Steamboat Springs Three years ago, Austin Hinder achieved an incredible feat for a Steamboat athlete: He earned a Division I football scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley. This year, he will try to push the limits of what a mountain town kid can accomplish by battling for the Pac 12 school’s starting quarterback position when training camp rolls around at the end of summer.
With Allan Bridgford, who started the final three games of the past season, announcing his transfer March 13, Hinder finds himself in a three-man competition for the starting job next year with Zach Kline and Jared Goff.
Goff is an impressive true freshman from Kentfield, Calif., and is the eighth-ranked quarterback in the Class of 2013, according to www.rivals.com. Kline, a redshirt freshman, was a highly touted pro-style quarterback coming out of San Ramon Valley High School in Danville, Calif.
Neither quarterback seems to have the raw speed that allowed Hinder to rack up an impressive 14 rushing touchdowns his senior season of high school and be the second-leading rusher in Cal’s March 23 spring game.
On what separates him as a quarterback from Kline and Goff, Hinder said, “My athletic ability, and my ability to extend plays.”
Huge changes with the Golden Bears pre-empted the quarterback race in December. Sonny Dykes replaced the winningest coach in Cal football history, Jeff Tedford, after a disappointing 3-9 record last season. The former Louisiana Tech head coach brought to Berkeley his offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, and together they have implemented their fast-paced air raid offense.
Although he is sad to see the man who gave him a scholarship leave, Hinder seems excited about the offensive transition, which he said is “a lot less complicated, a lot less terminology, a lot more reaction."
Dykes’ system, which Bay Area residents have begun calling the “Bear Raid,” averaged 88.6 plays per game for the duo at Louisiana Tech last season by focusing on running fewer plays more efficiently. In 2012, Dykes’ team got to the line of scrimmage even quicker than the infamous Oregon “speed freak” offense that averaged 82.8 plays per game.
“It’s going to be fun to watch. It’s going to be fun to play in,” Hinder said.
The “Bear Raid” is in stark contrast to Tedford’s offense that comprised hundreds of plays with equally complex check downs and audibles to match. This new system not only was part of the reason for Bridgford’s departure but also favors Hinder’s experience with the fast-paced spread offense he ran at Steamboat Springs High School.
“It’s a lot of the same route concepts,” Hinder said.
No matter what his role is next season — whether it's starter, zone-read specialist or sitting on the sideline with a headset again — Hinder has given Steamboat Springs athletes a glimmer of hope that their post-high school sports dreams could be more than just dreams.
“Don’t think you can’t make it just because you’re from a small town.” Hinder said, “If you’re good enough, they will find you. You just have to work really hard.”
Jake Miller, a 2012 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, is working as a summer intern for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. He recently completed his freshman year at Nebraska Wesleyan University, where he played basketball.