By Jonathan Okanes
Thursday, August 14th, 2008 at 11:01 pm in Training camp.
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.