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So, was it the right decision?

Now that Jeff Tedford has picked Kevin Riley as Cal’s starting quarterback, the question is whether it was the correct decision.

If Tedford based his decision on training camp, which he said he was going to do, then the answer is yes.

Both Riley and Nate Longshore have had their good runs and bad runs during camp, but Riley is the better quarterback right now. Riley has improved as camp has gone along and Longshore has fallen off a bit. So if Tedford’s idea was to pick the best quarterback right now, that player is Riley.

Riley has played really well in practice lately. He’s making all the throws with excellent accuracy.  And when he does make a bad play, he’s handling it better. At the beginning of camp, his body language when he made a mistake was pretty bad. He’d mope around or get upset with himself. Now, he seems better equipped to simply just move along to the next play.

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Post-practice: Thursday

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.

 

 

 

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Thursday afternoon

–Let’s start off with another Michigan State update.

–Even though Saturday officially is the last day of training camp, the first regular season practice basically is tonight because Cal begins putting in its game plan for Michigan State. The big question about tonight’s practice is whether the players running with the first unit are the ones we can officially call starters. Of course, the coaching staff reserves the right to change its lineup around at any time, but you also prefer to have some stability when you are preparing for an opponent. If one of the quarterbacks works exclusively with the first team, we may have an answer. Jeff Tedford will answer those questions after practice, and I, of course, will provide an update as soon as possible.

–One media coverage note: The ABC broadcast team calling the Cal-MIchigan State game is Ron Franklin on play-by-play, Ed Cunningham on color and Heather Cox on the sideline.

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Post-practice: Wednesday

The Bears followed up Tuesday’s scrimmage with a light practice Wednesday morning, one that really was what coach Jeff Tedford called a “mock game.” The players wore just helmets and went through different kinds of situations that can take place in a game, and did so in chronological order, beginnign with the opening kickoff and ending with quarterback Nate Longshore taking a knee (Bears win!)

I may have posted earlier that the Bears will start planning for Michigan State today. That actually will happen tomorrow. Tedford said the coaching staff was scheduled to have personnel meetings later Wednesday. The implication is depth chart questions will be answered at tomorrow’s practice.

Implementing the game plan means scout teams will have to be set up by tomorrow. We should also get a gauge on starters and backups. That doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a definitive starting quarterback tomorrow, but it could.

Most of the players who have been hurt were still out Wednesday, although it didn’t really matter because there was no contact. Cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson wore a red jersey rather than stand on the sidelines, and Tedford said he’s getting stronger and should be back soon.

Starting right guard Noris Malele sat out with a bruised knee suffered at Tuesday’s scrimmage, but it’s not believed to be serious.

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Post-practice: Tuesday (closed scrimmage)

It’s amazing how much information you get when you actually have to depend on other people to give it to you.

Tuesday’s second and final scrimmage of training camp was closed to the media. Reporters were let into the stadium just as practice was winding down. I got inside just in time to see David Seawright clank a 52-yard field goal attempt off the crossbar. Apparently, that was the only missed field goal of the day between him and Jordan Kay combined.

Those of you who were waiting for some grand revelations to come out of the scrimmage are going to be disappointed. The only real news is that coach Jeff Tedford said tight end Anthony Miller and linebacker Mychal Kendricks are going to play as true freshman. Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory later said the same thing about nose tackle Kendrick Payne.

There will be others. Wide receiver Marvin Jones is a sure thing to play this season as a freshman. Tedford was coy when asked about Jones after the scrimmage. That’s probably because the coaching staff still hasn’t sorted out the depth chart at receiver, and Tedford would rather wait until those decisions have been made to comment on one player.

“Let’s put it this way,” Tedford said. “He has the best chance out of the freshman to play right now at the receiver position.”

Tedford was smiling when he said it. His smile had a “Duh” look to it.

Other true freshman who might play right away are cornerback Marc Anthony, defensive linemen Trevor Guyton and Aaron Tipoti and Seawright.

Tedford said the coaching staff will have meetings Wednesday to sort out the depth chart. Game planning for Michigan State won’t actually begin until Thursday. Wednesday morning’s practice will be a “mock game,” in which the team will go over organizational things. Tedford said “we’ll kind of know what’s going on” by Thursday’s practice.

Whether that applies to the quarterback spot remains to be seen. Tedford dropped another hint that he may pick a starter sooner than expected when he was asked how close he was to picking the first team QB. “We’re getting close,” he said. Does close mean Thursday? Who knows? A follow-up question asked what his timeline was for naming a starter. He chuckled and said “I don’t know. I’m not going to back myself into that corner.”

Tedford didn’t say much about the quarterbacks’ play Tuesday. The only real detail he provided was that neither Nate Longshore or Kevin Riley threw an interception. The only interception of the day came on a pass from Brock Mansion. It was picked off by defensive back Bryant Nnabufie, who continued his strong camp by recovering a fumble as well.

Tedford said Jahvid Best provided the offensive highlights with a couple of big plays. Tedford said Best didn’t get many touches.

“Just being smart,” he said. “He took a lot of reps through the early part of camp. We feel like he’s ready to go. There wasn’t a lot of need for him to get banged up today.”

Running back Shane Vereen, still slightly hobbled because of a sprained ankle, had a 30-yard touchdown run.

Other defensive highlights besides Nnabufie’s plays were a sack by Zack Follett, who returned after missing a few days with a groin injury, and a batted pass by defensive end Keith Browner.

