Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Zach Kline has come a long way
By Greg Biggins
ESPN Recruiting Nation
Quarterback Zach Kline has come a long way in a short time.
As a junior at Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Valley, Kline said he had the "the worst season ever by a quarterback." A year later, he was being presented with an Under Armour All-American jersey, signifying his status as one of the premier players in America.
The American Family Insurance jersey presentation tour hit Northern California on Tuesday and Kline was able to fulfill a goal he had set for himself when he was just a freshman.
"I remember watching the Under Amour Game when Matt Barkley was playing quarterback," said Kline, who is No. 58 in the ESPNU 150 and the No. 4 QB prospect. "That was my freshman year and it looked like such a fun game with a great atmosphere. I think Matt threw for like 200 and something yards and got MVP and I told myself right then that I would one day play in this game, and here I am.
"This is a truly a honor and a dream come true. Every player wants to be an All-American, and this is a huge accomplishment. I owe so much to my quarterback coach, Roger Theder, who has worked with me for years, and I'm very grateful for this opportunity."
Kline had a solid summer two years ago, prior to his junior year, and he gave an early commitment to Cal following his first game of the season. Things went downhill quick after that.
"I was terrible last year," Kline said. "I was just bad. I'm not going to lie, it was a struggle all season long for me. I battled as hard as I could but it was rough."
Fast forward just one year and Kline said it's almost as if he's playing a different sport this season.
"The game has really slowed down for me," Kline said. "Everything is so much different and I'm loving it. We have great receivers, our offensive line is incredible, the play calling is much better because we have the weapons now and I'm making much better decisions with the ball.
"I really grew from last year and my confidence is sky high right now. I set a goal that I wanted to throw for 300 yards and five touchdowns in every game, and even if I don't do that, I'm still confident that I did my best and gave our team the best chance to win."
Kline hasn't quite met his lofty individual goals but has come pretty close. The Wolves are 6-1 on the year and Kline has thrown for 1,857 yards and 21 touchdowns with just four interceptions and rushed for four more scores.
"A lot of credit has to go to participating in the Elite 11 QB camp this past summer," Kline said. "I learned so much that I use every day in practice and in games. Mechanically, I learned about throwing with your hips, not just your arm and using your whole body. I learned about reading defenses, when to check down, a lot of little things that have made a huge difference for me in my training and how I prepare for a game."
Kline said playing in the UA Game will also give him an opportunity to hang out with some of the other quarterbacks he befriended over the summer at the Elite 11 and The Opening.
"I talk with Connor Brewer and Tanner Mangum all the time," Kline said. "After the Elite 11, we actually formed our own Facebook page and we all keep in contact. Connor and Tanner are great guys, but since they're not from California, I never get to see them. I talk to Jameis [Winston] too, but he's not much of a Facebooker.
"I just can't wait to get out to Florida and have fun with all the guys but also test myself against the best athletes in the country. I talked to people who played in the game and they said the whole week is like preparing for a bowl game; it's fun but also competitive.
"The practices are going to be like college practices with the amount of speed and athleticism and it's going to be a great test for me. I'm just hoping to rep Berkeley and San Ramon Valley the best I possibly can."
Greg Biggins covers recruiting in the West region. He can be reached at Greg.Biggins@espn.com.