Cal football training camp: Goff wins the starting job

Riley McAtee/File
Jared Goff takes a snap at quarterback with Brendan Bigelow in the backfield during Friday's practice

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“It was a hard, difficult, gut-wrenching decision,” said Cal coach Sonny Dykes after practice on Friday.

With just 15 days until the season kicks off, Dykes named true freshman Jared Goff the starting quarterback earlier in the day. With the decision, Goff earned the first-team reps in camp, while Kline was relegated to the second team. It’s now all but set in stone that, come Aug. 31, Goff will start and Kline will back him up, with junior Austin Hinder on the third string.

The decision was long awaited. Dykes continually stated through the camp, which is now ending its second week, that he wanted to make a decision quickly. But he also stated that he wanted a natural leader to emerge. Unfortunately, as the days dragged on, that second goal wasn’t reachable. After two weeks, no quarterback was able to pull far ahead, and it was time for Dykes to force the issue and name a starter.

“We kind of hoped someone would take it and run away with it, but that’s not really what happened,” he said. “Time was starting to be of the essence. We needed to make a decision, and we made it, and we’ll move forward.”

The decision makes Goff the first true freshman to start for Cal since Kyle Boller did in 1999. And Boller didn’t begin the season — he came in during the third game. But Goff, who graduated high school early and was on the roster last spring, isn’t really seen as a true freshman. He’s been on the roster for nearly eight months and has had the same amount of time with the new coaching staff as both Zach Kline and Austin Hinder have.

“He’s had all the time since spring practice and two-a-days to perfect his craft,” said Dykes. “He’s really not a true freshman.”

With his supposed lack of experience out the window, the factors behind the decision centered not only around Goff’s accuracy and consistency but also around his footwork and his good decision-making.

“He took a little bit better care of the ball,” Dykes said. “That’s going to be big for us. We felt like that was critical.”

Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin both echoed many of the same sentiments that led them to pick Goff. But one reason rang true above all else: Goff gives the team the best chance to win now.

What gives him that ability to win? Goff credits his consistency.

“I tried to just stay as consistent as I could, and I just did the best job that I could every day,” said Goff, who remained incredibly humble after his first practice as the undisputed starter. “I left the rest to the coaches.”

Though all college athletes are technically amateurs, Zach Kline took the news that he wouldn’t win the job he seemed destined for a year ago like a professional. During Friday’s practice, he looked as energetic and excited as ever.

“I’m going to support Jared because that’s what a good teammate is going to do,” he said. “It’s definitely tough, but it’s just another challenge. And with challenges, you become better.”

Contact Riley McAtee at [email protected]