BERKELEY -- Cal football practice began Monday under first-year coach Sonny Dykes, whose immediate priority is to determine a starting quarterback before the Bears' season opener Aug. 31 against Northwestern.

Zach Kline, Jared Goff and Austin Hinder emerged from spring workouts as candidates for the assignment, but none of them has appeared in a college football game.

Dykes said bottom-line results will settle the competition. "The defining characteristic for winning the job will be who do we think gives us the best chance to win," he said last week.

Coming off a 3-9 season that led to coach Jeff Tedford's firing, the Bears face one of the nation's most challenging schedules. They play three times against 10-win opponents -- Northwestern, Ohio State and Oregon -- in their first four games.

Dykes was generally pleased with Day 1 of fall camp.

"It was good. A little rough around the edges, but kind of what you'd expect," he said after the two-hour session. "We (played) about a thousand guys, so it wasn't bad for the first time out. Our attitude was really good, the hustle was good, the effort was good. I thought the guys were hungry."

Certainly there is some urgency to decide who will run the Bear Raid spread option offense.

"I'm hoping it will happen quickly. We'd like to have something done certainly by practice 10, 12, as you start to enter the third week of practice," Dykes said last week. "If it's obvious the third practice, we'll do it after the third practice."

Dykes said each candidate offers something different:

  • Kline, a redshirt freshman from Danville, has the strongest arm of the three. "He's got to learn to rein himself in a bit, try not to force balls through small windows. Has to learn to improve his touch, midrange accuracy, but can certainly make the throws," Dykes said. "Has some mental toughness we like, some leadership abilities."

  • Goff, a true freshman from Novato, opened eyes in spring ball, impressing with his ability to grasp the offense. "Jared Goff has been a surprise -- just his maturity and his ability to have confidence in himself and to pick things up incredibly quickly," Dykes said.

  • Hinder, a junior from Steamboat Springs, Colo., is "stronger, bigger, perceived to be a little bit better runner," Dykes said. "That's something we let him do a little bit of in the spring, probably let him do some in fall camp just to see how good of a runner he actually is."

    Sophomore wide receiver Bryce Treggs is eager to see who wins the job.

    "I want a quarterback to be named as soon as possible," Treggs said. "That's just going to make our offense that much better if we have good chemistry."

  • Starting left offensive tackle Freddie Tagaloa practiced without a helmet because he is recovering from an ear infection. Dykes said he should be fine for Tuesday's practice.

    For more on Cal sports, see the Bear Talk blog at ibabuzz.com/beartalk. Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/CalBearsBANG.

    ONLINE EXTRA

    Cal's quarterback battle looms large, but other questions face Cal in training camp. Beat writer Jeff Faraudo examines:

  • Can the offensive line function well enough to let the Bear Raid offense thrive?
  • Is there enough talent and depth at running back?
  • Can this young team with a new coaching staff hold it together when a demanding schedule produces inevitable losses?

    For a detailed look at these issues, go to

    www.mercurynews.com/sports