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Spring practice preview: Quarterback

By Jonathan Okanes
Thursday, March 4th, 2010 at 9:33 pm in Football, off-season stuff.

NOTE: This is the first installment in a series of day-by-day previews heading into spring practice, which begins March 11.

RETURNING STARTER: Kevin Riley

WHO TO WATCH OUT FOR: Brock Mansion

POSSIBLE SURPRISE: Nobody

THE BREAKDOWN: An open quarterback competition is becoming an annual rite of passage in the spring, although coach Jeff Tedford admitted that Riley has a substantial advantage over the others this time around. That’s something Tedford was more reluctant to say last spring and fall, indicating he has a lot of confidence in his two-year starter.

Tedford acknowledged Riley was a bit off and on last season, but also went out of his way to point out that much of the time he didn’t get the help he needed around him. This has been a message Tedford has hammered on in most of his public comments about the quarterback situation since the season ended.

“He plays really well at times and sometimes there are things he can do better,” Tedford said. “As you watch the tape, there are a lot of people around him that need to help him with that. I feel like Kevin has made strides and he’s going to continue to make strides with his experience.”

Tedford said Riley “has a substantial leg up” in the competition but “it’s not a lock by any means.” He said Riley, Mansion and Sweeney will get equal reps during the spring.

“Experience is a big thing, but competition is also good,” Tedford said. “Beau and Brock are going to compete again in the springtime, not only versus Kevin but to create some depth at that position and kind of stratify where they belong.”

Tedford said he still has confidence in Mansion, who fell behind Sweeney on the depth chart last season despite the fact that he has been in the program a year longer. Tedford said Mansion needs to improve both the physical and mental side of the game, and is confident he will do so with increased experience.

“I think last year (Mansion) was a little disappointed,” Tedford said. “He probably treated it as a setback when Beau was named the backup. As we’ve moved forward and he’s maintained a good attitude, I think he’s looking forward to the opportunity to compete. The more he’s into it, controlling everything mentally and physically, and the more opportunity he gets, he’ll continue to improve just like anybody.”

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  • Jan K Oski

    JO, Thanks for sharing the other news, but do you honestly think that Brock is in better position than Beau to knock Kevin from the top? Could you perhaps defend your position, please? I saw Beau throwing balls at stationary objects, today, as he ran around the field. He was nailing them 8 out of 10 times in their upper section which roughly equates to the mid-section of a 6 feet tall player. Could Kevin or Brock do that? I only want to see accuracy from any of them. None of that poor placement of a simple screen pass to a RB who is less than 20 feet away. I could careless about some vague terminology like running the offense.

    Go BEARS!

  • http://QBplayitthereasonfortheloss charlie

    LOL: “POSSIBLE SURPRISE: Nobody”. It says a lot about the QB situation.

    However, the fact that Riley has a “substantial advantage” over the other QBs is, in and of itself, a surprise to me.

    Good QBs make everyone around them better – Tedford seems to hope that everyone around Riley will make Riley better…that line of thinking for a 5th year QB is alarming.

  • SteveNTexas

    Charlie expressed my feelings exactly. That is just what I was going to write. Having Riley means we can be a good team but never dominating. Having no serious challengers and no possible surprises means we will be mediocre.

    Can an average quarterback become a great one in one year? Probably not but some improvement is not too much to ask.

  • robert

    If Riley turned into a consistent, above-average QB what do people think of the Bears’ chances next year?

    It would not be a huge jump to see a 5th senior make.

  • rollonubears

    i think sweeney was injured last fall, and still is. not sure though. as usual, the whole team is riddled with injuries. can’t wait to get some nice new turf in the stadium. qb thing is a mess. we’re going to have a boatload of juniors with no experience next year.

    it would be nice to see what riley can do with a little extra protection, but he’s NOT a pocket quarterback, so even with all the protection in the world, he’s not playing to his potential. if tedford’s going to insist on making his qb a pocket passer, it’s time to get the best of the young guys up and running, so we don’t have another disaster come next year.

  • Dan

    JO-

    I too would like you to explain more about how Brock Mansion is who to watch out for. You wrote several times last season that Beau Sweeney had surpassed Mansion on the depth chart. So if that is changed, it is pretty notable, especially if the QB position is open as stated by Tedford. Can you please explain.

    It makes me wonder if Mansion’s dropping to 3rd on the depth chart got his attention and made him work harder than he had beem working and that has made a difference.

