It's probably self-indulgent to look for deeper meaning in California coach Sonny Dykes naming true freshman Jared Goff his starting quarterback Friday. Going beyond the notion that Goff simply straight-up won the competition with redshirt freshman Zach Kline and junior Austin Hinder is mostly an academic exercise, some preseason navel gazing.
Dykes picked Goff because he was the most consistent player in preseason camp. He picked him because he believes he gives the Bears their best chance to win. There are no other reasons to pick a starting quarterback, particularly when the guy who finished No. 2, Kline, is just a redshirt freshman.
But in terms of fleshing this out, it's also reasonable to believe Dykes particularly liked how Goff looked in preseason camp compared to spring practices. Decided improvement leads to projection -- Goff went from this to this over the summer; what might he do with first team reps and coaching for two weeks?
If two guys are in nearly a dead-heat, the tag goes to the guy who improved the most to get there.
Goff flashed potential in the spring. He showed maturity. He didn't seem intimidated. And he played a similar offense in high school. Still, he looked skinny and had plenty of freshman moments.
At the end of spring practices, while Dykes revealed nothing, most observers thought the big-armed Kline was the front runner. The rationale not being much beyond his being a year older.
But Goff put on six or seven pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame, and that filling out accentuated his developing polish. Goff got better over the summer. And probably more confident. That Goff truly believed he could win the job, and Dykes saw that in him, surely played a role in Dykes envisioning a true freshman leading the Bears' new up-tempo, spread offense.
The bad news is the schedule. Goff could use a couple of early-season patsies to get accustomed to game-day environments and the speed of opposing defenses. Instead, he gets Northwestern in Week 1 and national title contender Ohio State in Week 3. The good news is both games are in Berkeley. Of course, the schedule doesn't get any easier, as the Bears' only scheduling break is missing Arizona State.
Playing young quarterbacks, particularly true and redshirt freshmen, used to be almost unheard of in college football. But with the success of redshirt freshmen such as Oregon's Marcus Mariota, UCLA's Brett Hundley and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, it's obvious that guys are arriving at college far more advanced and ready to compete, physically, mentally and, perhaps most important, emotionally.
The question now is will Goff hold onto the job? If he falters early, say throws a few picks against the Buckeyes in a blowout defeat, will Dykes be tempted to give him the hook and see what Kline might be able to do? Quarterback carousels, typically, are not a good thing.
Of course, that was the question last year with Hundley, Mariota and then sophomore Taylor Kelly at Arizona State. But all three thrived from the get-go.
Is Goff poised to be the next young Pac-12 QB phenom? We should have at least a preliminary answer to that before September is over.