By Josh Dubow
Kevin Riley spent much of last season not knowing if he would start or how much he would play at quarterback for California. Coach Jeff Tedford's juggling between Riley and Nate Longshore ended up not helping either quarterback or the team as the Golden Bears finished 9-4. With Longshore gone, Riley had the chance to seize the starting quarterback role at Cal and that's just what he did, beating out Brock Mansion and Beau Sweeney during fall camp. With Riley secure as the starter for No. 12 Cal heading into Saturday's opener against Maryland and Tedford done with his juggling act, Riley's teammates see quite a difference in the junior quarterback.
"His confidence has definitely risen a lot," fullback Brian Holley said Tuesday. "He's stepped into the leadership role. He's a lot more focused. You can see it in the huddle. On and off the field he's taking things more seriously. I think he's ready to take that next step to take this team where it needs to go."
Riley made some mechanical adjustments in the offseason, but says his biggest improvement came on the mental side. He says he's making his reads much quicker, isn't holding the ball as long and knows exactly where the ball is supposed to go. "I thought about it too much. You can't play that way," he said after winning the job. "If you play that way you're not going to be confident, you're not going to throw the ball well. If I make a mistake, mistakes happen.
Coach knows that. Just go out there and improve and don't let it happen again. Riley has completed just 53.4 percent of his passes in 14 career games, with 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He made his first career start as a freshman against Oregon State in 2007 in a game that had a disastrous ending for the Bears. With Cal ranked No. 2 in the country and poised to move into the top spot following a loss by LSU, Riley drove Cal well within field-goal range in the final minute of a 31-28 game.