By Jonathan Okanes
Wednesday, October 1st, 2008 at 9:17 pm in Mid-week.
First, a quick disclaimer: Cal football beat writer Jonathan Okanes will resume his daily “Bear Talk” duties on Thursday. Today’s action was left to me, Jennifer Starks, Olympics and college hoops writer.
With the introductions out of the way, bring on the important matters: Wednesday’s practice.
Competition for the starting quarterback job was alive and well inside Memorial Stadium, as expected. Both redshirt sophomore Kevin Riley and fifth-year senior Nate Longshore took their share of reps with the first team, and both made some good plays and had a few missed opportunities.
Longshore, who’s started 26 games in his career, split two defenders with a deep throw and found LaReylle Cunningham in the end zone. For his part, Riley used some solid play action to find Tracy Slocum on a short pass play.
Asked if either signal-caller did anything to separate himself from the other, Cal coach Jeff Tedford kept it short and sweet.
“Not yet,” he said. “(They looked) very good. Very good. I thought they had a very sharp day today.”
— With Jahvid Best nursing an elbow injury, running back Shane Vereen is expected to absorb some of the spotlight Saturday against Arizona State. So far, Tedford is encouraged by what he has seen from Vereen.
“He’s done a really good job,” Tedford said. ”I don’t think he’s gotten any more reps than he normally gets, it’s just he’s taking the first reps. … Those guys are best buds, and they’re really humble guys who don’t talk a lot. They’re hard workers who don’t take anything for granted.”
Tedford added he hadn’t talked to Vereen one-on-one about his increased role heading into the weekend and has no plans to do so.
“Tracy (Slocum), he’s more the guy that’s going to be in a role that he hasn’t been in,” Tedford said. ”Shane’s already been in that role.”
— What about ASU’s running game? The Sun Devils are averaging a paltry 89 yards on the ground thus far (last in the Pac-10), and they managed just 4 yards on 19 carries against Georgia. Still, if coach Dennis Erickson is to be believed, ASU will continue to grind it out, especially now that starting tailback Keegan Herring is expected to return from a hamstring injury.
Herring, whom Tedford said has “speed that’s a game-breaker,” carried the ball 24 times for 96 yards in ASU’s 31-20 win over the Bears last season. So, what must Cal do to keep things in check this time?
“Stop things at the point of attack. It’s all done up front,” Tedford said. “You’ve got to sustain your blocks and get to the backers. The battle is won up front. If your running game is working, it’s typically because your offensive line is doing a good job.”
Injury update: LB Anthony Felder: “disc issue” in his back. He rested Wednesday but should play this weekend; DB Darian Hagen: sore knee; DB Bryant Nnabuife: stinger.