I got my first impressions Monday of redshirt freshman quarterback Zach Kline, other than watching him deliver a few laser-beam passes in last year’s spring game.
Because Kline essentially was off-limits to reporters last season as a freshman, Monday’s informal post-practice interview session was the first chance most of us had to talk with the young man from San Ramon Valley High.
And he got our attention.
Asked a routine question about the pace of Cal’s new no-huddle, spread offense, Kline said he loves it.
Then he added:
“Really demands the best … which is what this program needs. We’re kind of in a lull, but we’re going to get right out of it, that’s for sure.
“We’re obviously expecting a national championship. I know the fans want Rose Bowl, but this teams wants national championship. We’re not going to settle until we get that.”
Let’s see, Cal hasn’t played in a Rose Bowl since probably before Kline’s parents were born, but the Bears will zoom past that directly to the national championship game. That’s right, the team that was 3-9 and ended last season by allowing 62 points to Oregon State.
Look, I’m not making fun of Kline here. He’s a kid, and kids say outrageous stuff. None of us who have lived a little really believe the Bears can win the national championship next season, right?
But sometime after that . . . well, I’m willing to let Kline and his teammates dream. That’s what they should do, what they have to do.
He understands there is a lot of work to be done, that achieving big things isn’t simply a matter of wishing for them.
Kline certainly isn’t assuming he will be the No. 1 quarterback. He said all the right things on that count.
Asked what he expects from the quarterback battle that also involves senior Allan Bridgford, junior Austin Hinder, sophomore Kyle Boehm and true freshman Jared Goff, Kline showed appropriate deference.
“All I know is all these guys are studs. Hinder over there, he’s a stud. I have no idea,” he said. “I’m just trying to compete, do my best and, you know what, if it’s God’s plan, then I’ll be on the field. If it’s not, then I’m going to cheer on my teammates. Just going to try my hardest out here.”
Asked what it will take to emerge as the No. 1, Kline said, “Put the ball in the end zone and don’t turn it over. Complete the ball and just do your job.
“It sounds easy, but obviously with studs on the other side of the ball it gets to be complicated sometimes. I was pleased with all the QBs today. It was awesome to see Hinder throwing freaking dimes down there … Bridg and all the guys.”
Hinder and Bridgford also were upbeat and enthusiastic after the first workout of the spring. But neither of them referenced winning a national title.
Still, the Wright Bros. never would have gotten off the ground at Kittyhawk if they didn’t cling to a dream everyone else probably thought was a little nuts.
Maybe this was Kline’s sly way of trying to display some of that leadership and ability to inspire those around him that Sonny Dykes and his staff are looking for in their quarterback. Show ‘em he’s not just a big arm, but a big-picture thinker.
Or maybe he just made the kind of outrageous, wonderful, crazy remark that anyone in his position at his age might make.
I have no problem with that.