Lost in all the excitement about the two-deep is the announcement of the backup quarterbacks. Yeah, I know, lacks the buzz of the starters, but we all knew Zach Maynard and Allan Bridgford were going 1-2 for about five months running now. So onto the threes.
It was inevitable that an announcement would come. You can't bring all five of the quarterbacks on road trips. But the ones who do come generally have to feel about their good chances to compete.
It's really good to see Hinder make those upward strides. Hinder had natural quarterback talent coming out of college, particularly when he escaped the pocket and made plays on the move. His issue was much less mental than physical. The big knock on him the last two camps was that he was having trouble putting on weight, and would probably struggle to be strong or durable enough to hang through two quarters of a game,much less four. But now he appears to have put the weight on to sustain him, and he can begin employing all those natural talents to good use.
"Austin Hinder looks really good," Tedford said. "He's a different guy. I think his knowledge of the game, he's playing much more confidently, much more comfortable. He's throwing the ball with authority. He understands what's going on. I've been pleased with him, so far."
With grandfather Jim Hanifan a former NFL coach, Hinder's study habits and abstract understanding of the game have always been top-notch, as have his leadership skills, but in the practices open to the media, Hinder finally looks comfortable under center, making reads, using his legs and even changing the play at the line of scrimmage.
"He's had a lot to learn," Tedford said. "Now, you can tell that he feels more comfortable with the system, because he's athletic. He can run, he's got a good arm, but before, I think it was a little bit of paralysis by analysis -- thinking too much and not letting his gifts really show. Now, he is. He's cutting it loose, he's throwing with authority, throwing the ball with confidence. I think he feels pretty good about what's going on, but he still has a lot to learn."
Hinder's progress has to make you feel good that Cal will have at least three legitimate quarterbacks going into next spring's competition in Bridgford, Hinder and Kline (and it's not like Boehm is miles behind these guys either). Bridgford is probably the most comfortable in the system, and Kline has the greatest upside, but don't sleep on Hinder, who is starting to showcase all the attributes of a successful Tedford QB.
As for Kline, he's travelling with the team, which I guess is a sign he's number four right now, or maybe he is a three and Tedford is just giving Hinder the three spot to motivate Kline to work harder. Who knows. Kline definitely provides the most wow moments in practice and is probably making very positive steps with almost eight months at Cal under his belt. The important thing is these backups (and Boehm) who could be years away from starting are looking like they're embracing the challenge whole-heartedly, a starked contrast from about two or three years ago.
Offensive depth chart notes
Matt Williams at right tackle is good to see. It's probably a depth issue (not that many tackles on the roster really), but Williams getting past Brian Farley has to bode well for his overall development. Hopefully he gets a chance to play a bit and show what he can do.
Likely the same will go for Matt Cochran. If there's shuffling in the center position, it's looking like either Chris Adcock (or Jordan Rigsbee, as he also took center snaps) will slide in and Geoffrey Gibson will be the primary sub inside. Cal will just have to hope the interior guys stay healthy until Dominic Galas gets back to full-health and we can be two-deep on the interior again.
Chris Harper ending up on the two-deep behind Keenan Allen probably makes him the fourth (maybe even third?) man on the roster. I think Harper's role this season could be specified as a slot receiver as his skillset matches well to a receiver who can either catch a pass down the middle but also spread the field outside on a corner. Harper's versatility from the slot could be a crucial asset to use this year.
Darius Powe is also in the rotation to play. I'm guessing he could be a situational guy (in the game to catch a jump ball, in the game to be the money fade receiver). I'm looking forward to seeing how players like Ross Bostock, Bryce McGovern and Jackson Bouza fit into the rotation; I'd guess we see them as empty set players.
Maximo Espitia is going to play! At least Tedford hints at the possibility of a non-redshirt. I'm getting the feeling he's serious about these tight ends and H-backs if he's putting a true frosh out there at the position. Espitia could be a special player there; he's already proven he can play multiple positions in high school, and he's flashed a bit this year. Something to watch out for in the season-opener.
Happy to see Dasarte Yarnway finally make a two-deep. He had some impressive snaps at the spring scrimmage at fullback. He's probably a spot-duty guy with Eric Stevens the mainstay at FB, but it's nice to see him in the mix to play regularly after all the stuff he's had to put up with.
Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson are pretty much co-starters, and it makes sense. Each of these players provides a unique skill set and both could be utilized for specialized plays and situations as much as they're used for similar plays and situations. It won't be your typical Cal one-two running punch (both these runners are fairly different in the way they run the football), but the results could be typical Gould.
More on the defensive depth chart tomorrow.