Aug. 19, 2000
Turlock, CA - Kyle Boller Feature
Some years ago Margerum also witnessed first-hand the inclination of a young quarterback to take advantage of a powerful arm and throw the ball much harder than needed, often making the ball uncatchable. It's something Boller has struggled with in his young college career.
Margerum is constantly reminding Boller to take something off the ball, that he doesn't need to throw the ball 100 miles an hour to make a big play.
Two decades ago, as an All-American receiver at Stanford, he saw the same tendencies in a young quarterback named John Elway.
"It took John a couple years to learn to put some air under the ball," says Margerum. "I can't tell you how many passes he threw his first year or two that were just six inches out of my reach. When you put some touch on the ball, a receiver has a chance to adjust to the ball. Kyle's going through that learning process."
Boller has worked hard during the off-season to curb his velocity and improve his accuracy. While he's added 20 pounds of muscle and has more power than ever at 211 pounds, he's also trying to add the finesse aspect to his game. He has spent a lot of time on the practice field throwing the football into empty trash cans, where loft and accuracy are far more important than the pace of the ball.
It's all a part of the education of a quarterback, where progress is usually gradual rather than immediate.
There are signs that Boller is coming around. During Friday morning's practice session in Turlock, Boller showed his new side when he found speedy receiver Phillip Pipersburg open on a post pattern. In the past, he would have thrown a lower percentage rocket. But, this time he put some loft on the football, and even though Pipersburg had to slow very slightly, he made the adjustment, caught the ball and continued into the endzone for a long TD play.
Boller knows he has to improve on the 38.6 completion percentage he managed last season, but he should have a lot more tools to work with, besides just the invaluable year of experience he gained his freshman season.
He'll benefit greatly from an offensive line that appears to be far superior than last year's group that helped allow a league-worst 36 sacks. Just as importantly, he has a receiver corps that seems much more steady and consistent.
Boller thinks the Cal offense has the ingredients to turn things around in a big way in 2000. "Last year, I was just feeling my way around, trying to fit in," says Boller. "This year, I know the routine and so that's a big help. I also have a better sense of my teammates and I can see some really good things happening. There main difference I see, particularly at the wide receiver position is there seems to be a great work ethic and commitment this season. I think that is going to be a huge factor."
Still, a year of experience can't be underestimated. During the first few days of camp it Turlock, it is becoming increasingly clear that Boller is becoming a more accurate passer.
According to Cal offensive coordinator Steve Hagen, that improvement can be traced to his greater understanding of the position. "He just has so much more knowledge about what's going on with the offense," says Hagen. "As he is becoming more comfortable in making his reads and where everybody else is on the field, he can be more relaxed and concentrate on accuracy. It's a gradual process, but he's making process."
Cal fans hopes Boller eventually makes the type of progress that Ken Margerum saw evolve in John Elway many years ago, as he eventually became one of the greatest of all time. Right now, everybody will be happy with just a step in that direction.
By Kevin Reneau