Offense ruled the day at Cal’s spring football scrimmage, but no one sparkled more than freshman receiver Melquise Stovall.
“Just get the ball in his hands and you see some special stuff,” said quarterback Ross Bowers, who delivered one of the two touchdown passes Stovall caught under sunny skies Saturday with a crowd of perhaps 1,800 watching at Memorial Stadium.
Quarterback Zach Kline, who also threw a TD to Stovall, was equally enthusiastic.
“That guy is going to be special,” Kline said. “And he’s going to get better, too. That’s scary.”
Cal’s top-rated recruit, Stovall graduated at midyear from Paraclete High in Lancaster and was on campus in time for spring ball. And he made the most of it.
He caught seven passes for 128 yards and two TDs in the 110-play scrimmage, helping the Blue team to a 38-37 victory. A 5-foot-9, 190-pound inside receiver, Stovall showed strength and elusiveness.
“My mentality is no one can stop me,” Stovall.
“He’s a very electric, explosive guy. Very hard to tackle,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “He gives us a different dimension. We’ve had a lot of good receivers around here, but Melquise gives us something a little different.
“You can throw a slant and it turns into a 70-yard touchdown. You throw a screen and you have a 40- or 50-yard gain.”
Sophomore quarterback Chase Forrest said it’s been like this throughout spring practice.
“He’s been killing it,” Forrest said. “I’m more than excited to see what he does in the games.”
No one emerged from spring ball as the clear-cut No. 1 at quarterback, but Dykes was pleased with the performance of all four candidates Saturday.
“I was impressed with all the quarterbacks,” said Dykes, acknowledging they didn’t face much of a pass rush. But he liked their ability to get the ball out quickly and find receivers in rhythm.
Forrest, the presumed frontrunner, was 16 for 23 for 176 yards and a touchdown. Bowers was 11 for 21 for 152 yards with two TDs and the day’s only interception. Freshman Max Gilliam was 7 of 10 for 80 yards with two TDs and ran three times for 36 yards.
And Kline, who returned to Cal this spring two years after transferring out, was a near-perfect 15 for 16 for 202 yards and two TDs.
Dykes and new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital were pleased with all aspects of the offense, which generated a total of 947 yards. Dykes said the Bears used 15 different offensive linemen and praised the new receiving corps, which accounted for seven TD catches.
Junior running back Vic Enwere ran six times for 127 yards, including an 80-yard TD, and safety-turned-running back Billy McCrary continued to turn heads by gaining 100 yards on just four rushes. Walk-on Patrick Laird scored a pair of touchdowns.
Dykes said it was time for the offense to shine after the defense often had the upperhand during spring practice.
Spavital, replacing Tony Franklin as offensive coordinator, said he’s quickly become comfortable with the Bears’ personnel.
“I told them I think they’re a very talented group of kids and they’re going to have to (do) that work over the summer and see where they’re going to take this. That’s where more games are won or lost,” Spavital said.
Guard Semisi Uluava suffered a sprained knee early in the scrimmage , which Dykes did not think is serious. Running backs Tre Watson and Khalfani Muhammad were held out of the scrimmage, as was offensive guard Chris Borrayo, who has a minor shoulder injury.
Safety Damariay Drew, who injured his left knee in practice two weeks ago, still is a couple weeks away from surgery. Dykes declined to say whether the injury is a torn ACL, and said there is a chance Drew could play in the fall. “I don’t know yet,” he said.
Jared Goff worked out for the Dallas Cowboys on Cal’s practice field Saturday morning, then watched the scrimmage. Forrest is convinced Goff will be taken No. 1 by the Los Angeles Rams, who swung a trade this week for the top spot.