No Controversy Here; Riley Named as Bears' Starting Quarterback
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Jeff Tedford started to walk off the field after Monday's practice, then turned back and spent a few minutes addressing the Cal football team's quarterbacks. When he came off the second time, he brought with him resolution to the Bears' quarterback competition: Kevin Riley will start under center for Cal.
And this time there will be no open-ended competition heading into week one or planned quarterback substitutions in the season opener. The job belongs to Riley.
"I'm going to make it that way by playing well," Riley said. "We have weapons on offense and we're going to be a tough team to guard, and hopefully I can just run the offense as best as possible."
The announcement seemed to confirm what many already suspected. Riley came into fall camp confident about winning the job and with far and away more experience in the Bears' offense than Brock Mansion or Beau Sweeney. He adopted a vocal leadership role. He split first-team reps with Mansion early, but played almost exclusively with the ones during the second half of camp as fellow players commented on his increased confidence and presence in the huddle.
"It wasn't a shock to me at all," tailback Jahvid Best said. "Brock did good this camp too, and not to take anything away from him, but Kevin was the guy."
After tweaking his throwing mechanics in the offseason, Riley performed in fall camp with more accuracy and better footwork than he displayed in 2008. In the end, though, Tedford said it was Riley's experience and comfort level with the offense that chiefly influenced his decision.
"I think they've all shown flashes of doing really great things," Tedford said of his quarterbacks. "But it's evident that you can tell by all of the things that are going on at the line of scrimmage and in the huddle and things like that that Kevin's experience-he's comfortable with the amount of offense that goes in every day."
Riley said that he was relieved by the news. More surprising than the decision itself was the way that he found out: Tedford's post-practice huddle with the quarterbacks was when he told them about the decision.
"It was a little different than last year," Riley said. "But with me taking the one reps I felt like it was going to be me. Now I know for sure."
In a lot of ways, the situation surrounding Riley is different than in 2008. Last year, Riley found out that he would be starting the opener against Michigan State at the same time that he learned Nate Longshore would be entering in the second quarter. The rest of the season followed accordingly, as there were some weeks that Tedford did not announce his starter until the actual day of the game.
When Riley did start he typically played with the knowledge that he could, and often did, trade places with Longshore at any point in the game. Both quarterbacks appeared in the same game 11 times last season-all but two of the Bears' games.
Riley acknowledged Monday that he thought about the potential effect of his on-field mistakes too much last season and that it hindered his performance.
"(Last season) I felt like it was still kind of open, because if I didn't start off well and Nate played well he probably would have finished the game," Riley said. "Now I feel like they're telling me I'm the guy and just go with it."
During camp, Riley has carried himself like "the guy." He started taking on a bigger leadership role during the summer, when he "went about like this was my team"-something that he said naturally became easier when he became the team's most experienced quarterback.
He has also developed relationships with Cal's receiving corps where there seemed to be few connections in 2008. Riley completed 50 percent of his passes last season, but a good number of those completions were to running backs or tight end Cameron Morrah.
Now, receiver Marvin Jones said, Riley will approach them in practice and, if somebody makes a mistake on a route or a read, talk it over to ensure that the mistake doesn't happen again.
"Little things like that let you know that he's ready to take on this leadership and carry this team," he said. "He just really shows that he's here and he wants to lead this team to a championship."
Contact Matt Kawahara at [email protected]
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