BERKELEY -- The evening of California spring football practice started with some notably increased velocity from redshirt freshman Zach Kline during early-practice full-offense reps, but once the Bears’ ninth spring session moved into the red zone, the focus shifted. There were two yellow jerseys on the field.
In one formation, it was Austin Hinder under center, with the yellow No. 6 -- redshirt sophomore quarterback Kyle Boehm -- at the H-receiver position. Boehm caught a pass early, in what looked like an attempt to keep the running back corps healthy, but as practice wore in, it became clear that the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder out of San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty was no longer just a quarterback.
“First day playing some slot, and the reason why is because we were short on F [receivers],” Boehm said. “A lot of our running backs were injured and hurt, so we’re helping each other out, finding some spots that need to be filled temporarily.”
Despite the “just-for-now” nature of Boehm’s move, he took to the position quite naturally.
“I’m just out there having fun, doing the best I can,” he smiled. “It was my first time, and it was just pitch-and-catch out there. Hinder throws me the ball, I’ve got to catch it and make sure I don’t look like an idiot.”
Boehm took direct snaps inside the 10-yard line as part of the big-bone package, running both inside and outside with great effect, though he did not do it against the full defense.
“I’m here if they need me,” Boehm said. “I’ll play whatever position they want me to. I’m just trying to help out ... I’m used to running and stuff. In my high school offense, I ran the ball the majority of the time, so I’m used to it. It’s second nature to me. And, I’m comfortable with it.”
On the last play of mid-practice full-team 11-on-11 work, when he snared a 20-yard pass from Hinder over the middle, finding the seam in coverage and running untouched to the house for a 40-yard score against the second-team defense, eliciting a huge ovation from the team.
“Hinder threw a great ball, so that made it easier for me,” Boehm said. “I just had to turn that corner, catch and go up field.”
“We’re a little beat up across the board at some spots, so Kyle got a little receiver and did some good things,” said head coach Sonny Dykes. “He’s a good athlete, a guy who we thought we might stick out there and see what he can do.”
With the three-man log jam at quarterback, Boehm is starting to realize that taking his opportunity at other spots on the field could get him into games.
“It’s part of the process, it happens, I’ve just got to roll with it and hope for the best,” Boehm said. “It was just kind of today, in the meeting room, before practice, that we’re short on F’s so some of the other quarterbacks who aren’t getting a majority of the reps are going to have to help out a bit.”
The last time Boehm caught a pass? Pop Warner, he says.
“We were throwing a QB wheel just for fun, so it’s been a while,” he laughed.
Boehm also ran a nice curl route late in practice, and showed good speed getting off the line.
Hinder also played receiver during the evening, though he did not see a pass come his way. He did, however, make some good headway with his legs on the ground, on one play scampering for about 10 yards to the right, with four receivers bunched on the left-hand side of the field drawing the bulk of the defense. On Hinder’s first play of full 11-on-11s, he ran for well over 20 yards untouched through the left A-gap on a designed run.
“Austin got some reps at running back, and receiver as well,” Dykes said. “We’re just a little bit banged up. We had some freak injuries here, recently, and needed some bodies.”
As for those injuries, Dykes said that Joel Willis will undergo surgery this week to have a screw put in his broken right foot after injuring it during Monday’s practice. Wide receiver Griffin Piatt is still awaiting the results of an MRI. Both will be lost for the spring.
Running back Lucas Gingold participated lightly in practice. Dykes said the hard-running, hard-blocking back was feeling “a little under the weather,” but he still did some work in walkthroughs.
Other notable plays were a one-handed touchdown grab by Maurice Harris on a nice touch ball from Jared Goff during offensive installation, and a sack during team 11-on-11s by Harrison Wilfley against Hinder.
Safety Jordan Morgan was in yellow today, and participated in 7-on-7 work, but not full 11-on-11.
Linebacker Khairi Fortt was in and out of practice, so as to not overly aggravate a hamstring situation.
Stefan McClure participated in the latter half of practice after late class conflicted with early portions of the workout.
After practice, the Bears did up-downs at five-yard increments from one end zone to the other and back again as punishment for players missing class. Dykes sternly and forcefully admonished his team afterwards -- without raising his voice -- in no uncertain terms, reminding them that if academics are not taken care of, APR points will be lost, and so too would be the team’s bowl eligibility.
Faces in the Crowd
Marshawn Lynch dropped by practice, dressed head-to-toe in red.
Former Cal football players Keenan Allen, Isi Sofele, Kameron Krebs, Matt Summers-Gavin and Marc Anthony also watched practice as they prepare for a Thursday Pro Day at Memorial Stadium.
Recruits D.J. Calhoun and Jalen Harvey out of El Cerrito (Calif.) were in attendance, along with Xavier Crawford and Pittsburgh (Calif.) running back Harris Ross.