Football: Training camp storylines — Is there really a quarterback competition?

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. InĀ  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.

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.

  • Jan K Oski

    I don’t think the WR need explosiveness. I believe they need to find the holes and be on the same page with Riley. I’m betting that’s why Lagemann was selected as a first teamer over Ross. He had the best ability to find what the defense gave last year. Riley just needs to place the ball, so Alex and the other WRs can gain yards after the catch.

  • Fair Weather Fan

    Remember last year when Riley supposedly worked with the WRs during the offseason so that they could be sure they were on the same page? Remember Riley throwing hospital balls whenever he had to dump a flare pass to a back? Remember the complete absence of a screen pass? Remember the balls thrown into the turf in front of wide open receivers?

    Riley is a middle of the Pac 10 QB at best. Cal needs to decide if they are going to fish or cut bait with this guy. Mansion is not the new guy. We need to see Sweeney play a half against UCD, Colorado, and Nevada. And don’t give me that BS about knowing the system better. If Sweeney plays better in these 3 games, let him start.

  • pompusone2000

    Fair Weather Fan says it all.

  • TrumanHugh

    Remember 2009, when it was LAST YEAR and all?! Different year, different team.

    I’m not yet fully sold on Riley, but I do believe a fifth-year senior QB under Jeff Tedford has gained pretty extraordinary experience and skill. As JO–and many others–reminded us, Riley leads the Pac 10 in most significant QB stats. His failings last season were due largely to the breakdown of protection as well as the poor play of his receivers.

    I am more than happy to give the nod to the more experienced Riley and I hope he gets the support and focused play from the other ten guys on the field. That said, I trust that Tedford has learned from the “letting-Longshore-play-far-too-long-before-finally-pulling-him-because-he-was-the-most-experienced-QB” debacle from a couple of seasons ago.

    Fortunately, this year, unlike that dreadful season, we are in pretty good shape in terms of capable backups. The just need to be ready to go, and I’m sure they–at least Sweeney–will get several “meaningful” snaps prior to our Pac 10 opener at Arizona on September 25.

  • Crawford

    If Riley struggles early, he will be replaced, but for now he has earned the job. Hopefully the receivers step it- you can’t always blame the QB is he has NO ONE to throw too or is constantly running for his life because the o-line can’t block. Cal should start off 3-0, if Riley puts up good numbers in those games, than start him against Arizona. Otherwise give someone else a shot

  • Fair Weather Fan

    I’ve got a feeling that Sweeney won’t get many (if any) meaningful snaps with the first-team offense. In all liklihood, Riley will be neither spectacular nor terrible during the 3 non-con games and Tedford will be thinking that if he keeps Riley in a little longer he will come around. Then when the conference schedule starts, he will be reluctant to play a QB with few real game snaps unless it is a complete blow out, and that’s not likely to happen except maybe Wazzu.

    Resist this temptation – plan to play Sweeney with the first unit in the non-con games regardless of Riley’s performance. Riley has had plenty of game snaps in his college career. A few more early season snaps won’t make a difference. The team will be better off in the long run if they platoon QBs in the non-con games.

  • SteveNtexas

    I say let them all play. Riley has enough experience that he can miss a few snaps. Let’s look towards the future.

    What’s the deal with Brock Mansion?

  • Tedford4prez

    Next year is all about Zach Maynard. Riley will have a good year en route to a 8 or maybe 9 win season, but while Sweeney is ahead of Mansion (per Spring results)n Maynard is the only QB with any D1 experience on the roster. He’s not on the official roster yet, so I hope he successfully grayshirts and then we won’t have to rebuild as much next year.

  • BlakeStreetBear

    Riley will be great this season and will be a draft pick next June. Marvin Jones and Anthony Miller will combine for well over 20 receiving TDs and Shane Vareen will have 1500+ yards and 15+ TDs rushing. If the defense is stout this team could run the table.

  • 66Bear

    Well said, BlakeStreetBear. Go Bears! Run the table!

  • LR

    I don’t think you people have looked at the 2-deeps that closely. Look again. Do you see even one unit (with the exception of RBs) that isn’t suspect? What makes you think we’ll have the opportunity to sub in Sweeney in the Colorado and Nevada games? I assure you, we will beat Colorado but will not blow doors as you all think. Nevada is a road game against a decent team. At best, Sweeney might get a half against Davis. A half with a big lead against a high school team isn’t enough. Therefore, Tedford will do the right thing and default to experience. It’s an imperfect solution, but it’s the only way. Face facts, Riley is the mid point between Rodgers and Boller on one end and Longshore and Ayoob on the other. Ultimately, it’s the leadership skills that are lacking compounded by having a sub-standard set of wideouts. Barring injury, Cal will live and die by what he, the OL and DBs do this year — probably in that order.

  • selppataei

    I’m hoping his career arc resembles that of Sean Canfield.

  • Fair Weather Fan

    LR – I don’t think we will blow out Colorado or Nevada, but that’s the point I’m making – put in Sweeney anyway and let him play some meaningful 1st unit downs. Cal will still win, and the coaching staff will get a good look at what Sweeney can do.

    The Arizona road game is the crtical contest. I think that is the difference between Cal being 5-4 and 5th or 6th in the conference versus 6-3 and 3rd or 4th.

    If Sweeney lights it up, you have to give him a chance versus Arizona. If he comes out about the same as Riley, then Riley starts versus Arizona.

  • Rollonubears

    The first 3 games mean nothing this year. We have zero shot at a national title. Rose bowl is all that matters. The team that goes will have two conference losses. Let the kid play. He may be awesome. He may not. But we’ll need him next year regardless.

  • Marinbear

    “Yes Riley had some low moments last season”.
    Like the season.
    It would be fun to watch, and helpful to the development of the backup QB’s, if they were allowed to actually throw a forward pass during the few minutes they see the field. I know this might be considered non pc, and unsportsmanlike, unless you are Jim Harbaugh. Call me crazy but I think it might be beneficial for these guys to get some live action beyond turning and handing the ball off.

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    You will lose against Nevada.

  • BlueNGold

    Just like you lost in life?

  • GldnBear71

    I like you better as Rose Bowl 1929