Tedford tempers expectations for freshman QB

BY foxsports • March 5, 2012

Zach Kline came to California in January with plenty of hype as the big-armed passer the Golden Bears have been seeking in recent years.

Kline will enter his first spring practice far down on the depth chart as coach Jeff Tedford says he is worried about unrealistic expectations for the heralded freshman.

''I absolutely have concern about that,'' Tedford said Monday. ''There's such a thing of putting too much on a kid early. I want him to come in here and be able concentrate on what he's doing and learn the offense and do his best without all the expectations.''

Kline will ease into things when Cal begins spring practice March 13. Returning starter Zach Maynard once again will be in the No. 1 role, followed by backup Allan Bridgford. Austin Kinder and Kyle Boehm are also in the mix with Kline, leaving five quarterbacks to split the work in spring ball.

Kline is a four-star recruit from nearby Danville who threw 36 touchdown passes as a senior. He was widely considered to be one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the nation, with one of the strongest arms of any incoming freshman.

By enrolling in January, Kline gets a head start on adjusting to college, which could increase his chances of playing as a freshman. But Tedford said he still has plenty of work to do.

''There are some other guys in front of him who have experience,'' Tedford said. ''He's a talent and working really hard. He's a very good player, there's no doubt about that. But he has to go through the basics. It's a different game at this level. I don't think we need to put any added pressure on him.''

Maynard, a transfer from Buffalo, is coming off his first season at Cal. He completed 57 percent of his passes for 2,990 yards, 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while leading the Bears to a 7-6 record last season.

Maynard showed improvement in his first season as starter, especially after a midseason drought that included four losses in five games and seven interceptions in a pair of losses to Southern California and UCLA.

Maynard completed 68 percent of his passes over the final four regular-season games, with five touchdowns and only one interception as the Bears won three of four to make it back to a bowl game following a one-year absence from the postseason.

''That's when he really started managing the game well and he let it come to him,'' Tedford said. ''He was smart with the football, didn't turn the football over. That's what he needs to continue to do, understand the speed of the game. He's taken big steps to understanding what we're doing on offense. Now with his experience he understands how to manage the game.''

Maynard struggled in a 21-10 Holiday Bowl loss to Texas, throwing for only 180 yards and an interception, but Tedford hopes to see more improvement this season.

While quarterback gets the most outside attention in spring ball, there will be plenty of focus on replacing key starters on the defensive front seven and offensive line.

Among the key players who left after last season are Pac-12 defensive player of the year Mychal Kendricks and fellow starting linebacker D.J. Holt, defensive linemen Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu, and offensive linemen Mitchell Schwartz and Justin Cheadle.

''There's a lot of guys who are young,'' Tedford said. ''It's their turn now to take the next step. That's what you use spring football for, to try to get those guys to step up. We know what a lot of our starters in the past can do, but now how can you replace some of the guys who have left with younger guys?''

Spring practice will end April 21 with either a game or controlled scrimmage, depending on how many players are able to participate. Cal still is unable to use its stadium, which is under renovation, but Tedford said construction remains on track for the Bears to open their season at the Memorial Stadium on Sept. 1 against Nevada.