Last year, there were some fall-camp choices of starting quarterbacks in the Pac-12 that surprised outsiders: Taylor Kelly at Arizona State; Brett Hundley over the veterans at UCLA; Marcus Mariota at Oregon (yes, Mariota was regarded as somewhat of a darkhorse against more experienced Bryan Bennett; turned out, the Oregon coaches knew what they were doing).
Friday brought another curveball, from California: The Bears, and first-year coach Sonny Dykes, named true freshman Jared Goff their starter over Zach Kline. Both are Bay Area products, Goff (6-4, 205) from Marin Catholic High, Kline (6-2, 200) from nearby Danville.
Many observers had figured the choice to be Kline, simply because he’s a redshirt freshman, and the selection might have been easier for Goff to swallow. It can’t be fun to lose the job to another guy who has four years’ eligibility remaining, and has been at Cal only since last winter. But Dykes, whose teams at Louisiana Tech lit up scoreboards, has already created a buzz with his first big decision in naming Goff.
I happened to talk to Dykes Thursday, and here’s what he said about the two: “Zach Kline is kind of the prototypical quarterback, he’s got a big arm, he can make all the throws. He’s dramatically improved; his mid-range accuracy is a lot better. His touch is better. In the spring, he was going to throw the ball as hard as he could all the time. Now he’s learning to make all the touch throws, learning he doesn’t have to hit home runs. He can be a good singles hitter.
“Goff has a very strong arm as well. He’s just a different kind of guy, kind of has a lot of intangibles. He’s really good in the pocket, avoids the rush incredibly well, has a great sense of timing and throws a catchable mid-range ball. The good thing is, I think we can win with either one of them.”
It’ll be Goff who gets the first shot. But he might not want to get too comfortable just yet. In their first four games, the Bears play a Northwestern team with 17 starters returning from a 10-victory club; Ohio State and Oregon.