Football: Training camp issues — Who will play quarterback?

This is becoming an old and tired story, but once again it’s the biggest storyline to follow as camp begins. All signs point to Kevin Riley earning the job. He’s the returning starter and had the best spring of any quarterback. Brock Mansion played well during the final week of spring practice, but he would likely have to have a jaw-dropping camp to beat out Riley. Riley himself would also have to struggle at the same time.

Coach Jeff Tedford seems pleased with how Riley has assumed a leadership role during the offseason. The coaches aren’t permitted to watch players work out during the summer so he can’t comment on how the quarterbacks are progressing, but it appears Riley is focused and serious about securing the starting job sooner rather than later.

While Beau Sweeney had some good moments during the spring, he’s clearly behind in experience. Still, having him around the program and taking some reps will only make the others better.

All eyes will be on Riley and the other quarterbacks when camp begins on Friday. Unlike last season, when Tedford waited until the first practice in which the Bears began preparing for their season-opener, I would think Riley will be named the starter sooner this year.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • Mustang man

    My money is on Nate

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    There has to be a fundamental reason(s) as to why QBs with the exception of Rogers do not exceed or at least fulfill their expectations. Ayoob, Longshore and now conceivably Riley have ranged from mediocre to busts. I suspect it is too much focus on technique and not enough focus on game time decision making, reading Ds and understanding the flow of the offense and the game type situations. The confidence of these QBs have taken a huge step backwards from the time the arrive to when their collegiate careers end. Putting too much hope and expectation on Riley’s performance will end up like another Ayoob story line. When he becomes a senior he maybe relegated to holding extra points.

  • covinared

    I hate to admit that I sometimes wonder if its true. On the other hand, I think its all likely that Ayoob was simply a misfit and a bit of a choker. His problems weren’t decisionmaking, he simply tended to airmail or bounce passes to wide open receivers when he was not under pressure. His reads were fine. He did best in a wide open free for all scrambling type situation when he didn’t have time tho think. He reminded me of J. Torcchio circa ’82. I believe Longshore was either hurt and/or unable/ unwilling to scramble so he dumped it off too soon. I suspect he was never completely healthy after the 07 Oregon game. Remeber Reggie Robertson? He lead the pack in passing efficiency under Tedford. Riley seems to be regressing, but hopefully its a lack of confidence or synchronicity with the wideouts. He seemed to be putting it together until he got his bell rung against Oregon.

  • B

    MoreNCsarecoming, or it might be simply a small sample. Most QB’s never end up being that good, and Cal had a couple that didn’t live up to expectations. It happens to everyone. Given Tedford’s history with QB’s, I think it’s fair to call it a fluke and assume it has nothing to do with the program, but rather just a couple of guys simply not reaching their potential. Ayoob also played hurt, by the way. He had some shoulder issues, which is why he struggled to throw the ball farther than 15-20 yards downfield so badly.

    I have confidence we’ll find another successful QB sooner rather than later. I don’t know if Riley will be that guy or not – reports that he’s working hard are obviously better than not hearing anything, but he still has a lot to prove. Only time will tell. Cal’s overall success seems pretty dependent on QB play, so hopefully Riley steps up this year.

  • AMYthicalprogram

    John David Booty…enough said.

  • nedbear

    As far as Riley goes I think his wideouts have a lot to do with the passing game. Duh. In the Oregon State game two years ago, he looked great in the 2nd half because he had 3 great wideouts to throw to. Recall that off-balance throw to Stevens who pretty much scooped the pass off the grass to complete a great play? Or the crossing route to Hawkins in the 4th who pretty much caught the pass at his shoulder and behind? Last year our corps had no experience.
    Longshore just wasn’t a very good QB and no matter how much Tedford willed him to be it just never happened.
    Now we wait and see if the QBs and the receivers can mesh.

  • Pete Carroll

    I think Riley had a much better `07 than people realized. There were many times when Riley would hit receivers in stride and he’d deliver the throw with authority. I remember a comment from Hawkins or DJax complimenting Riley on his well thrown passes. By contrast, after Nate was hurt in the Oregon game, he never was able to deliver the ball consistently. I think Riley’s braincramp against OSU put him in Tedford’s doghouse and he wasn’t given the confidence to perform. Last year there was a combination of inexperienced receivers and a decimated offensive line. The better teams stacked the box and blitzed often to contain the run and stymie the passing game. Riley and Longshore both looked inept in those situations.

    As for Ayoob, he just lost all confidence and he regressed. He couldn’t make the transition from JC QB to D1.

    My prediction is Riley will be fine. He throws a great ball and he’s mobile. His line is healthy, he has a tremendous running threat and he’s had time to work with his receivers. This is the Bears’ year.

  • Bears

    MoreNCsarecoming knows Riley is going to have a monster year and help the Bears dethrone sc. MoreNCsarecoming is scared and nervous about this and is trying to use his only outlet to combat Kevin’s swelling confidence.
    The fact that Cal has two back ups like Brock and Sweeney pushes the prospects up another notch in case KR has to miss a little time.
    The cupboard is full!
    Look out all, the Bears are hungry.

  • Rob

    A Ducks fan here who watched Riley play high school ball up the road from here. I had never seen such a phenom in all the years of watching high schoolers come up. The book on him, however, was that he had a tendency to get down on himself if he made a mistake, to the extent that he sometimes had to be benched for a few plays in order for him to pull himself together. But, he has incredible talent and a coach who should be able to bring the most out of him. I wish him luck, at least until the Oregon game.

