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April 3, 2012
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BERKELEY -- Before spring practice began, California head coach Jeff Tedford was insistent that fans and the public at large not heap expectations upon the shoulders of early-entry freshman quarterback Zach Kline.
He was the leader of the 2012 recruiting class, already playing the role of the field general before even putting on a jersey.
Now, wearing a number made famous by a certain former Bears signal-caller, Kline has made keeping a low profile a bit hard, even for his head coach.
Asked what he's liked from what he's seen from Kline in spring practice, Tedford answered with just one word: "Everything."
"Really impressed with him. Really impressed with him," Tedford said on Tuesday, after Cal's first practice back from spring recess. "He's got a good sense of humor, he's a really good leader. For a young guy to jump in the huddle and have a little presence about him, and things like that, you can tell he carries a lot of confidence."
Even the older players have shown an affinity for the youngest gun-slinger on the roster. Tedford said that the older players on offense have responded "really well," to Kline.
"Anytime there's a new guy like that, they catch a little bit of flack here and there, but he takes it really well. He's a student of the game. He's very bright. He really works at it, mentally and physically," Tedford said. "It's not surprising. I've always thought Zach was -- you never know until they make an adjustment. First time leaving home, no matter how well you think you know him, when someone leaves home, but, he's not that far from home. His mom's right there, so I think that's really made the transition pretty easy for him, because he's not far, far away. But, he's a very likeable guy. The rest of the team really respects him, and so, they take good care of him."
Kline's mother Lisa has rented out a condo for gamedays, and is a regular in the stands at practice, while Kline's older sister Ally has moved into San Francisco to be closer to her little brother.
Kline is also picking up the offense at a surprisingly quick pace.
"As quick as anyone as a freshman, at this point through a spring ball, he's picked it up as well as anyone ever has," Tedford said. "I think he's just going to continue to grow and it's going to go pretty quickly for him, because he is a student of the game, and he works really hard at it.
"He's very calm. He's very respectful of the investment that the older guys have made, understands he's got a long way to go, so he's a quality player. He's going to be a great player before it's all said and done."
That said, Kline is still just a freshman, and a young one, at that.
"He's still adjusting. It's not so much the throws; it's all the stuff that's happening right in front," Tedford said. "There's a lot of big bodies coming at you, moving really quickly. It takes somebody pretty special, when you're that young and when the people are that big and get moving that fast, to keep your eyes down the field. So, that's a gift, of being able to [do that], but he's got really good pocket presence. He's hung in there really well, he's slid in the pocket and kept his eyes downfield and threw some nice balls, so he has that. He has that gift of being in the pocket. Typically, when eyes come down, it's either they don't know what they're looking for or the game's happening too fast. So far, what I've seen, there's some times he doesn't know what he's looking for, and that's understandable, but I haven't seen the game happening too fast for him."