–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.”