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Tuesday night update

–As expected, quarterbacks Kevin Riley and Nate Longshore took equal reps tonight at practice. Both worked equally with the first and second teams. Coach Jeff Tedford had said earlier in the day that he would evaluate both players during the week before naming a starter for Saturday’s game against Arizona State.

 

Neither guy separated himself Tuesday. Both made some nice throws and both missed a couple open receivers.

 

As his primary reason for opening the competition back up, Tedford said that he felt the offense was getting off to slow starts in games and needed a spark.

 

“I feel like we need to start a little faster,” Tedford said at Tuesday’s weekly press luncheon. “I think offensively we’re starting kind of slow in our games. We need a little boost there. We can not afford to wait and wait and wait for things to happen. We need to find out who the guy is that puts us in the best situation to start a little faster.”

 

Tedford said he talked with Riley about his decision and his redshirt sophomore understood. Tedford said he isn’t worried about Riley’s confidence. He shouldn’t. Riley is a very confident young player who will most likely use this development as motivation.

 

“I told him not to get down about it,” Tedford said. “You compete and continue to do what you’re doing. He could be the starter, or not. It may take both of them to get where we need to go. We’ll evaluate it through the week of practice.”

 

–Tedford also reiterated the team is hopeful Jahvid Best can return by the Oct. 18 game at Arizona, meaning he would miss just one game. But Tedford only said it was a “possibility,” and that there were “no guarantees.” Either way, it’s apparent his dislocated elbow isn’t as bad as it could have been and he won’t miss any extended time.

 

That means, for one game at the very least, Shane Vereen becomes the featured tailback. Best’s explosiveness may make some people forget just how talented Vereen is. Let’s not forget that, along with Best, Vereen was one of the most sought-after running backs in the nation out of high school. In fact, rivals.com ranked Vereen ahead of Best – Vereen as the No. 5 running back in the country and Best at No. 9. Scout.com’s rankings had Best at No. 18 and Vereen at No. 23.

 

Both guys have done nothing to discredit those lofty expectations. Best is already an accomplished running back/kick returner/special teams player through just over one full season, and Vereen was terrific on the scout team last year and has shown flashes as Best’s backup this year. Vereen may be a tad less explosive than Best, but the Bears still have a very talented running back lining up in the backfield Saturday.

 

“He really has it all,” Tedford said. “He can run between the tackles, he has some speed when he gets into the open area, he catches the ball as well as receivers catch the ball, he competes in pass protection – he’s a great all-around back.”

 

–Running back Covaughn DeBoskie and defensive end Trevor Guyton were taken off the scout team Tuesday to work with the offense and defense. Both are moves as protection with Best and defensive end Rulon Davis injured. Tedford said they would only burn a redshirt year if it was absolutely needed. If nothing else, the move helps provide depth during practice.

 

Davis’ absence means Cameron Jordan will move into the starting lineup and Keith Browner may start seeing more reps as a backup. Tedford said redshirt freshman Ernest Owusu also should start seeing more playing time. The Bears have been substituting freely along the defensive line so far this season so the backups can count on seeing meaningful reps.

 

–Tedford reiterated his concern about kickoffs, with three going out of bounds against Colorado State on Saturday. He said walk-on Giorgio Tavecchio will get another closer look. The Bears had been happy with how David Seawright and Jordan Kay had been performing in practice the last couple games, so Tavecchio had become the odd man out. But after Saturday’s performance, Tavecchio is in the mix again.

 

“You can watch practice all day long and you don’t see balls kicked out of bounds like that,” Tedford said. “Then in a game, it happens. We felt like those two guys were improving, then we got in a game and had that happen. We’re going to work on it. It’s something that obviously needs a lot of work. We have to make some adjustments and really evaluate it.”

 

–There were two offensive players at Tuesday’s luncheon and each stressed that they are comfortable with either quarterback.

