March 15, 2013
BERKELEY - Jared Goff has a lot going on right now as the 18-year-old is both in the midst of a close competition for Cal's starting quarterback job and getting ready for his high school's senior prom.
Every spring college football teams have a handful of mid-year enrollees on their rosters to get a head start on the fall and Cal is no exception with five players on its spring ball roster that were in different uniforms last fall.
Each of the five is in a slightly different position this spring.
Goff, the Bears' highly-touted quarterback, is in the running for the starting job. Placekicker Matt Anderson is the beneficiary of having one of the team's long-time veterans and returning first-team All-Pac-12 pick Vincenzo D'Amato showing him the ropes, giving Anderson plenty of time to perfect his craft.
The player with the most accolades out of this group is Goff, who is currently competing with Zach Kline and Austin Hinder for the starting quarterback position. Considering he could still be in high school and is being considered to be the guy playing arguably the highest-profile position on the field, there's a lot of pressure riding Goff's shoulders right now.
The age difference and experience disparities don't bother Goff in the least, though.
"It's still football, just faster," Goff said. "When you're out on the field, you don't look at it like that. But maybe a little bit when you're in the locker room with all the guys. Some of these guys are getting ready for the [NFL] draft next year. It's crazy to think about it in that sense. But out on the field, it's just football. I just try to play fast and to the best of my ability."
The spotlight on the other four mid-year enrollees isn't nearly as much as it is on Goff right now but especially with the three junior college transfers - Kragen, Sina and Whitehurst - there is an expectation that they will be looked upon to contribute soon.
The adjustment on the field is arguably a little easier since they've already competed with athletes in the same age group, some of which have become Division I football players themselves.
Still, there are differences.
Kragen said the experience is more complete at Cal compared to the junior college level. The finer details are specified by the coaches on the field, and the players need to be focused at all times. There isn't as much relaxation as there is at the junior college level.
"Obviously everybody is bigger and stronger, but some guys at the JuCo level were elite Division I caliber athletes, so it's not a huge difference," Kragen said. "You just can't get away with things that you could at the JuCo level."
The biggest difference that Sina has noticed since crossing the bay from College of San Mateo to Cal has been on the academic side. He's still adjusting to the heightened demands academically at Cal.
"I knew the academic part of it was going to be really hard," Sina said. "The transition is a little hard right now, academically, but on the athletic side, that's been pretty easy. It just felt pretty natural to me because I've played with some talented players at the junior college level."
Unfortunately for Sina, spring ball has been a bit of a tease for him because he can't participate due to a lingering knee injury. He said he's trying to take in as much as he can from the sidelines, learning the plays and trying to help his teammates as best he can, but he's chomping at the bit to get out there and show what he can do.
Anderson also spends the majority of the duration of practice on the sidelines since the kickers typically don't take the field much until the end of practice to work on field goals and kickoffs. Not only does Anderson have the luxury of having D'Amato to look up to, but he also has something going for him now that he didn't in high school. Anderson said competing with other kickers at practice greatly helps his game. Being the only kicker on his team in high school, it was hard at times to push himself to continue to grow and improve without the constant competition at practice.
"Everyone's been really energetic," Anderson said. "With the offense as quick as it is, everything is going at such a high tempo all the time. Kicking wise, we've just been working hard. It's fun here because it's like a competition with the other kickers. Having some competition is what helps me perform at my best."
When it comes to learning the ropes and learning the new offensive scheme this year, Whitehurst has an advantage over the returning Bears despite being brand new to the program. Whitehurst, who was being recruiting by this same coaching staff at Louisiana Tech prior to Dykes taking the job at Cal, played in a very similar offense the last two seasons at City College of San Francisco.
Whitehurst said that having the edge of knowing the coaches and the philosophy of the offense before the rest of the team gives him confidence that he can contribute to the team in 2013.
"I feel super lucky and fortunate to come in at the same time as these coaches because it's almost like a new situation for everyone," Whitehurst said. "This is the best thing I could have asked for, to transfer to a D1 school with all the changes going on here, learning the new offense and the new coaches. It totally helps, because it's very similar to City College. I felt right at home going into it. We have a real nice set of receivers and everybody's been able to adapt to this offense because it's so easy. But I feel like it gives me a little bit of an advantage."
These five new Bears may in positions now, but they all want to end up in the same place - helping Cal football return to the top of the Pac-12 this season.
Cal's next spring football workout that will include a scrimmage is scheduled for Saturday, March 16 at Memorial Stadium from 11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. PT. All practices are open to the public and free of charge. Fans should enter the stadium through Gate 1 on the north end, where they will be directed onto the concourse level and into available seating in the lower area of sections EE, F, FF and G. Fans are not allowed onto the field.
Cal's spring practices will conclude with the 2013 Cal Football Spring Game to be televised live by the Pac-12 Networks on Saturday, March 23 (4 p.m. PT).
In addition to attending practices, fans can visit the 2013 Spring Football Central and 2013 Spring Game Central pages on CalBears.com throughout spring ball for a complete practice schedule, fan information and a wide array of additional content including blog entries, videos, features and much more.
For 2013 ticket information, visit CalBears.com or call (800) GO-BEARS.
2013 CAL FOOTBALL REMAINING SPRING PRACTICE SCHEDULE