Zach Kline finished 5th out of 24 among the Elite 11 quarterbacks according to Barton Simmons of 247Sports, making him an official Elite 11 QB.
Kline showcased great arm strength that put him on par with the two highest-rated prospects in this class in Gunner Kiel and Jameis Winston. But as the week wore on and other quarterbacks dropped off in performance, Kline steadily improved day-by-day. His ball placement was excellent, threading the needle on difficult throws; he made his reads and seemed to make solid decisions on all his routes. He would also win the award for strongest arm, according to Brian Stumpf of ESPN.
Kline joins a list of Cal quarterbacks with Elite 11 honors: Nate Longshore, Kevin Riley, Brock Mansion, Allan Bridgford and Austin Hinder. I don't like jumping to conclusions about high school recruits, but I like what I'm hearing.
I've been covering Zach's progress over at SB Nation Bay Area. Check out the results day-by-day after the jump.
Kline showed off a great arm, but his accuracy was better. Scott Kennedy of Scout had this to say.
Kline is just a notch below the arm strength of guys like Winston and Kiel. For him, it's a matter of trusting his arm. Scout's No. 1 quarterback of 2010, Jeff Driskel, had a similar transition through the Elite 11 week as he over threw the ball early, only to settle in and put on a show the rest of the week. Kline has the arm strength, but he needs to relax more and not try to over throw everything.
While we wish Kline did not prop the ball up so high in his carriage, there may not be anyone in attendance who consistently spins the ball as tightly as he does. Many prospects who prop the ball to ear level are "pushers," not passers. Kline is a passer. As we have mentioned in the past, he reminds us of a stronger-armed Jake Heaps with more natural wrist velocity.
"A lot of things like making every throw count and the little things matter the most," he said about what he learned. "Even the smallest thing down to a drop, the fake on the play action matters more than anything and is the difference between a completion and an interception. And just kind of getting to know these guys and the things that they see."
Kline seems to be focusing on the little details in his mechanics and his decision-making, which has to please a quarterback guru like Cal head coach Jeff Tedford; he seems to have the mental part of the game down. But the accuracy issues have to be worrisome, considering that Cal quarterbacks have struggled with making completions in the previous three seasons. Can it be fixed, or is this just a camp issue?
Don’t be surprised if Zach Kline throws some interceptions early in his career. He’s got a mentality that there isn’t a throw he can’t make. And why not? He has possibly the best arm at the event and was absolutely humming it in the 7on7 attempting to fit into some windows that no other quarterback could think about. More importantly though, he was still making good decisions and the correct reads. He finished 6 of 8, completing 3 of 4 in each of his two series.
It's odd that Simmons would say Kline would throw interceptions because he fits ball into tight windows. Usually that kind of accuracy is prized at the high school level, and it's certainly the type of skill that is hard to come by this early in your career. Defenders would have greater difficulty trying to catch balls that are put in the right places rather than errant throws that are off-target and fall into their zones. All in all, it's certainly a promising sign that Kline is able to perform this well with his reads and his placement, as those are two skills Jeff Tedford places a premium on.
Kline made up for his sub-par showing at The Opening but he was definitely high in that second group behind Winston and Kiel. There are times when he trusts his arm a little too much and really tries to force throws that aren't there but he showed good touch on a lot of deep passes so he's been good.
I don't know why people would say he has a high ceiling. It's not like he's tall and hasn't been coached or needs to be molded in college. I think Kline is who he is which is a very talented quarterback, a solid four-star who can make a lot of throws and will have a chance to start early at Cal.
Kline is still bubbling with energy and there has certainly been no drop off in arm strength. Kline came out and made all the throws fitting his passes into some tight windows that very few quarterbacks would be able to hit. One of his best throws of the day came on a perfectly placed ball on a vertical route off of a double move. Though the receiver dropped the football, hurting Kline’s completion percentage, the throw was on the money and he showed natural leadership by immediately picking the receiver up and praising the route.
This is the second day in a row that Kline has been praised for his ball placement, which should come very well in handy in breaking down the zone defenses of the Pac-12. By combining it with his arm strength he now looks like one of the best quarterbacks on the field (besides the currently immaculate BYU commit Tanner Magnum, who continues to shine in all areas). It's starting to look like Cal has a complete quarterback who could challenge for playing time very soon after his arrival in Berkeley.
Reports haven't come out yet, but this was the only tweet on Kline's performance [regarding two minute drills].
Cal QB Zach Kline only needed two plays to go 60yds, hitting a streak for a long TD down the sideline.