The pads will come on Saturday, and that's when things will begin taking a turn for the more interesting...but until then, here's what happened at the 4th of Cal's 5 unpadded practices. [Thursday was held helmets and shells.]
Well, you saw the summary up top, didn't you?
Yes, it's true - based on the action that unfolded today, the Klindergoff trio may no longer deserve its name, as Austin Hinder was almost nowhere to be found. By my count, the Colorado native took only 4 reps in the practice-opening11-on-11 sessions, 4 reps in the practice-ending11-on-11 sessions, and only 4 more in the team's 7-on-7 period.
Because of how little he saw the field, I was able to chart all the plays Hinder was involved in by going back through my live tweets. These details are all I was able to get down, and I apologize for only being able to give a partial picture of the situation, but here it is:
Opening 11-on-11 period (working with the 2nd team):
-Sacked by Gabe King and Antoine Davis
-Defense showing blitz, sacked by Antoine Davis and Harrison Wilfley. According to my notes, this also resulted in a fumble or near fumble.
-Pass almost defensed by Antoine Davis, but complete to Bryce McGovern for 8
-Pass incomplete to Kenny Lawler, covered by Adrian Lee
-Complete to Treggs on a curl route for about 15 yards
-Pass to a receiver thrown way overhead, incomplete
-Nice throw to James Grissom in the end zone dropped
-Dump off short to Jonah Hodges for 6 yards
11-on-11 period, starting from own 1 yard line:
-Screen to Treggs complete for 2 yards
-Rollout left, high and incomplete
-Completion to James Anderson for 12
-Screen to Khalfani Muhammad stopped for no gain by Mike Barton
After those plays, the team transitioned to a special teams period, which always means the end of practice after.
When asked about this after practice, Coach Dykes did not confirm that Hinder was out of the competition, but it is worth noting that thus far none of the three remaining candidates has seen as few reps in a day as Hinder did on Thursday, even though they have all spent time rotating.
Combining this observation with Hinder's lack of ball security on Wednesday, generally lackluster play today, as well as his limited long-term eligibility, and it would not be unreasonable to conclude that he now sits far behind his in-state competition.
Zach Kline also saw a reduced number of reps on Thursday, (4 in the final 11-on-11 session, 4 in the opening 11-on-11, but substantially more than 4 in 7-on-7, although I didn't keep an exact count there) but it was fairly clear that he was on the field more than his out-of-state counterpart.
Kline's quality of play has varied wildly from day to day thus far, but Thursday was a return to something a little more positive. A large number of Kline's throws on Wednesday landed into tight coverage windows, or got deflected by oncoming safeties. That was not the case Thursday, when he showed off some more patience in dumping the ball off to his running backs and short safety valves, particularly in 7-on-7.
Cal's practices always include a short 11-on-11 period at the beginning, and tasked with leading off the day, Kline was much stronger from the start. After being sacked by Mustafa Jalil, the redshirt freshman rolled out an impressive three play sequence: a completion to Darren Ervin for 10 yards, a 60+ yard touchdown to Chris Harper, and seeing no one open after that, the Danville product decided to scramble for around 25 yards. For someone who has been plagued all fall and spring with a propensity to press, a series like that last one does provide a tantalizing glimpse of what could happen if he ever put it all together.
Jared Goff saw the majority of reps on Thursday, and - in my eyes - played evenly with Kline. He avoided mistakes, for the most part [more on that below], and completed passes with good accuracy, at all yardages. A large majority of his work was in the short game, although there were some longer completions sprinkled in too - I saw one throw to James Grissom for around 30 yards, and another 30 yards to Bryce Treggs on a lob during 11-on-11.
One point of note for Goff was how much better he was throwing seam routes than yesterday. Those were delivered much more crisply overall, and by now, it is very obvious that the true freshman throws the best fades - that of the long ball variety, as well as the end zone one. All in all, he was short on highlight reel throws, but made a large number of solid, drive-sustaining ones all afternoon.
Notes and Observations:
- The energy and physicality of practice was very high on Thursday - presumably due to pads. One highlight hit was delivered by Kam Jackson on an unsuspecting Jonah Hodges - Hodges was reaching out for a slightly overthrown pass from Goff when he got hammered. Coach Dykes reported that Hodges was fine after practice, and that he had no concussion symptoms.
- As for the hit by Jackson, Coach Dykes said that he would use it as something for the team to learn from: "Based on what I saw, it looked like it probably would have been a targeting [penalty]. We'll pull it off the tape, show it to our players, use it to teach."
- Brendan Bigelow saw a majority of his reps go to Jeffrey Coprich on Thursday, which Coach Dykes said was planned: "we just wanted to back him off, a little bit...wanted to limit the wear and tear on him." He also committed a fumble later on practice, forced on a hit by Isaac Lapite. This was the first fumble by any back through four days.
- Hardy Nickerson has been playing well in place of Nick Forbes, Coach Dykes said. "He showed flashes in the spring, and he's a guy that's got a real bright future."
- Nick Forbes remains day to day with back spasms. He was not padded up today.
- At 5'11", Bryce Treggs isn't particularly tall, but he can sure as hell go and get the football - a day after battling for a jump ball down at the 1 yard line, he did it again, this time victimizing Darius Allensworth.
- Chris McCain received a shoulder "ding", but Coach Dykes does not anticipate that he will miss any time. Defensive end Sione Sina tweaked a knee, though, and will be coming back when fully healthy.
- Darren Ervin had one particularly good play, when he took a carry around the right side, beat Michael Barton to the corner, and snuck into the end zone for a 10 yard touchdown.
- It is clear at this point that the team has a small package installed specifically for Kyle Boehm, and he's taking advantage of it when he sees the field. On Thursday's practice ending 11-on-11, the converted quarterback took a Wildcat snap, bowled through 3 defenders, and scored.
- Stefan McClure and Chris Harper continue to be one of the most entertaining matchups in practice. McClure gave up a long touchdown pass to open up practice, and another during 7-on-7 when Goff lifted a perfect end-zone fade. That does not mean the matchup has been one sided, however; McClure was also seen swatting away a pass meant for Harper in the WR/DB drills, shadowing Harper perfectly on a corner route.
- There was a special visitor at practice today. And unlike Marshawn Lynch, he wears school colors when he visits.
- Some different looks that I was able to jot down from the defense's 7-on-7 period:
- Avery Sebastian, Hardy Nickerson, Khairi Fortt, Michael Lowe, Kam Jackson, Jalen Jefferson, and Stefan McClure. [This is, presumably, the 1s unit.]
- Cedric Dozier, Adrian Lee, Stefan McClure, Nathan Broussard, Damariay Drew, Jason Gibson, Michael Barton. [This is, presumably, one of the 2s units. I believe McClure worked in the slot here.]
- Cam Walker, Kam Jackson, Khairi Fortt, Hardy Nickerson, Avery Sebastian, Michael Lowe, Isaac Lapite. [Thus far, only McClure and Lapite have really been in the slot.]