Cal interrupted the tedium of training camp with a scrimmage Tuesday at Memorial Stadium - referees in full uniform, simulated crowd noise, the works. This offered a fresh setting for the quarterback duel between quasi-incumbent Kevin Riley and sophomore Brock Mansion. "It's completely different," Mansion said. "At practice, you feel like sometimes your hand is being held a little, like daddy's behind you. Here, you're kind of thrown out in the wild."
Redshirt freshman Beau Sweeney officially remains in the competition, though Riley and Mansion have taken the bulk of practice snaps with the first-team offense. They both had their moments Tuesday, from Riley's 14-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Ross to Mansion's nicely thrown 20-yard scoring strike to Charles Satchel. Riley showed noticeable poise in running the offense, especially as the clock ran down a few times. He seems to have the inside track on the starting job, though coach Jeff Tedford has offered few clues. He's likely to make a decision by next week, with the season opener against Maryland only 17 days away (on Sept. 5). "The quarterbacks made some good throws," Tedford said of Tuesday's scrimmage. "We need better throws in certain situations. I'd say they played average."
Best out: Running back Jahvid Best did not participate in the scrimmage because of a sore toe. Tedford called the injury "nothing serious," but Best has not taken a practice repetition since Friday.
More injuries: Cal is nursing other noteworthy injuries, too. Starting center Chris Guarnero had surgery Tuesday to repair torn ligaments in his thumb; he could return to practice later this week. The receiving corps also absorbed some blows. Tight end Tad Smith sustained a knee injury of unknown severity during Tuesday's scrimmage and wide receiver Michael Calvin had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Monday and will miss "a couple of weeks," according to Tedford. Calvin had reconstructive surgery on the same knee in October after tearing his ACL.
Detail work: Senior cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson enters the season on several award watch lists. He blossomed into a lockdown, dare-you-to-throw-this-way cornerback last year, when he intercepted four passes, broke up 14 more and earned all-conference honors. Thompson, reflecting on his 2008 season, illustrated why Cal coaches probably want their young defensive backs to listen to the guy with the flowing dreadlocks. "I felt like I had a good season last year, but I could have done better," he said. "There's technique work I can do better - getting hands on receivers more, working on my footwork, using my eyes better. I can always get better at the little things. I'm never satisfied with my game."