  • jpf

    The injury issues with QBs over the last 4 years have been extremely problematic, but one does wonder if Tedford expects perhaps TOO much from these kids? Neurodevelopmentally, the prefrontal cortex of the brain isn’t fully mylenated (i.e. efficiently wired) until almost 25 years of age. One of the reasons that Boller did so well with Tedford is that JT simplified the offense (effectively eliminating half the field on any given read) and Kyle just had to focus on making throws. Reggie Robertson and Aaron Rodgers were both mental freaks of nature. They were incredibly mature guys who were SUPER cool under pressure and could just make those decisions easily. It’s impossible to know what that development will be like for a 20/21 year old when you are looking at them as 16 year olds to make offers. I think we’ve just had some unfortunate luck there. I was really hoping Nate would be that guy (starting as a Redshirt Sophomore gave me a lot of hope), and I think JT thought the same (hence why he stuck with him). The truth is that we need to get that “carousel of QBs” working properly. Where a guy sits for two/three years while the guy ahead of him makes all the right decisions and throws and can actually fully mature (neurobiologically if nothing else).

    One thing I’d like to see to help with the development of our QBs is more option and naked bootleg. In combination with the awesome OL and Jahvid, I think it would open the most passing lanes for our QBs in a simplified manner.

  • Larry

    Go Bears!

  • Jethro

    Riley has said that it was difficult playing last year because he felt like he was on a short leash and would get yanked the first time he screwed up. Well, I’m not so sure about that.

    I thought Tedford was fair to him – Riley had to play poorly in 3 consecutive games (Wash St., Maryland, and Colorado St.) before Tedford benched him. He was throwing some pretty terrible passes, not seeing open receivers, and not using his legs to get out of trouble.

    Now the “mechanics” rationale has also been suggested by both Tedford and Riley – that Riley’s “mechanics” somehow fell apart and that’s what caused his accuracy problems last year. OK.

    My dimestore psycho-analysis says Riley is an emotional player that does his best in demanding situations (2007 OSU, 2007 Air Force, 2008 Michigan State). But he got lazy vs. Wash St. in 2008 because they suck, then he made a few mistakes while sleepwalking vs. Maryland and started to lose confidence. Then Colorado State was a combination of the lesser opponent/confidence problem. After that, he couldn’t pull out of it.

    Hopefully the 2008 experience will be a building block. I hope Tedford has him use his legs on a few roll-outs and bootlegs vs. Maryland, as well as a few easy dump passes to the FB to build his confidence. don’t go for the home run too early.

    I think this season hinges on Riley. I don’t think either Mansion or Sweeny are ready to come in and take the Bears to a top-10 finish, but Riley could.

  • rollonubears

    totally agree, especially about using his mobility. yeah, tedford likes pocket qbs, but if you’ve got a guy who can do both, and you don’t take advantage of it, don’t expect to win coach of the year.

  • Calduke

    Ayoob would have had a successful career at Oregon.

  • covinared

    I also believe Ayoob could have been very good in another system.

  • 66Bear

    Ayoob was a talented and gutsy kid, but a fair review of his performance must include many recollections of bizarrely erratic decisions and horrendously aweful throws at just the worst possible time in a game. I agree that Riley’s issues have been primarily confidence related (exacerbated by erratic playing time), but I think that his considerable talent has been overlooked by many of his critics, and I think that he is going to have a great season in 2009. 🙂

  • Golden Bear

    Ability and mental toughness aside, Joe Ayoob is one of the finest men around. He took his Social Welfare degree seriously, attended classes, studied, and graduated — and he took the concepts he learned to heart and was always ready to pitch in for community service opportunities. If I had a group of disadvantaged kids in a program on campus, Joe would never turn me down when I’d ask him to make an appearance.

    He stood tall as he was booed. One time on Sproul Plaza, two women decided it would be fun to approach him and ask “Are you Joe Ayoob” and then chant in unison “You suck!” when he answered yes. That was what he had to deal with from Cal “fans” and he never turned his back on Cal. He kept trying and trying to get his starting position back and never gave up.

    He was and still is an amazingly classy man.

  • Jethro

    I wasn’t around for Ayoob, but I watched the rise and fall of Nate Longshore and was dismayed by the behavior of Cal fans.

    I’ve been to a lot of college football games in the East and Southeast, but when I started attending Cal games 3 years I was amazed at how quickly Cal fans turned on Nate. The only time I’ve seen hometown fans turn on college players was for either a perceived lack of effort or bad behavior, and these certainly were not issues with Nate. If anything, he tried too hard while he was injured when he should have been recuperating.

    I wanted Riley to play at the end of 2007 when Nate was clearly injured and/or flustered, but I never booed Nate. That was a Tedford call, and when everyone in the stadium at UCLA could see Nate was playing on one ankle, Tedford should have pulled him.

    Then when Nate throws 2 picks in the Michigan State game and the fans start booing, my first thought was that I did not want to sit and listen to a bunch of numbnut fans boo their own players for an entire season.

    Now I’m wondering how long will it take before the fans turn on Riley if he starts playing poorly.

  • Goldiebear

    Take some pressure off the QB with a few trick plays per game. They have worked well for us in the past and keep the defense on their heels, never knowing what’s coming.

  • nedbear

    replying to the movement comments: Tedford loves a mobile QB. Rogers was great at the option/bootlegs. He keeps mentioning how mobile his 3 QBs are now. Going back to Oregon and Fresno St. we see that he’s cultivated mobile QBs. Longshore has given some the wrong impression of Tedford.