you think you played really well, you probably didn't play as well as you thought. THere's a lot of learning experiences, and I think he did some good things, and his decision-making, at times -- if I can get their mind in the right spot, we can eventually get to the point where we can execute it with the throws. I'm doing some things that they're not accustomed to, where we're throwing a lot of perimeter screens, that require you to get it out very, very fast, and Zach has such a strong arm, that he can be slower with his footwork. Everybody else, if you don't have a strong arm, you've got to speed it up. We find ways to be creative and get it out there. if you watch the individual drills I do, I just catch-and-throw, catch-and-throw, catch-and-throw, try to just do muscle memory for these guys."


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