Post-practice: Thursday (scrimmage)

Cal held its first scrimmage of the fall tonight, and there weren’t any major developments. But here are some highlights:

–Kevin Riley slightly outplayed Nate Longshore at quarterback, and has been coming on lately. The past 4 or 5 days, Riley seems to be improving his accuracy, cutting down on mistakes and playing with more confidence. Riley was 10-for-16 for 70 yards and two touchdowns while Longshore was 8-for-17 for 78 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Riley agreed that his play has improved in recent days, and it’s because he’s stopped “overthinking” and simply letting his ability take over.

“There were a few days when I was just overthinking everything,” Riley said. “I was in a funk, and I had to get out of it. I just started playing football again. The past few days have been a lot better.”

Riley connected with LaReylle Cunningham for a 3-yard touchdown pass on a fade route and added an 8-yard scoring pass to freshman Marvin Jones. Longshore hit Sean Young for a 13-yard touchdown pass and also was picked off by cornerback Chris Conte on a ball that appeared to slip out of his hands.

Riley said he isn’t thinking too much about the competition against Longshore, but it’s in the back of his mind.

“I might have been thinking about it a little bit, thinking I had to make a play and may have been forcing it,” Riley said. “It’s more about just going out there and playing. I’ve been getting better about that.”

Riley made an excellent play when he avoided pressure then threw a short pass through traffic. Tight end Cameron Morrah made a terrific catch.

–Jahvid Best was held out of the scrimmage as part of his designed rest this fall. Backup Shane Vereen took advantage, rushing for 71 yards on 11 carries. Vereen also was in on punt and kick returns.

Vereen has been hampered by a sprained ankle this fall and says he’s still not feeling totally healthy.

“I still think I have a step-and-a-half missing,” he said. “It makes it easy when your O-line and fullback are blocking well. Your lack of speed doesn’t show as much.”

One of the more memorable moments from the scrimmage came on a punt return, when freshman Covaughn DeBoskie crushed Vereen too early as he was attempting to field the punt. It was a big hit, and one that resulted in a scolding from coach Jeff Tedford.

“If I was sleeping, it would have woke me up,” Vereen said.

–Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory was generally happy with his unit’s performance. He continues to rave about several of the defense’s newcomers, such as linemen Kendrick Payne, Aaron Tipoti and Trevor Guyton, linebacker Mychal Kendricks and defensive back Bryant Nnabuife.

“We need all those guys,” Gregory said. “Those guys are good football players. We have to make a decision what to do with those guys. I think those guys can help us.”

Nnabuife, a junior college transfer from Texas, has had a strong camp, but was called for pass interference on back-to-back plays during the scrimmage. Still, count on Nnabuife as a contirbutor right away.

Nnabuife has been playing both cornerback and safety.

“We’re going to need him this year,” Gregory said. “He’s a talented kid. I think we may need him more at safety. He might do some stuff in the nickel.”

–Linebacker Worrell Williams, who suffered an abdominal strain during Tuesday’s practice, sat out the scrimmage. Nose guard Mika Kane (ankle) and Devin Bishop (thumb) remain sidelined.

During the scrimmage, cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson suffered a shoulder sprain and Derrick Hill went down with a sprained ankle. Hill got taped up and was able to return.

Tedford said Williams’ injury isn’t severe and expects him back soon.

–Some other nuggets from the scrimmage:

Crowd noise was piped into the stadium when the team worked on its hurry-up and endgame drills.

Pac-10 coordinator of officiating Dave Cutaia was on hand to evalute the officiating crew.

Freshman cornerback Josh Hill stopped running on a deep pass from Brock Mansion to Marvin Jones, and it went for a big gain.

DeBoskie had a 1-yard touchdown run.

Running back Tracy Slocum broke free from a pile after losing his helmet for a nice gain, and then fell hard after running into Rulon Davis on the sideline.

Cunningham made a terrific leaping catch on a pass from Longshore, but it was called back because of a penalty.

Slocum added 10 carries for 67 yards. Jones had three catches for 72 yards and Young added four catches  for 37 yards. Defensive back Brett Johnson was the leading tackler with five.

–The Bears will hold another scrimmage on Tuesday, and that one will be closed to everybody, including the media.


Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • Mr. Bear

    Hey J.O.

    You’re doing a great job with these reports, keep it up!

    What’s going on with Nyan Boateng? Did he play in the scrimmage? We haven’t really heard much about him lately.

  • Mustang man

    Jonathon, excellent and detailed report, thank you. The play of all the young guys is exciting. 2 questions:

    1. Your statement about Riley slightly outplaying Nate, do you think that’s the case in the Coaches eyes? And assuming it is and continues for the rest of fall, do you think it is enough for Riley to start over Nate, or do you think Nate would still get the call?

    2. In all your reports, I’ve never seen a single mention of the team practicing a fake fg or a fake punt or onside kick practice. Have you seen them practice any of this, or more importantly, try it in a scrimmage? Since Jeff has been the head coach at Cal, he’s never tried a fake fg or fake punt, which is really hard to believe for such a creative offensive mind. Can you ask him why? I don’t think a team has ever made a bcs championship game without doing at least one during the course of the season.

  • CALiforniALUM

    I don’t want anybody to speculate on injuries, but is there any sense as to whether SQT’s shoulder injury is serious or not? We are so close to our first game I hope he is able to return soon. Get well Syd’Quan!!!!

