Football: Determining a starting quarterback is Job One for Dykes as fall camp begins Monday

Cal football practice begins Monday under first-year coach Sonny Dykes, whose immediate priority is to determine a starting quarterback prior to the Bears’ season-opener Aug. 31 against Northwestern.

Zach Kline, Jared Goff and Austin Hinder emerged from spring workouts as candidates for the assignment, but none of them has appeared in a college football game.

Dykes said bottom-line results will settle the competition. “The defining characteristic for winning the job will be who do we think gives us the best chance to win,” he said.

Coming off a 3-9 season that led to coach Jeff Tedford’s firing, the Bears face one of the nation’s most challenging schedules. They play three times against 10-win opponents — Northwestern, Ohio State and Oregon — in their first four games.

Certainly there is some urgency to decide who will run the Bear Raid spread option offense.

“I’m hoping it will happen quickly. We’d like to have something done certainly by practice 10, 12, as you start to enter the third week of practice,” Dykes said. “If it’s obvious the third practice, we’ll do it after the third practice.”

Dykes said each candidate offers something different:

— Kline, a redshirt freshman from Danville, has the strongest arm of the three. “He’s got to learn to rein himself in a bit, try not to force balls through small windows. Has to learn to improve his touch, mid-range accuracy, but can certainly make the throws,” Dykes said. “Has some mental toughness we like, some leadership abilities.”

— Goff, a true freshman from Novato, opened eyes in spring ball, impressing with his ability to grasp the offense. “Jared Goff has been a surprise — just his maturity and his ability to have confidence in himself and to pick things up incredibly quickly,” Dykes said.

— Hinder, a junior from Steamboat Springs, Colo., is “stronger, bigger, perceived to be a little bit better runner,” Dykes said. “That’s something we let him do a little bit of in the spring, probably let him do some in fall camp just to see how good of a runner he actually is.”

Sophomore wide receiver Bryce Treggs said he doesn’t have a favorite.

“I want a quarterback to be named as soon as possible,” Treggs said. “That’s just going to make our offense that much better if we have good chemistry.”

Treggs said all three players possess the leadership qualities a team wants from its quarterback.

“They all handle themselves pretty well,” he said. “I get text messages from each of them on the weekends. `Hey man, let’s go throw.’

“Jared is more of a quiet leader, he’s not as much of a rah-rah. Zach is more of a vocal leader. He’s the one who kind of gets us fired up and motivated. They’re great leaders — they just lead in a different way.”

Likewise, linebacker Nick Forbes said each of the three presents his leadership skills in a different fashion.

“A true freshman (Goff) is not going to come out and bark orders at guys. But he is carrying himself extremely mature on the field, getting things done,” Forbes said.

“Austin Hinder was my roommate when he was a freshman. Zach Kline grew tremendously from last year. I think whichever one of those three (prevails), they’re all capable of being that guy. I’m really excited about the maturation of all those guys.”

In terms of the tangible skills they bring to the game, Treggs echoed the evaluation of his coach.

“Zach throws a very hard, powerful ball and probably has the strongest arm of all of them,” he said. “Jared has more of a touch on his passes and still throws a deep ball. And Hinder, he can throw and he’s also really good with his legs and that can be very good for the offense with the spread option.”

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Jeff Faraudo