 

“I’ve played with both of them a lot now, so I’m really comfortable with both Nate and Kevin,” center Alex Mack said. “I know Nate knows how to run the offense and Kevin has done a really good job. He’s out there making plays, he’s upbeat, he has a good and fun time in the huddle. Both of their personalities fit really well with us. We support both guys. They’re both very confident quarterbacks.”

 

Wide receiver Jeremy Ross, who caught his first career touchdown pass Saturday, from Longshore, also said he feels good about either signal-caller.

 

“I’m confident in both of them,” Ross said. “Nate is a little more experienced, but they can both make plays. We got a lot of love for our guys – a lot of love for Riley and a lot of love for Longshore. They’re both good guys and we know they can both get the job done. There’s no choosing sides. I know they’re bouth talented and I’m comfortable with either one of them being in the huddle.”

 

–Ross rehashed his first score, a 14-yard pass that came as a result of a Longshore audible. Ross said the moment the audible was called, he thought he might be in for a big play.

 

“When he called it, I knew I had a good chance of getting the ball,” Ross said. “I felt like I was wide open. That was one of the best moments of my life. It was really exciting. Being in the end zone, I just blacked out. All I heard was screaming. I couldn’t believe I was in there. I was really excited. It was a special moment.”

 

–Jordan has one of the more engaging personalities on the team. He touched on a variety of subjects Tuesday, including the challenge of stopping Best and Vereen at practice every day.

 

“I hate them,” Jordan said. “Usually you have a fast back and a strong back. Jahvid will play with you a little bit. He runs just fast enough so you think you can catch him, then he’ll just leave. He’ll give you that false sense of hope.

 

“Shane is so shifty. He moves so well. He’s elusive. Don’t get me wrong, he’ll juke you, but then he’ll turn around and be like, ‘You know what? I can run, too.’ I’m not saying he’s as fast as Jahvid, but he’s close.”

 

 

 

 

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Quick hit

Cal’s weekly press luncheon wrapped up a few minutes ago. Jeff Tedford said Kevin Riley and Nate Longshore will get equal reps this week and the quarterback will be decided at the end of the week of practice. Tedford also reiterated the team is hopeful Jahvid Best will return by the Oct. 18 game at Arizona. He said it was a “possibility” but there were “no guarantees.”

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Best update

Cal released a statement about an hour ago stating that Jahvid Best will not require surgery and hopes to return for the Oct. 18 game at Arizona. It sounds like the MRI didn’t reveal anything too severe. Good news for the Bears.

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Monday update

Found out that we won’t get the results of Jahvid Best’s MRI until about 5 or 6 this evening. Also, Syd’Quan Thompson has been named Pac-10 special teams Player of the Week. Thompson had 131 yards in punt returns, including a 73-yard return for a touchdown against Colorado State.

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Nothing new on Best

Jahvid Best wasn’t able to get the MRI on his dislocated left elbow today, so he’s having the test done Monday morning at 6:30 a.m. But coach Jeff Tedford did say that Best was feeling pretty good Sunday. He said Best had feeling and strength in his hand, which he didn’t have after the game Saturday night.

“There are a lot of positive signs, but we still need to get an MRI to find out about the soft tissue damage there,” Tedford said Sunday night after conditioning practice.

Tedford said in the best-case scenario, Best would miss only one game. That’s because after this Saturday’s Arizona State game, the Bears have a bye. That would have Best sitting out three weeks, which isn’t unheard of for an elbow dislocation if the MRI reveals that it’s not too severe.

All that being said, the Bears are moving forward knowing they won’t have Best this Saturday against Arizona State. That means Shane Vereen figures to be the featured back. Running backs coach Ron Gould said Sunday night that he plans on meeting with Vereen just to let him know that he doesn’t have to shoulder more of the burden than is necessary.

“I don’t want the kid to feel like he has pressure on his shoulders,” Gould said. “It’s not about one guy. I will sit down and explain to him that it’s not about just him. We do it as a team.”

