Fall Camp 2010: Bay Area Media Day

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SAN FRANCISCO - Recent offseasons have seen Cal's running back depth chart solidified early, while the quarterback position occupies the center of attention.

With fall training camp just days away, the situations appear to be reversed this season.

At Monday's Bay Area Football Media Day, Bears coach Jeff Tedford suggested - though did not specifically guarantee - that Kevin Riley has secured the starting spot this fall.

"Going in ... Kevin will be our starter unless something happens and he gets beaten out in camp," Tedford said.

The Portland, Ore., native enters this season as the Pac-10's active leader in wins (15) and touchdown passes (27), but is coming off of an uneven first full year under center.

Riley struggled during the team's five losses last season, failing to reach the 50 percent completion mark in four of the defeats.

Yet Tedford believes that the experience, along with another year under offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, could "pay dividends" for his senior signal caller in 2010.

"He's been up and down, but he's always stayed very focused on what he's doing," Tedford said. "I think the growth and development with him as a person and as a leader and as a quarterback has been great."

Cal's coach is not the only one who commented on Riley's maturation.

"I've told him, (this offseason) is the hardest I've ever seen him work," running back Shane Vereen said. "It's easy to follow a guy like that, who's just as focused, as determined as you are."

Like the team's quarterback, Vereen will enter training camp with a firm grasp on the starting position.

It's the players vying for back-up carries who will create the drama this fall.

"We've always been very fortunate to have the one-two punch at tailback," Tedford said. "(This year) we need to find out is it one guy that's going take the (back-up) load, or is it going to be two or three guys by committee."

Part of the intrigue revolves around the variety of running styles that populate the Bears' backfield.

"All of them have special talents and all of them our different, which I think also plays a big role (for) our running back corps," Vereen said.

At one end is 5-foot-7 Isi Sofele, who received most of his carries come on fly sweeps and other special packages that took advantage of his quickness.

On the other extreme is Desarte Yarnway. At an even 6-feet and 220 pounds, the redshirt freshman was featured primarily in goal-line and short-yardage situations during the spring game.

He should see his first season of action this fall after sitting out 2009 with a foot injury.

Both backs may be looking up the depth chart at Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson, the most experienced of the trio. The redshirt sophomore received the carries in relief of Vereen towards the end of last season.

"A Breath of Fresh Air"

While noting the potential impact of Ludwig's return, Tedford also discussed the benefits of having new coaching faces - having brought in Clancy Pendergast and Jeff Genyk as the new coordinators for the defense and special teams, respectively.

"I think what coaching changes do sometimes is give kids a breath of fresh air. Its not stagnant anymore," Tedford said.

"If they had done something wrong ... they get a new start. It's a very good fit, the players really responded well to a new challenge"

There has been particular enthusiasm on the defensive side of the ball.

In working towards Tedford's goal of increasing pressure on opposing quarterbacks, Pendergast's new aggressive approach has drawn positive reviews during the offseason.

"Personally, I think it's going to help me out," senior linebacker Mike Mohamed said. "I think it's going to open more doors. Not only for me blitzing, but freeing me up because they're going to be worrying about trying to block a lot of these other guys."

Quick Hits

- Tedford on being under the radar after Cal was selected to finish seventh in the conference:

"We can use that as motivation. It's been a while. I feel like this team is going in very hungry, and to make sure we never get satisfied or too full of ourselves."

- Asked who he thinks the top back in the conference is, Mohamed went with Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers.

"I don't think a lot of people realize how strong he is," the linebacker said. "If you don't bring everything you have on him, he'll make you pay for it."

- Redshirt freshman Steven Fanua has yet to play a down in his career, but he has already set a program mark.

"He just broke the record for running the stadium as a linebacker, which is pretty impressive," Mohamed said. "This is through about six years of players."

- San Jose State head coach Mike MacIntyre is getting quite the welcome present in 2010.

His very first game at the helm of the Spartans happens to be a Sept. 4 date with Mark Ingram and national champ Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Asked about his players' reaction to the match-up, the first-year coach said, "They're on cloud nine right now."

- Jim Harbaugh is excited for the start of fall camp. Really excited.

Stanford's head coach did not hesitate to emphasize that Aug. 9 is the date he looks forward to most (even during a question about the Big Game in Berkeley). He added in his luncheon remarks that his "soul soars" on the opening morning of training camp - that "it's how angels feel."


Contact Ed Yevelev at eyevelev@dailycal.org.

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