Tuesday, August 11, 2009

SF Chronicle: Riley opens camp as starter

Kevin Riley stepped on the field Friday night in a new role - as the quarterback sporting the thickest resume. He still must fend off challenges from Brock Mansion and Beau Sweeney, but he began Cal's training camp as the erstwhile incumbent. "It's just fun to be out here again playing," Riley said. The Bears opened fall practice with what coach Jeff Tedford called a "very spirited" session at Memorial Stadium. Riley balanced sparkling moments (a majestic, accurate 67-yard pass to Marvin Jones) with less-flattering moments (two interceptions).

That neatly mirrors last season, when Riley bounced between impressive and mediocre. Tedford has suggested throwing mechanics were part of the reason - which led to a spring full of one-on-one work, Tedford and Riley trying to sharpen his motion.  Riley said he unwittingly changed his throwing motion when things weren't going well in 2008 - he often dropped his elbow, which sent passes off target. His mission this offseason was keeping his elbow up and making his delivery quicker.  Beyond the mechanics, Riley carries newfound confidence into this training camp. He's 22 now, a fourth-year player (he redshirted in 2006) dispensing wisdom to his teammates more than seeking it.  "I'm much more comfortable being out there," he said. "I got a solid amount of time last season, every type of work in games. That does so much for you."

Best is back: Friday night marked running back Jahvid Best's first official team practice in 2009 - he missed spring drills while recovering from surgeries on his foot and elbow.  "It seems like he never left," Tedford said. "He looks like Jahvid. He's still fast."

Briefly: Cal was ranked No. 12 in the USA Today preseason coaches' poll released Friday. USC (No. 4), Oregon (No. 14) and Oregon State (No. 25) were the other Pac-10 teams in the top 25. ... Best was named as an official candidate for the Doak Walker Award, honoring the nation's top running back. Cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson (Jim Thorpe Award) and punter Bryan Anger (Ray Guy Award) also were named to "watch lists" this week.

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