With training camp set to begin one week from today, I will use the next week to examine the most vital storylines facing Cal this August. One issue each day until next Saturday, when the Bears hit the field for the first time for a helmets-only evening practice.
Let’s begin with the situation at quarterback, where coach Jeff Tedford once again says there will be an earnest competition for the starting job. Of course, Tedford insisted there was a quarterback competition last fall and Kevin Riley received about 80 percent of the first team snaps.
Tedford said the situation is different this season because Beau Sweeney and Brock Mansion have been in the program another year. Tedford said Riley will still start camp with the first snaps, and it remains to be seen how those reps are distributed among the other quarterbacks. But it’s hard to believe anyone but Kevin Riley will be Cal’s starting quarterback when the Bears open the season on Sept. 4 against UC Davis.
Yes, Riley had some low moments last season. But Riley generally played well. Unfortunately for him, two of his poorest performances came in the final two games of the season — the regular season finale against Washington and the Poinsettia Bowl against Utah. But otherwise much of the time his subpar performances were not only his fault. In fact, ineffective wide receiver play and inconsistent pass protection largely contributed to many of his shortcomings.
Riley has started 23 games at Cal and is 15-8. He is the Pac-10′s active leader with 37 touchdown passes. Sweeney and Mansion have combnied for zero meaningful snaps in their careers.
There is also something different about Riley this year. As I wrote in a post at the end of spring practice, the fifth-year senior seems to be at peace with himself and where is stands in his career. Riley should win the quarterback competition, and if his wide receivers demonstrate more explosiveness and his offensive line improves with experience, this should be his best season at Cal.