One other somewhat newsworthy nugget is that Tedford said he doesn’t expect left tackle Mike Tepper to “play a significant role” in the season-opener against Michigan State. Tepper has yet to practice this fall as he recovers from pectoral muscle surgery and a hamstring pull. Tedford said he feels comfortable with Chet Teofilo at left tackle and Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle.

Tedford also said cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson (sprained shoulder) “is getting better every day” and should be back on the field soon.

Linebacker Eddie Young missed the scrimmage after suffering a groin pull on Monday. Gregory said if the season started today, Young would be the fourth linebacker along with Follett, Worrell Williams and Anthony Felder. But he said Devin Bishop is also in the mix.

When asked about the competition between Chris Conte and Darian Hagan for the cornerback spot opposite Thompson, Gregory said “We’re going to need all those guys. We’re going to need Syd, we’re going to need Chris, we’re going to need Hagan, and we’ll probably need one more to emerge.”

Conte participated in the scrimmage after sitting out Monday with an ankle sprain.

Even though Cal is deep at linebacker, Gregory said it’s simply impossible to keep Kendricks off the field. He also pointed out the Bears need more linebackers now that they are employing the 3-4 defense.

“It would be hard not to redshirt Mychal Kendricks,” Gregory said. “He’s done a real good job and is making plays. We’re going to need him. Even though we have some good linebackers, we probably don’t have as much depth there since we’ve made this switch.”

Nose tackle Derrick Hill returned from an ankle sprain to play in the scrimmage, but that spot still is up in the air because Mika Kane has been out with an ankle sprain of his own, and Tedford said he didn’t know when he would return. That has allowed Payne to get plenty of reps at practice.

“I think we have to play all of those guys,” Gregory said. “If we can get a few snaps out of all of them, it’s going to keep them fresh. I’m not sure if one guy as emerged as ‘The Guy’. They’re all going to play this year.”

One other note: The scrimmage was a dress rehearsal for the Bears, so they wore their new uniforms. They look pretty sharp.

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Tuesday afternoon

–Happy scrimmage day. In today’s paper, we took a look at Chris Guarnero, who is in position to become the Bears’ starting left guard. Guarnero switched from center, where he was stuck behind Alex Mack on the depth chart.

–Cal fans can relate to this. Maryland, whom the Bears play on Sept. 13, has been going through a quarterback battle as well. The Terps named their man yesterday.

Once again, tonight’s scrimmage is closed to the media, so I won’t be able to provide as many details as usual. But Jeff Tedford will be available to the press afterwards.

I’m not totally sure just how much will be settled tonight. Or put another way, I’m not sure how much of what has been settled will be made public tonight. Tedford and the coaching staff may want to review the film of the scrimmage before they make any ultimate decisions about the depth chart. Wednesday morning’s practice may be more telling, when the Bears begin preparing for Michigan State and we can see who is taking reps with which teams. But even with that, Tedford has been careful to stress that the depth chart will remain fluid, and it can easily be tinkered with while they are game planning. Still, I think most of what we see at Wednesday’s practice will be pretty solid.

There are two wildcards here. One, of course, is the quarterback situation. Will Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley continue to split reps with the first team even though practices are now geared for preparing for an actual opponent? Or will the coaching staff have made a decision by then? Also, the Bears have a number of injuries, so there definitely will be some elements of the depth chart that will be subject to change.

Stay tuned.

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Post-practice: Monday

Cal held a double-day session Monday, heavy on drillwork with Tuesday’s final scrimmage looming. The Bears practiced in helmets and shoulder pads in the morning and just helmets in the evening.

 

The Bears divide practices into five-minute periods, and they didn’t hold their first 11-on-11 session until period No. 20 during their morning practice.

 

With limited game-like action, there wasn’t much chance to draw any distinction between the quarterbacks. Nate Longshore did make one mistake when he tried to dump a pass off to a running back while being pressured by defensive end Keith Browner, and it was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Ernie Owusu.

 

Good news and bad news on the injury front. Nose tackle Derrick Hill (sprained ankle) returned to practice in a limited role, but tight end Cameron Morrah and cornerback Chris Conte now have sprained ankles, although Conte wasn’t in a red jersey.

 

It will be interesting to see just how much can be decided in Tuesday’s scrimmage. The Bears have key injuries at positions where there are battles for playing time. Mika Kane and Hill, the top two candidates for the nose tackle job, probably won’t play. Conte, who is fighting Darian Hagan for a starting job, is now an uncertainty. Mike Tepper’s injury still has the offensive line in a state of flux.

 

Coach Jeff Tedford downplayed the effect the scrimmage will have on the final depth chart, but it sure seems like it’s a big opportunity for those players vying for playing time. The Bears will start game planning for Michigan State on Wednesday, and Tedford said the team needs to have its scout team in order by that time. That means we should know by Wednesday which freshman are going to play this season and which are going to redshirt. It also will be interesting to see who takes first and second team reps, although Tedford has stressed that evaluation at every position is ongoing.

 

“You always like the dress rehearsal to be a scrimmage where we’re flying around, we’re not making mistakes, and we’re closer to where we want to be before we play Michigan State,” Tedford said. “We’re getting close. Tomorrow is one more opportunity for guys to show what they can do. From there, we have to create a depth chart because it’s time to start preparing for Michigan State.”

 

Tuesday’s scrimmage is closed to the media, so I won’t be able to provide many details. But Tedford will address the press afterward, so look for an update later Tuesday night.