  • Dan

    In any event, Manion has something that none of the other QBs have- wheels. No matter where he ends up on the depth chart, I would love to see him in for some plays, or series this fall utilizing that weapon from the QB position. I think it would be great, and it would add another element to the offense and give opposing defenses something else to gameplan for and worry about.

    This would be out of character for Tedford (oh no, we can’t actually be unpredictable and aggressive- something might go wrong), but Tedford needs to change his personna re: to the offense.

    I’m tired of seeing our QBs standing back in the pocket like a sitting duck statue.

  • Davidson

    Dan, are you serious?

    Mansion is the least mobile out of Riley & Sweeney.

  • LR

    Dan,

    What Davidson said times 10.

    Mansion looks a hell of a lot more like Longshore than this fan would like. In fairness, that’s an overstatement, but if your concern is for a mobile QB, Riley and Sweeney are FAR superior to Mansion.

    I’ve long been a Riley supporter, b/c I think he has important intangible qualities in big games (see last year’s Big Game, the Armed Forces Bowl etc.) However, my ardor has cooled after seeing him play poorly even when OL play has been solid. He just doesn’t have a lot of pocket presence and doesn’t see the field well. Whether he’s been sensitized due to his negative experiences as a FR or has some inherent flaws, I don’t know. Either way, he needs to have more confidence and make better reads if this team is going to be better than 7 wins in 2010.

  • Dan

    Davidson & LR- What are judging you’re Mansion comments on? Mansion ran a 4.6+ in HS and is supposedly a great runner with serious wheels. Because he is tall and thin and looks like Longshore you think he can’t run? What are you both basing your comments on. When Mansion was recruited here, they made a BIG deal about his mobility. Have you ever seen him try to run and not be able to?

    Riley can run OK when he is flushed, and has done so well at times. But you don’t design plays for him or Sweeney to run. From what I have read going back to when Mansion was recruited, he can run and that is an element he has that other Cal qbs don’t have.

    So I am curious to you both- what are basing your comments on that he isn’t mobile at all, the least mobile of the 3 qbs?

    On the Riley as QB comments here, I have been a big Riley supporter since the OSU game in 2007 when everybody piled on him for the brain fart at the end of the game. That was unfair, that was on Tedford. Cal doesn’t have a chance to win at the end if it wasn’t for the unbelievable 4th quarter play of Riley.

    He played very well in that game when given the chance to throw, and thought he deserved to be the unquestioned starter all of 2008. In fact, I would have given him some time in every game in 2007 to groom him and build his confidence (especially after the brain fart) even when Longshore came back.

    I even stuck with him almost all this past year through the good and the bad. I thought some of the criticism on him was unfair, based on the entire team sucking in our losses and the fact that he was a sitting duck in passing downs in Cal’s predictable offensive play calling. But by the end, I had lost it for him. I still like him, but I wonder if he is ruined.

    My feeling is that he has a bit of a fragile psyche and confidence, and I feel like to a degree that Tedford has ruined it in several ways. One is how things were handled post-2007 OSU game. Another is the in and out with Longshore and Longshore undeservedly starting the Emerald Bowl. Now, the offense has gotten worse due to the predictablility, that the good opposing teams juts tee off. He is now like the dog that flinches when you go to pet it because it was beaten as a puppy.

    I also think that Riley has been frequently sensational in wide open, pass first situations (Armed Forces Bowl, OSU 2007 comeback, Maryland 2008 2nd half, etc). That is how I would use Riley. I think he would be great. I think he needs to get into a tempo and he thrives. Tedford uses him in the exact opposite of that based on how Tedford has called plays the past 2 years.

  • dball

    What’s with these emotionally fragile QBs?

    When Riley is firing on all cylinders, mentally and physically, he’s a great starter. When he’s off, its like a cycle where he gets too much inside his own head, and can’t shake it off.

    Then with Tedford’s comments about Mansion feeling disappointed and down about being bumped to third string, I’m wondering if any of the QBs have the emotional fortitude to lead the team.

    I’m not saying the don’t, just haven’t seen anyone since Rodgers or maybe Longshore (Longshore’s issues were mostly physical, less psychological) who can shake off the bad moments and produce consistently.

    I would say the best bet for that is Sweeney who, while short on experience, seems like he’s got a more even keel.

  • rollonubears

    it’s tedhead. they weren’t emotionally fragile when they arrived. none of them were.

  • Jake

    Tedford should let Riley use his physical attributes more. Don’t force him to think. When he runs a no huddle he’s fine. When he’s airing the ball out when he knows we need to throw (Armed Forces Bowl, OSU 2007 comeback, Maryland 2008 2nd half, etc., like some have mentioned before) he’s fine. When he tucks and runs, he’s usually fine.