  • N8Bear

    J.O. wow, you’re really hitting your stride. These reports are great. Is it me or is the overall coverage of Cal football from all publications stepping up a notch?
    I’m also impressed with the performance of our running backs. However, is it that we have great running backs (averaging 6-7 yards per carry) and O-Line or is our 3-4 susceptible to the run?

  • Steve in Concord

    Remember how this year’s recruiting class was felt to have been a big drop off in quality from previous years? Coach tedford told Ted Miller of ESPN that this year’s class has more guys ready to contribute right away than any previous class he’s had. I think we got a sense of that recently when J.O. reported Tedford mentioning the names of numerous freshman as guys who could play this season. That’s good news for this season and especially for the future and shows that the coaching staff is bringing in quality recruits even though they may not be that highly rated by the scouting serices.

  • Tyler M.

    N8Bear – I was thinking the same thing on the run. Let’s hope it’s our backs and OL.

    J.O. – In practice, do they ever pair the first team defense with the second team offense, or pairs similar to that?

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    Steve in Concord Says:
    August 15th, 2008 at 12:57 pm
    Coach tedford told Ted Miller of ESPN that this year’s class has more guys ready to contribute right away than any previous class he’s had.
    USC always recruits with freshmans in mind as immediate contributors. They are there to push the starters. Furthermore because we beat most of our opponents by the 3rd quarter our second and third teams get just as many reps as the starters. One of the incredible things is that all of the great recruits still want to come to our program even though they risk not starting their entire careers. However even our second team players are drafted and NFL bound.

  • Tyler M.

    Longshore has an edge over Riley in the returning-receivers category. Nate will have more familiar targets than Riley will, like Alterraun Verner (UCLA), Kevin Ellison (USC), to name just a couple.

  • Steve in Concord

    I think coverage of college football in general has increased in the past few years and Cal definitely is a beneficiary of that. That said, I think the media, both national, and local has been paying more attention to Cal the past few season. There are many reasons for that.

    First, of course, is that we have been winning football games. Secondly, Cal has had some extremely high profile players in the persons of Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch, and Desean Jackson and the media always follows the stars, so to speak. Thirdly, Cal got a lot of national attention due to the 2005 Rosebowl screwjob, the tree-sitter saga, the PAC-10 VS. SEC (Cal-Tennessee games) story, last season’s rise/fall, the Kevin Hart recruiting hoax…all these stories contributed to raising Cal’s national profile. Even though tree-sitters and recruiting hoaxes aren’t necessarily the types of things the football program wants to be associated with….hey, publicity is publicity. Why do you think the American public is so fascinated with people like Britney Spears an Lindsay Lohan? Not for their singing/acting talents; that’s for sure.

    Locally, interest in the Bears is up due to their on-field performance and the fact that most of their games of the past few seasons have been televised, many on ABC and ESPN. VCR’s, and especially DVR’s make it easy to record the games for later viewing when people are otherwise occupied at gametime. The recent dismal seasons of the local pro teams might also be a contributing factor.

    The media is always going to give coverage where it feels there is interest, and there is certainly more interest in the Bears now than in he pre-Tedford era. A great season this year coupled with the emergence of new star players (Best? Riley? Calvin? Boateng?) will keep that media coverage snowball rolling and that is a good thing for the football program. A juicy sex-tape scandal wouldn’t hurt either…..just kidding!

  • Jonathan Okanes

    Mr. Bear, yes Boateng played. He drew the ire of Tedford on one play when he caught a short pass and, instead of simply lunging forward for a first down, he tried to put a few moves on the defensive back and fell short of the marker. The good news is Boateng has really improved his practice habits since the spring.
    Mustang, hard to say if the coaches felt the same. Tedford isn’t saying much about who is playing better, and I don’t blame him considering all the attention and reaction it will get. But if Riley outplayed Longshore for the rest of camp, then surely he’d have to be considered strongly for the starting job. As for the fake punts or field goals, there’s a very good reason you’ve never seen me report on them. That’s off-limits. We’re only allowed into practice if we don’t report on gadget type things, formations, etc. We’re allowed to report on what we see as long as it doesn’t reveal any secrets to potential opponents.
    Cal, just found out that Thompson has a AC joint shoulder sprain. Tedford doesn’t expect him to be out too long.
    N8, good question. Probably all of the above. I think the 3-4 will be a work in progress as far as stopping the run goes, but don’t forget that the defensive front is pretty banged up right now. But the offensive line is one of the strengths of the team, and the Bears are deep and talented in the backfield.
    Tyler, they did just that during the scrimmage Thursday. They began strictly going first team against first team, second team against second team, etc. But as the scrimmage wore on, there were different combinations with the matchups.

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    Steve in Concord Says:
    August 15th, 2008 at 2:40 pm
    I think coverage of college football in general has increased in the past few years and Cal definitely is a beneficiary of that. That said, I think the media, both national, and local has been paying more attention to Cal the past few season. There are many reasons for that.
    Steve – you are quite right but you are actually underestimating UCB’s media coverage. For the past 2 years UCB has been the media darling. Always thirsty for a story, the media crowned UCB its feel good team. Unfortunately with the choke job against Arizona in 2006 as well as the loss to USC and the monumental collapse in 2007 the media has backed way off of the bandwagon. There is no story in Sourberry Canyon this year unless it is earned. The media is simply not willing to stick its neck out of the line again. Not Herbstreit, not Holtz, not big mouth Corso. They have learned their lesson.