California's quarterback battle begins

Five guys are hurling balls inside Memorial Stadium, each getting plenty of chances to impress new California coach Sonny Dykes. But the Bears don full pads on Friday, which means a winnowing process at quarterback will begin in earnest.

Dykes said he wants to narrow the competition as quickly as possible, eliminating two or three guys by the end of spring. Perhaps even one will emerge and be anointed. That would make things easy.

"The thing you want to do is give everybody an opportunity," Dykes said. "You want to make sure everybody has enough of a chance to show what they can and can't do. After that, you've got to start being more careful with who you're giving more reps to."

The initial impressions from Allan Bridgford, Zach Kline, Austin Hinder, Kyle Boehm and Jared Goff? Dykes' up-tempo, spread offense is easier to learn than the pro style offense Cal ran under Jeff Tedford. Bridgford termed it "very simple."

And the pace in practice is much quicker.

"Last year, I felt like I was standing around for 30 minutes before I'd be up again," Bridgford said. "I'd have to get warmed up. Now we're bang, bang, bang with each getting their reps. It's good."

Bridgford is the senior with game experience, though not all of it good. Kline is the touted redshirt freshmen many fans were clamoring for last year. Goff is the touted true freshman who has arrived early to enter the fray. Hinder, a junior, and Boehm, a sophomore, are two former touted recruits looking for new life under Dykes after failing to make a mark under Tedford.

There's been plenty of "touted" with Cal quarterbacks over the past few years, but little in the way of game day excellence and consistency. A big reason Dykes is sitting in the big office in Berkeley is because he's viewed as an offensive innovator who's good with quarterbacks. You know, like Tedford was once viewed.

Goff is the wildcard. USC started Matt Barkley as a true freshman, and the success of redshirt freshmen quarterbacks last year -- Texas A&M's Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and Oregon's Marcus Mariota, to name two -- probably makes it less nerve-racking for a coach to go young behind center.

Still, there's a huge difference between "true" and "redshirt" for a freshman.

"Goff's got talent," Dykes said. "There were times he looked like a kid who ought to be going to the prom. And other times when he looked like a Division I quarterback."

There are more than a few observers who believe Kline has the inside track. With practices now open -- they were locked down under Tedford -- those observers can arrive at more educated opinions. At this early juncture, it's probably too early to provide much of a stagger, and the quarterbacks themselves are offering no inside information.

Said Kline, "All these guys are studs. I have no idea. I'm just trying to compete."

Kline, who has rethought the "I play guitar for Guns & Roses look," called the offensive transition "smooth." That's not surprising, of course. He's not likely to say, "This new offense is horrible." But he was willing to gently contrast his newfound enthusiasm to what preceded it.

"It wasn't that we weren't hard workers before," he said. "We were hard workers. It just wasn't clicking, you know what I mean?"

The Pac-12 blog suspects many Cal fans know exactly what you mean, Zach.

As for the competition, Kline sees it this way: "It's going to be a huge battle. It's going to be an interesting spring."