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July 19, 2011

Kline out to prove Oregon was fluke

MORE ELITE 11: Preview | Top 12
KLINE VIDEO: May interview | Junior highlights

MALIBU, Calif. - Disappointed by his shaky performance at The Opening, stewing at home waiting for the Elite 11, Zach Kline promised himself he'd bounce back.

The four-star recruit from Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Valley wasn't deplorable in Beaverton, Ore., but he wasn't himself - which means he wasn't one of the best quarterbacks in the 2012 class.

And that's not acceptable to Kline, rated as the second-best pro-style quarterback by Rivals.com.

Kline was blunt on Tuesday about his showing at The Opening earlier this month. He didn't sidestep the issue or make excuses.

"The first day (in Oregon) I was terrible," Kline said Tuesday at the Elite 11. "The second day I felt I did a lot better than the first. It still wasn't as good as I could do.

"That comes with the position. You win the game, they give it all to the quarterback but if you lose the game they think you're the worst one that ever came through. I know that going in and that's why I love the position."

Kline wasn't finished explaining how he felt. Considering he's under a microscope at every event, Kline, who committed to California in September, knows the stakes but also knows he has other challenges to face.

One bad performance won't define him. He won't let it.

"What you do reflects how everyone looks at you," Kline said. "I had an off day at The Opening, didn't have my best day and I'm not going to blame it on the receivers, not going to do anything like that, but everyone could play up there and I didn't have my day. I didn't play the way I usually play.

"I'm just saying forget it, it doesn't matter, just blow it over, everyone has a bad day. Even Peyton Manning has a bad day but I'm coming in here with a chip on my shoulder. I want to prove something here. I want to prove my name and I want to prove my skill. I want to prove all that because there is still a lot to prove."

Referencing Drew Brees' book, "Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity", Kline said he's learned to always play with purpose. Good day, bad day, it doesn't really matter. There will always be the next challenge, the next test, the next event to prove he's still one of the nation's top quarterbacks.

"That was the ultimate message - playing with a chip on your shoulder, always playing like you have something to prove," Kline said. "Especially being a quarterback you're never in a good, normal spot. You're always in a spot where you need to shine."

Other quarterbacks have been more consistent through two days at the Elite 11 but Kline has definitely looked better here at Pepperdine than he did in Oregon. He's playing with more confidence, he's throwing a better ball and for the second day in a row he'll make the top performers from camp.

Everything Kline does is so closely scrutinized that it's difficult for him to outperform expectations because the bar has been set so high.

Rated second at his position, seventh in the California state rankings and No. 40 in the 2012 class overall can sometimes be as much a curse as a blessing. Do well and it's expected. Have a bad day and questions start getting asked.

A naturally light-hearted kid, Kline said he's not all that worried about the pressures involved with being an elite quarterback, that he embraces the limelight and is at the Elite 11 to prove a point - but also have fun.

The Northern California quarterback is here to prove that The Opening was an anomaly and not the new norm. But he's also here to learn from Super Bowl champion Trent Dilfer, compete with other great quarterbacks and smile a little bit.

This really isn't life and death.

"On the field, I'm serious but I like to have fun," Kline said. "I like to make guys laugh and I like to lighten the mood. That's how I deal with it, just making jokes and being a fraternity out here, being friends, that's the biggest thing. When you press you don't really do well and when you just have fun that's when you play better.

"I feel good. I've been slinging it really well and I've been icing up. You throw a lot. You probably throw 200-300 times a day and there are only so many throws in your arm so I'm definitely going to stretch and ice some more."

Of course he will. Wednesday brings more workouts and, as always, everyone will be watching.




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