Experienced Offense Returns as Bears Begin 2010

Photo: Junior Marvin Jones returns to helm the youthful Cal receiver corps. He averaged over 50 yards receiving per game last season.
Skyler Reid/File
Junior Marvin Jones returns to helm the youthful Cal receiver corps. He averaged over 50 yards receiving per game last season.

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References to Boise State and Stanford were ubiquitous during Tuesday morning's press conference.

When asked about UC Davis, the Bears' foe in Saturday's 1 p.m., season opener at Memorial Stadium, Cal coach Jeff Tedford, linebacker Mike Mohamed and quarterback Kevin Riley all took time to mention the Aggies' recent gridiron recent achievements.

"You take a look at their victory over Stanford five years ago, you take a look at how they played Boise State last year," Tedford said. "At Boise it was 27-16 with

about a minute to play in the game. And so they do a great job there."

Riley took the topic one step further, referencing Appalachian State's monumental upset victory over No. 5 Michigan in 2007.

"You've got to be ready," Riley said. "If you come out there just thinking you're going to win, not ready to play, it's going to be a fight and you might get yourself into a bad situation."

Cal is unlikely to find itself in a bind against such a heavy FCS underdog, especially one with key losses. Two-time All-Great West quarterback Greg Denham left for the seminary, while standout receiver Chris Carter has graduated.

Riley's general emphasis on preparation and focus is apt, considering the season the Bears endured last fall. After receiving considerable preseason hype and another lofty national ranking, Cal stumbled to an 8-5 record.

That inconsistency leaves the Bears starting unranked for only the second time in seven years, and the team's off-season changes have reflected a desire to avoid 2009's curious lapses.

On defense, Tedford brought in Clancy Pendergast from the NFL to create more play-making opportunities for an all-too-often passive Cal defense.

"We want to be more aggressive," Mohamed said. "We want to get in the quarterback's face, we want to cause turnovers and just get the ball back for our offense."

Perhaps no one has been more eager to move past 2009 than the player commanding that offense.

Wildly inconsistent during his first full season under center, Riley has honed every element of his game in preparation for his senior year.

"I told him, I thought this is the hardest I've ever seen him work," tailback Shane Vereen said in fall camp.

"I love Kevin," Tedford said. "Kevin really has done a nice job. His growth and development as a person, as a player, as a leader, is awesome. His experience is really going to pay dividends for us."

For the first time in his career, the Portland, Ore., native is working with a returning offensive coordinator - Andy Ludwig - and has a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver in junior Marvin Jones. Riley lines up behind a shuffled but experienced offensive line that lost just one significant starter from 2009.

He will also be handing off to the most reliable runners in the conference in Vereen.

"(Vereen) does everything well - pass blocking, catching the ball out on routes," Riley said. "I expect him to keep on doing what he did last year, but elevating his game."


Ed Yevelev covers football. Contact him at [email protected]

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