An Old Priest and a Young Priest
Melquise Stovall should still be in high school, but instead, he spent Saturday on the field at California Memorial Stadium, hauling in seven passes for 128 yards -- all spring game highs -- and scoring two touchdowns -- one on a 32-yard up-the-seam strike from Zach Kline that evoked Kline's first spring touchdown -- a 45-harder to now-coach Spencer Hagan in 2012 -- and a 39-yarder that saw Stovall escape three tackles in the second half.
"He's going to be special," Kline said. "He is so fast. It's crazy to think that he's a freshman. He should be in high school right now. That guy is going to be really special. I'm proud of him, I'm proud of all those guys, not just their ability, but who they are, their character, how they roll. It's a really good team. It's going to be a fun time ... We're seeing an absolute superstar right here, in Melquise Stovall."
"As long as they keep getting the ball to me," Stovall quipped.
And they should. Stovall looked like easily the most dynamic playmaker on the field, and it's not even close. That's not to disparage the other receivers and running backs, but Stovall is incredibly strong, plays with great pad level and despite his size, he's as tough to bring down as a 6-foot-4, 235-pound tight end.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1655672-zach-kline-the-jou... "This guy, he's a special player," Kline continued. "He's only going to get better. It's crazy to think he's going to get even better. I'm really excited to watch that kid play, even when I'm not in this uniform anymore."
"He's electric, explosive and hard to tackle," said head coach Sonny Dykes. "We expected him to make a lot of plays, and he made 'em."
Kline, for his part, went 15-of-16 on the day for 202 yards and two touchdowns, with a 41-yard strike to Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Valley teammate Patrick Worstell.
Kline -- who's been wearing No. 17 this spring -- came to his locker this morning to find an old friend: His grey No. 8. The jersey hanging in his locker didn't just bear his old number; it was his actual jersey from when he was last with Cal in 2013. Because all jerseys had no names on them, the equipment staff actually had to peel his old name plate off.
"When you have an Odyssian journey, a day like this is fun," said Kline.
Kline has obviously been around the block, but he looked so comfortable on Saturday that you almost forgot you weren't watching him in high school again. He was so at ease, so smooth, and so accurate, that if he keeps this going, he's going to make the quarterback decision pretty tough. If he doesn't win, he'll be the best backup in the country. The only pass Kline threw incomplete was a roll-out, tight-coverage throw-away to the sideline. He slid in the pocket, he moved up, he threw into pressure, he didn't force the ball. There weren't many touch throws that Kline had to make, and we've said ad nauseum that that's the biggest hole in his game, but when you need a 40-yard dime dropped, he's got you covered. He also was superb on short timing routes.
Receivers: The Kids are Alright
Three freshmen receivers scored touchdowns -- Stovall, Jordan Duncan (3 for 31 yards, 1 TD) and Brandon Singleton (2 for 35, 1 TD) -- with Singleton scoring on a walk-off 24-yard fade pass from redshirt freshman Ross Bowers.
The receiving corps, as a whole, is going to be a lot better than many are predicting, given the loss of the leading six pass catchers from last season. Even without veteran Ray Hudson, the Bears got very solid play from lengthy Austin Aaron (2 catches, 42 yards), sure-handed newcomer Jordan Veasy (5 catches for 56) and Vic Wharton (4 catches for 43 yards), who's still about 15 pounds heavier than he wants to be, and not quite as fast as he can be.
Run Game Depth
Beyond the receiving corps, the run game was also notable. Even without Tre Watson -- who dressed, but did not play -- and Khalfani Muhammad (running track), the Cal run game was much more active than it had been over the previous three years. There were more runs between the tackles, including an 80-yard cut-back by Vic Enwere for an early touchdown. Enwere finished with six carries for 127 yards. Enwere also had a 27-yard run, sprung by a block from quarterback Chase Forrest.
Also very active was converted safety Billy McCrary III, who, on the very next play after Enwere's touchdown, sprung for a 60-yarder, having to escape five tackles, before he was finally run down by safety Quentin Tartabull, who missed last season with a knee injury. McCrary finished with four carries for 100 yards, and added two catches for 24 yards.
Patrick Laird was a workhorse, rushing for 52 yards on 10 carries, with two touchdowns, and catching three balls for nine yards.
"When we're tackling, hitting, he always performs well," Dykes said of Laird.
Quarterbacks Still Even
Both Jake Spavital and Dykes said that all the quarterbacks looked good, and that there is still no real separation, at this point. Spavital added that there were a lot of missed throws, but they were able to execute and play fast.
Bowers was a bit rough around the edges early, but finished 11-for-21 for 152 yards, two touchdowns and one interception -- a dart up the middle that went right to Trey Turner late in the game.
"He made a bunch of picks this spring," Dykes said.
"I started off pretty slow, and the pick put a damper on things, but the last drive definitely helped with everything," Bowers said. "I just felt like I was rushing things a little early, not letting routes develop. It wasn't that I was getting pressured at all, but I was just ready to play, maybe a little too ready to play."
Bowers -- with Kline on the victorious Blue team -- certainly had fun throwing to Stovall, who hauled in a three-yard pass to start an 88-yard two-minute drill touchdown drive to end the game. In the two-minute drives to end the first half, freshman quarterback Max Gilliam saw tight coverage all across the field, so pulled the ball down and ran for 28 yards. He then threaded the needle to find Justin Dunn for a 20-yard touchdown.
"He was great in the two-minute offense," Dykes said of Gilliam.
The next drive saw Kline hit Stovall for his 32-yarder.
"Just get the ball in his hands, and you see some special stuff," Bowers said. "I'm very pleased with his day, obviously."
All four two-minute drives scored, with Giliam also finding Wharton for 12 yards, and then a nine-yard scoring strike to end the penultimate, 82-yard, nine-play drive to momentarily put the Gold squad up, 37-32.
Presumptive quarterback front-runner Forrest went 16-for-23 for 176 yards and one touchdown on the day. The scoring strike went to Jake Ashton, as Forrest scrambled to his right and found a crossing Ashton for a 13-yard TD.
The only injury to come out of the game was right guard Semisi Uluave, who sprained his right knee early in the first half.
Defensively, other than Turner's pick, quarterback-turned-safety-turned-quarterback-turned-safety-again Luke Rubenzer came up with a pick on a two-point conversion try by Gilliam, and Antoine Albert led all covers with 10 tackles. Safety-turned-linebacker Derron Brown flew off the edge, providing a physical, speedy presence in what was largely a nonexistent pass rush (the front-line defensive linemen sat after the first two series), with the only sack on the day. Defensive tackle Tony Mekari only tallied two tackles, but was a stout presence in the middle of the line.
"We didn't have much of a pass rush," Dykes said, adding that Brown showed up consistently, and that Mekari was able to provide pressure on the quarterbacks.
Kennedy Emesibe got his hands on a Bowers pass for a breakup, and added one tackle.
Dykes said that Damariay Drew "may" have an ACL injury, but he's still two weeks from surgery. There is a chance he plays this season, Dykes said.
Before the game, former Cal quarterback Jared Goff worked out in front of Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and owner Jerry Jones. Trevor Davis, Stephen Anderson and Kenny Lawler worked out with Goff. The Cowboys have the fourth pick overall in the NFL Draft in May.