BERKELEY — With Jared Goff preparing for the NFL draft, California is set to begin the process of filling the big void he left at quarterback.
The top task when the Golden Bears open spring practice next week will be picking a quarterback to replace the most prolific passer in school history.
Among the candidates for the job are last season’s backup Chase Forrest, 2014 second-stringer Luke Rubenzer, redshirt freshman Ross Bowers and early enrollee Max Gilliam.
Coach Sonny Dykes said all the quarterbacks will get a chance and will be graded on everything from how engaged they are in walkthroughs to their approach to strength and conditioning to who garners the most respect from teammates.
“All of that goes into making a decision. Then you roll a ball out and you see which guy throws it to your players the best,” Dykes said. “Then you try to eliminate from there. The way it normally happens is you kind of eliminate somebody and that allows everyone else to get more reps and then you eliminate somebody else and then that allows everybody else to get more reps and then you’re down to two or three guys who are getting the bulk of the reps and then it becomes easier to figure out who the starter will be.”
There’s another quarterback in the mix this spring for Cal after former heralded recruit Zach Kline returned to the team. Kline spent two seasons with the Bears before transferring after the 2013 season. After time at Butte College and Indiana State, Kline returned to Cal in December to get his degree.
Kline recently asked Dykes if he could rejoin the team as a walk-on and was given the opportunity this spring with no assurances. If Kline wants to play next season he would need to graduate this spring and then get into graduate school at Cal.
Cal will practice for two weeks before taking time off for spring break and then return in April for two more weeks before the spring game April 16. While Forrest and Rubenzer have the most experience, Dykes said there’s no favorite or timetable to pick the starter.
“We’ll see how long it takes us,” Dykes said. “We could do it after six practices or maybe after three weeks of fall camp. The one thing you don’t want to do is force the situation. The tendency is to want to have a starter named. We all want to do that but you’re not going to have a starter until there’s some sort of separation and sometimes that takes a while.”
The last time there was a quarterback competition at Cal, Goff won the job as a true freshman in 2013. After three seasons, he turned himself into a top NFL prospect expected to be drafted near the top of the first round in April.
Along with replacing Goff, Cal lost its top six receivers from a year ago. The only returning players are Chad Hansen, Ray Hudson and Kanawai Noa, who combined for 36 catches last season.
Tennessee transfer Vic Wharton, as well as youngsters Carlos Strickland and Brandon Singleton will also be in the mix.
“You have three guys who have played. None of them have been starters but they’ve all made plays, they’ve all played in big ballgames, they’ve all done good things,” Dykes said. “I think we have more returning experience than people think. But there are a lot of new faces. There’s going to be some new guys out there that will have to grow up.”
Dykes also confirmed that linebacker Jake Kearney left the team for medical reasons after suffering a back injury last year.