By Jonathan Okanes
Thursday, August 21st, 2008 at 10:01 pm in Training camp.
Cal coach Jeff Tedford approached reporters after Thursday’s practice and joked he couldn’t talk because he had to get to a meeting.
He knew what question was coming.
After all, the assembled media could see it with their very own eyes. Kevin Riley taking snaps with the first team during the first day of practice using scout teams.
“Kevin is going to start. We might as well cut to the chase,” Tedford said. “Both of them have had a great camp. Kevin is going to take the first snaps and we’ll see how it goes from there.”
It was a surreal moment. So much attention has been focused on the quarterback battle between Riley and Nate Longshore, and to actually hear a resolution just seemed a little unreal.
So now what? Well, Riley will spend the next week practicing with the first team, knowing he will start the season-opener against Michigan State. But Tedford said Longshore will also play against the Spartans. So while we do have some answers, there isn’t total closure on this topic.
Tedford didn’t say how much Longshore would play, or when he would be inserted into the game. But he said it was likely the coaching staff would come up with some designated juncture in which Longshore will play.
“It’s so close that it’s going to be a continual evaluation,” Tedford said.
Riley seemed quietly confident now that he’s been handed the starting job. He recognized Longshore’s accomplishments and that the competition has been close, but also said he’s moving forward and getting ready to assume the burden on Aug. 30.
“It’s an honor to be named starter, especially after what Nate has done at Cal,” Riley said. “We’re in good hands having two great quarterbacks here. I just have to prepare and get ready for this game.”
Longshore declined to comment after practice. This obviously is a tough time for the fifth-year senior. After a record-breaking 2006, he has to wonder what has happened. His hopes of playing in the NFL are on the line, and if he finds himself on the sideline for a good chunk of the season, it certainly will be a blow to his chances.
Before last season, Longshore was rated as the top junior quarterback prospect in the country by ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.
About a week after camp, it appeared as though Longshore was clearly winning the competition. But somewhere along the line, Riley found a comfort zone and really came on. He’s been slightly outplaying Longshore for several practices now.
“As camp went on, I was making good reads and I was hitting receivers,” Riley said. “I was completing the ball and getting first downs. Nate was doing a great job, too. He’s a great quarterback. I felt like I had a chance. I was doing my job.”
The quarterback situation wasn’t the only notable development Thursday.
–Tedford announced that walk-on freshman David Seawright has won the field goal kicking job over incumbent Jordan Kay. Tedford said Seawright and Kay are still battling for kickoff duties.
–Tedford said starting receivers probably won’t be finalized until the day of the opener, but he did imply that Nyan Boateng is no longer in the mix for a starting spot. Boateng started camp strong but has been taking reps with the second team lately.
–Center Alex Mack was named to the Rimington Award watch list. Mack was a finalist for the award last year.
–Nose guard Mika Kane returned to practice after missing substantial time with a sprained ankle. He participated only in individual drills.
That’s a wrap for now. Much more tomorrow, a day off for the Bears.