Aug. 15, 2001
TURLOCK - After being thrown into the fire almost immediately as a true freshman at Cal two years ago, Kyle Boller enters his junior season looking at the quarterback position from a different perspective.
Boller entered school in the fall of 1999 as one of the most decorated recruits in Golden Bear history. The California state Player of the Year as a high school senior out of Hart High School in Newhall, he earned Parade All-America honors and was ranked among the Top 3 quarterbacks in the country by almost every recruiting service.
Upon arriving at Cal, Boller quickly entered the lineup. He was 8-for-15 for 89 yards and a touchdown in his first game, the '99 season-opener against Rutgers. Two weeks later, Boller had his first start and led the Bears to a 24-23 victory over Arizona State, throwing for 213 yards and a pair of scores. He ended up starting eight games his rookie year before separating his shoulder in game No. 10 vs. Oregon.
Last season, Boller started all 11 games and put up more impressive numbers than the year before. He passed for 2,121 yards and 15 touchdowns, compared to 1,303 yards and 9 TDs as a freshman. Even including a four-interception game vs. Stanford, he had just 13 interceptions for the year, two less than in all of 1999.
Despite the improvement in virtually every statistical category, Boller knew that he had quite a bit of room to grow. And with the arrival of Al Borges as offensive coordinator in January, Boller's talent has begun to show even more.
For much of the spring and throughout the summer, Boller focussed on fundamentals. Now that fall camp is underway, it's apparent that all the hard work is paying off.
"I've been working on my feet a lot, just staying balanced," Boller said. "I'm not doing some of the things I thought I could get away with last year. I feel confident. The junior year is a make-or-break year."
To help better prepare themselves for the coming campaign, Boller and about 70 of his teammates spent the summer in Berkeley working out together. Not only did they participate in strength and conditioning drills with coach Todd Rice, but they also went through rigorous sessions on their own, trying to perfect much of the new offensive system they learned in the spring.
"We worked on fundamentals all summer," Boller said "Throwing to receivers is all about timing, and having everyone together over the summer helped out a lot. Now, it's time to get ready for the first game."
In the 2 1/2 weeks remaining before the Sept. 1 opener against Illinois, Boller said practices would concentrate more on perfecting the details of Borges' offense.
"There's little, tiny things we have to learn," said Boller. "But I think we have the majority of the offense down. Now, it's a matter of fine-tuning and making sure everything works out. My goal is to get the offense completely down, know all the ins and outs of it, learn every different blitz pickup and any scenario that could happen during a game. I'm just trying to get fully prepared."
With 19 starts already under his belt, Boller will certainly be more ready this fall than he has ever been as a Golden Bear. Under those circumstances, he should be ready for his best year yet.
Camp notes: With summer school in session through Friday, the Bears were missing about 25 players from camp Wednesday morning. The area hit hardest was at wide receiver, with only five players available to work out ... the team put on pads for the first time Wednesday morning and went through 11-on-11 drills twice in the two-hour session ... Cal has two scrimmages schedule for Turlock, on Saturday, Aug. 18 at 4 p.m. and on Wednesday, Aug. 22 at 11 a.m. ... the temperature in camp was expected to hit 100 degrees Wednesday afternoon, but a cooling trend should drop the highs into the lower 90s over the next couple of days.