By Jonathan Okanes
Tuesday, October 28th, 2008 at 9:58 pm in media luncheon.
The most newsworthy development to come out of today’s weekly press luncheon is that it looks as though Kevin Riley will start Saturday’s game against Oregon.
This is not newsworthy because it is surprising; rather because coach Jeff Tedford spent the past three games keeping the starting position open until the end of the week.
But after digesting Saturday’s 41-20 win over UCLA, Tedford was happy with Riley’s performance. That appears to be enough to give him the inside track to be the starter against the Ducks.
“As of right now,” was Tedford’s response when asked if Riley was the starting quarterback this week. The past three weeks, the answer was “I don’t know yet.” It seems apparent that, unless Riley were to have a really bad week or something unforseen developed, that Riley will be behind center on Saturday,
“I thought Kevin played pretty well,” Tedford said. “I think the difference in the game was decision-making. Kevin was harassed a little bit but held onto the ball, pulled it down when he needed to. He didn’t make any poor decisions with the football, and that becomes critical in a close game. He made some really good throws, too.”
But Tedford wouldn’t go so far as to say Riley was the starter indefinitely. In fact, he and Nate Longshore still split first-team reps Tuesday at practice. But Tedford also said he’d rather not have it be this way. He’d rather have a clear No. 1 guy. He just isn’t convinced that is the case yet.
“The mindset of being able to know who your guy is each week, there is a little bit of security when you have that,” Tedford said. “But we’re in a position where we need to make decisions each week until this thing separates itself. I’ve said all along I don’t believe in the two-quarterback system. I don’t want to bounce back and forth if not need be. You’d like to have a quarterback you’re settled on and take it from there.”
Tedford said he isn’t concerned that the starter isn’t getting enough first-team reps in practice. Riley and Longshore have spent the past several weeks splitting first-team reps evenly at practice. He also added that he doesnt’ believe the bouncing back and forth between quarterbacks affects the receivers.
“I think they’re getting enough reps,” Tedford said. “We run a lot of plays in practice. They take every mental rep. They’re always really into the mental part of it. They throw all the routes. I don’t think that’s a huge thing.”
Wide receiver Jeremy Ross, who made an appearance at the luncheon, agreed that the rotating quarterbacks doesn’t have too much of an effect on the receivers.
“It really doesn’t affect us too much,” Ross said. “We don’t really focus on that too much. We’re comfortable with both quarterbacks being in there. It really doesn’t bother us. We’re confident in both of them.
“A ball is a ball. If you know how to catch, you know how to catch. It really doesn’t matter who’s throwing the ball. The ball is going to be in the air no matter who throws it. You just have to be able to catch it. There’s no big difference.”
–Tedford also made his usual plea for fan support, but especaily because he wants Cal fans to duplicate the atmosphere the Bears face when they travel to Eugene. Tedford said Cal’s home game against Oregon in 2006 was “the best I’ve ever seen our crowd.”
“We need that again because it’s going to be a very competitive football game,” he said. “With the no-huddle offense that Oregon runs, we need our fans more than ever this week. People should get an extra hour of sleep or whatever, have a little bit more tailgate or do whatever they need to do, but we need our crowd this week. I know when we go there, what a hostile environment it is to play.”
–Tedford also said the situation at Washington, with coach Tyrone Willingham’s ouster at the end of the season.
“That’s always a tough situation,” he said. “You hate to see that for a lot of reasons. It’s a difficult business. It’s difficult on him, his family, the players. You really feel for the players. It’s never easy, and you never wish that on anyone.
“Ty is a quality guy, from what I know about him. I’m sure he’ll land on his feet and have another opportunity somewhere.”
–Marcus Ezeff came by the luncheon and gave a pretty interesting scouting report on Oregon’s offense.
“They’re doing exactly the same thing, possibly even better,” he said. “They lost Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart, those guys were Heisman candidates last year. They bring in two new people and they’re doing the job possibly even better.”
Ezeff got a chance to revisit his two interceptions last week against UCLA, including his first career pick that he returned 69 yards for a touchdown.
“I knew I was going to score,” he said. “The only person who had a chance to get me was (quarterback) Kevin Craft, and I wasn’t going to let a quarterback track me down.”
–Nose tackle Derrick Hill said he’s looking forward to the individual matchup with Oregon’s Max Unger, considered one of the top centers in the country. Of course, the Bears feel they have the top center in Alex Mack.
“Going against him is going to be a great experience,” Hill said. “I go against the greatest center in the nation right now, so I feel pretty confident going into this game.”
A few other notes:
–Running back Jahvid Best practiced in full capacity Tuesday and appears that he is getting close to full strength.
–Defensive end Rulon Davis has begun running as he rehabs from a leg injury. Tedford said Davis “will definitely be back this year at some point,” but it’s still probably a few weeks away.
–Right tackles Chet Teofilo (ankle) and Matt Laird (shoulder) didn’t practice with Donovan Edwards getting the first-team reps. Expect Edwards to get the start there Saturday.