Saturday's spring game marked the end of Cal's allotted 15 practices, and from the looks of it, it came right at the perfect time, as the team could use some much needed rest and recovery.
In fact, the Bears have been so hindered by injury that they could only afford to play offense versus defense for three quarters, simply because there were not enough bodies to go around. Even with the odd format - an affair that the defense eventually "won" 28-24 - there was still much to be learned.
Each of the quarterbacks shared about the same amount of time under center, with Hinder having one less drive than the other two due to time constraints. If a reader was hoping to get some clarity into which of the Kline-Hinder-Goff trio should start, Saturday did not give it, as all three had their moments – and their struggles.
As expected, Austin Hinder had several nice scrambles and designed runs, but outside of a James Grisom tunnel screen – in which Grisom broke a tackle and did most of the work – he was only steady, if not relatively distinctive.
Zach Kline spent the afternoon showcasing his own mobility, though of a different variety, as he scurried away from oncoming rushers and made throws on the run. In fact, his first touchdown pass came while he was rolling out to his left, before lofting up a 22 yarder to Maximo Espitia. Yet, outside of a few highlights – another one came when he sandwiched a deep ball to Patrick Worstell between two defenders – he had trouble maintaining or extending his drives. A few ill-timed drops did not help him.
Jared Goff led the offense to the most points, but had problems throwing the deep ball with any consistency – most of those attempts did not land anywhere close to receivers - with a handful of them landing ten to fifteen yards over their heads.
Unofficial Drive(s) Chart by Quarterback
Goff – ended by Jeffrey Coprich fumble, D'Amato 39 yard field goal, 3 and out, touchdown to Drake Whitehurst, 3 and out, 3 and out
Kline – touchdown to Maximo Espitia, 3 and out, 3 and out, punt, 3 and out, punt
Hinder – 3 and out, touchdown to James Grisom, 3 and out, punt, 3 and out
As shorthanded as they were, the Cal defense offered some reason for optimism, as the first team unit of Avery Sebastian, Michael Lowe, Stefan McClure, Isaac Lapite, Nathan Broussard, Jalen Jefferson, Hardy Nickerson, Deandre Coleman, Mustafa Jalil, Kyle Kragen and Dan Camporeale gave up a grand total of zero points. For a group that should look drastically different once fall camp starts, that feat is still considerably impressive. Coleman and Jefferson showed well in particular, and while cornerback Stefan McClure did little in the way of statistical impact, the fact that he remained unnoticed is a great sign for a DB.
Both the first and second team defensive lines played well, getting consistent pressure on the quarterbacks and putting a stranglehold on the run game. Kline, Hinder and Goff spent more time outside of the pocket than inside it, a clear result of the effectiveness of the rush defense. Balancing that, all three quarterbacks did very well on the move.
While the pass defense remains a work in progress – and has severely struggled through parts of spring ball – the secondary held up just fine Saturday.
It should be noted that the offense fans saw Saturday – many, for the first time - was not the Bear Raid at full throttle. The team's injuries made that logistically impossible.
For the second straight year, Maurice Harris impressed in the spring game, and his day would have looked even better had one of his catches not been called back. Whether or not this performance translates to anything come fall remains to be seen, but if not, then the Bears do have a bevy of other talented pass catchers. Case in point - with outside receivers Kenny Lawler and Bryce Treggs bottled up, Maximo Espitia and Darius Powe took it on themselves to step up, with many of their catches moving the chains.
Snaps were a problem all afternoon for Mark Brazinski, but starting center Matt Cochran had a few high ones of his own. Unlerss he improves, each play will be a serious adventure if Brazinski sees center time in 2013.
David Wilkerson, Michael Barton and Lucas King all exited early with injuries. Nick Forbes and Kam Jackson did not play.