    If Tedford wants someone to “manage” the game, he should be doing that. He should have prevented that 2007 brain fart by Riley. He never should have flip-flopped btw. Riley and NL, and he should have coached better last year against Oregon and USC.

    Time to step it up JT. You’re getting the recruits. Now you gotta’ go get some results!!

  • Davidson

    There is no way Mansion runs a 4.6 Forty.

    Rivals has him at 4.75, Riley at 4.56 and Sweeney at 4.65.

    My observations come from Spring Games, the only chance I get to see the players with my own eye-balls outside of Games. Out of the three, Mansion definitely looks the slowest.

  • Davidson

    I used to be a big supporter of Riley, but now I’m just not sure.

    This has been debated endlessly, and we all know the backup QB is the most popular player on a bad team (Riley’s popularity when Longshore was diving, and now Sweeney for Prez!)…

    But I definitely think that Riley isn’t really cool as a cucumber. When things go wrong, and he gets hit/sacked, it goes all downhill…

    I do hope he makes a huge improvement this year (like Canfield?), but who knows…

  • milo

    Who isn’t down on Riley? He’s a head case but hey he’s who Cal has and frankly the assertion that he needs better support is correct.

    The o-line last year was TERRIBLE and let everyone in and Riley never had time to set up. When Riley had time, he did pretty well. Also, the WRs were on the weak side.

    My thoughts are, lets see how the o-line does and yes, uncork Riley, let him play. When he was let loose (like against Stanfurd) he was good.

  • Calduke

    Jonathan – No comments for Bridgford or
    Ryan Wertenberger??

    If Ryan is still around he will be the possible surprise.

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    Coachspeak – that’s all it is and it doesn’t sound very promising.

    Now there are two mental cases competing against each other.

  • Jonathan Okanes

    Jan, Dan. I listed Mansion as one to watch out for because I have a hunch he has made some strides in the offseason and will make an impact in the spring. It doesn’t mean I believe Mansion is better than Sweeney or will be ahead of him on the depth chart. He’s someone to watch out for because if he ends up making an impact, it will be somewhat unexpected.
    Calduke, Bridgford is out for the spring with a shoulder injury. Wertenberger is a walk-on and isn’t a realistic player in the competition.

  • Calzephyr

    I like Riley but he makes good plays and bad plays. The result is average level of play. Yes, good support will make a difference for the better but it looks like an average year coming up. Maybe that is not so bad if Cal can be competitive in every game. The quality of personnel – and injuries aside, blow-out losses are coaching failures.

    Go Bears!

  • Tyler M.

    Mansion is tall. Taller people look slower when they run (e.g. Terrell Pryor). Remember how it looked as though Vince Young was jogging into the Rose Bowl end zone?

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    These fans are really in no position to judge how fast a QB runds. Why? Because no one runs a QB against your BDB defense because no one needs to. Every Pac 10 QB including the stiffs who played for WSU and ASU had career games against your defense. Why run them? Let them sit back in the pocket and pass for 400 yards.

  • LR

    Dan,

    My opinions on Mansion are also based on what I observed last spring. He had an upright delivery and didn’t seem to move that easily in and out of the pocket — at least when compared to Sweeney and Riley. This is all any of us have to go on.

    Published numbers are of no interest to me. There’s nothing like seeing for yourself. Having said that, Mansion could make a case for himself with good reads and accurate throws. But as you know (or should know), he consistently missed his receivers high and didn’t show a particularly good command of the offense in his limited opportunities.

  • Juancho

    It’s amazing how many posts show up when the topic is the QBs.

    I think whoever is the starter – and I’m 100% sure it will be Riley, the backup should get SOME playing time this year. So that if something happens, the new starter isn’t someone with zero experience. Sometimes I feel like Tedford has become very defensive about the performance of his quarterbacks, and he has started to make excuses for Longshore and Riley because he feels their bad performances directly reflect on his job. This isn’t true though. He does a great job and although he is the “QB guru” his job is bigger than whether he develops QBs or not. So – I hope there are fewer excuses made for the QB this year as far as their performance – if it is bad. I can’t stand all the excuses that were made for Riley. Especially the “receivers aren’t getting separation” excuse. They never got separation b/c the defenses didn’t respect Riley’s accuracy, so they played our receivers bump and run man coverage every game, giving them not a yard of space – b/c they figured Riley wouldn’t make a good pass.