Wednesday, October 10, 2007

SF Chronicle: As Longshore rests, Riley polishes skills

Here is the link.

Rusty Simmons

Cal redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Riley took all of the first-team snaps last week and will probably take the majority this week as starter Nate Longshore rests his sprained right ankle for Saturday's game.  "To be honest, I didn't even know (Riley) was in," receiver Lavelle Hawkins said. "The ball looked good, so I couldn't really even tell a difference. That's a great sign." Coach Jeff Tedford expects Longshore to start against Oregon State, two weeks after injuring his ankle in the Bears' 31-24 win over Oregon. If Longshore can't start or finish, however, the team appears confident in Riley. "He has earned his spot, and I feel he can step up in the event that we need him," right tackle Mike Tepper said. "He's ready for anything, and I have complete faith in him." Riley, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder from Beaverton, Ore., is prepared, thanks to a busy offseason. He narrowly won the backup spot over sophomore Kyle Reed, who then transferred to San Jose State, but it wasn't easy. Because Cal had four veteran quarterbacks last season, Riley didn't get many reps in Tedford's complex offense. Instead, he was responsible for learning and performing the opponents' sets to prepare the Bears' defense.

Once Riley finally got his chance this spring, he admits that it was a whirlwind of information. Still, he managed to make strides only to have another setback. He broke the index finger on his passing hand and needed surgery that cost him the final week of practice, just as he appeared poised to pull away from Reed. Riley used the downtime to devour the playbook. "Kevin has done a good job in meetings and understands the offense," Tedford said. "We're impressed with that, but he hasn't really been in any football games."

In his first collegiate playing time, Riley went 0-for-3 while mopping up Cal's 42-12 win over Louisiana Tech. He replaced Longshore for two running plays immediately following the ankle injury at Oregon, but Longshore returned to finish the game for the wide-eyed Riley. As a prep, Rivals ranked Riley as the top player from Oregon and as the nation's No. 6 pro-style quarterback in 2005, the season he won the state's Gatorade Player of the Year award. Riley threw for 2,580 yards with just six interceptions in 239 attempts that season, and Tedford says he throws the best deep ball of any of his quarterbacks. Yes, that includes the six quarterbacks that Tedford coached into being first-round draft picks.

"Oh yeah, he throws the ball pretty hard," tailback Justin Forsett said. "I know he's ripped a pair or two of my gloves."

Briefly: Oregon State announced Wednesday that All-America returner Sammie Stroughter will miss the remainder of the season with a bruised kidney. Stroughter, who missed the season opener while dealing with a personal issue, had three catches for 35 yards and didn't return a punt in last season's 41-13 loss to Cal. ... There are still tickets available for this week's game, which is Cal's homecoming. ... Defensive tackle Matt Malele is listed first on the depth chart for the first time since injuring his foot in Week 3.

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