BERKELEY,(AP) — Jared Goff hasn’t had to wait long to get his shot as a starting quarterback in major college football.
The last few days might be the toughest leading to Goff’s debut for California on Saturday night against No. 22 Northwestern.
“I wouldn’t say I’m nervous,” Goff said Tuesday. “I’m just more anxious to get out there. Just ready to go. All this waiting around is building up anxiety.”
Goff will become the first true freshman to start his first game at Cal in school history after beating out redshirt freshman Zach Kline and junior Austin Hinder in fall camp.
The last true freshman to start a game for Cal was Kyle Boller in 1999. He came off the bench in his first game before getting his first start a week later.
“What we want Jared to do is just what he’s done at practice,” coach Sonny Dykes said. “Just take care of the football, get the ball to the right players, be accurate, be a good leader, stay emotionally calm and stable and steady. All of those are reasons why we named him the starting quarterback. He has the uncanny ability to not worry too much about what’s going on around him and focus on the stuff that’s important.”
Goff gave himself a chance to earn the starting role by graduating early from Marin Catholic High School, where he threw for 7,687 yards and 93 touchdowns to become one of the top recruits in Cal’s class.
By graduating early, Goff was able to enroll at Cal in January and to participate in the first spring practice under Dykes. While competitors Austin Hinder and Zach Kline had more time in college, neither had even taken a snap in a game and all three quarterbacks had the same amount of time to learn Dykes’ Bear Raid offense.
Goff even had a leg up by playing in a spread offense in high school, making for a seamless transition. He has impressed his teammates already with his poise and accuracy.
“He seems to put the ball in the right spot away from the defender,” cornerback Stefan McClure said. “He has good touch on the ball. He doesn’t appear to be shocked or surprised by any of the defensive rotations. He hasn’t turned the ball over. That’s really impressive for a young freshman.”
Goff said it will be an adjustment getting used to the speed of the college game for the first time after scrimmages all summer. He also will need to adjust his game-time routine a bit.
His mom traditionally made him an egg sandwich on game days in high school but Goff said he doesn’t expect that to happen now that he’s not at home. So he will spend the long hours before the nighttime kickoff mostly alone gathering his thoughts and preparing for the game and the biggest crowd he’s ever played in front of with more than 50,000 fans expected.
“It will be cool at first,” he said. “I’ll look around for a minute and take it all in but then I’m going to focus up and get ready to go.”
Goff’s transition is eased a bit by the way Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin run the offense. Center Chris Adcock takes many of the responsibilities that typically fall on the quarterback, including identifying the defensive front, calling the protection and dealing with the snap count.
That allows Goff to spend more time surveying the field to try to determine the coverage he will face on passing plays.
“In a lot of ways it allows you to play a freshman quarterback or a kid who is new to the system because you have all the stuff he has to know with coverage, plays, alignments, matchups, recognizing down and distance,” Dykes said. “I think it takes some heat off of him.”