While Best is the Bears’ leading rusher and was garnering some early-season momentum as a Heisman Trophy candidate, Vereen has had his share of explosive moments this season as well. Vereen is averaging 70 yards a game on just 8.8 carries. And let’s not forget that Vereen came into the program as a highly sought-after recruit; he was just the second-most sought-after recruit in that year’s freshman class, behind Best.

Gould said redshirt sophomore Tracy Slocum definitely is in the mix to get some carries as well. Freshman Covaughn DeBoskie, who at this point is redshirting the season, will start practicing with the offense instead of the scout team this week just in case. The Bears don’t plan on burning his redshirt year unless they absolutely have to. Some of that will obviously depend on what Best’s MRI reveals tomorrow.

Gould said Best was in pretty good spirits Sunday. He said Best was very engaged in the team’s running backs meetings and offered feedback as the group broke down the film of Saturday’s game.

Moving on, Tedford said he won’t know how the team will divvy up the quarterback reps in practice this week until the coaching staff meets Monday to prepare the game plan for Arizona State. Tedford hinted after Saturday’s game that the quarterback competition between Kevin Riley and Nate Longshore could be back on after Riley continued his struggles against the Rams.

It went unnoticed a bit, but the Bears suffered a blow when defensive end Rulon Davis went down on the last play of the first half Saturday. And that play only took place after half of the Bears were headed up the tunnel for halftime. Apparently, the Rams had called timeout with one second left and got to run one more play. Davis was hurt on that play.

What the injury is remains a little bit of a mystery. Davis never signed a release form allowing any injuries he incurs to be made public, so Tedford isn’t allowed to disclose the ailment. But Davis was on crutches and a walking boot Sunday night, and it appears to either be a foot or ankle injury. Tedford said Davis will be out six weeks. Expect Cameron Jordan to move into the starting lineup, but Keith Browner and Ernie Owusu could get more in the mix now as well.

Tedford said Mark Boskovich performed well in his first career start in place of Chris Guarnero at left guard. Boskovich is the man to replace Guarnero at this point moving forward. Justin Cheadle and Matt Summers-Gavin would be the next in line if Boskovich were to falter.

The loss of Guarnero for the season with a torn tendon in his big toe is a significant one. Guarnero had been playing well, and he also is the backup center if anything were to happen to Alex Mack.

“That’s another piece of the puzzle there that is affected by his absence,” Tedford said. “He was playing very well. He earned that spot there and was solid.”

That’s your Sunday night update. I’ll post the results of Best’s MRI as soon as they are available on Monday.

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Postgame nuggets

Some quick hits from the press room:

–It looks like running back Jahvid Best may be out for awhile. He has a dislocated left elbow. X-rays showed there isn’t a fracture, but he will have an MRI on Sunday. Coach Jeff Tedford said the team may consider taking freshman Covaughn DeBoskie out of his redshirt year, depending on how long Best is out. The team will know more about how long Best will be sidelined after the MRI. Obviously, Shane Vereen will now pick up most of the carries.

–Left guard Chris Guarnero is out for the year. Turns out he has a torn tendon in his big toe. Tedford said Guarnero will have surgery this week. Doctors said Guarnero needed to have surgery soon or risk losing use of the toe.

–Tedford hinted the team’s quarterback competition could be heating up again. He clearly wasnt’ happy with how Kevin Riley played Saturday. When asked if Riley was still the starter, Tedford said: “We’ll see.”

–Defensive end Rulon Davis has some kind of leg injury but no further details were available. He didn’t play in the second half after injuring it on the last play of the first half.

I’ll obviously have updates after practice tomorrow, especially further information on the extent of Best’s injury.

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Rulon Davis

I don’t know if the television broadcast caught it at the end of the half, but defensive end Rulon Davis appeared to get hurt on the final play. He was attended to by trainers for a minute or two then limped off into the tunnel. Seeing as that was the play that came after one second was added to the clock, the Bears probably are none too pleased.