Friday, October 19, 2007

SF Chronicle: Who will QB against UCLA?

Rusty Simmons

Cal coach Jeff Tedford said it best Tuesday. "Your guess is as good as mine," he said, responding to a question about who would be the starting quarterback Saturday at UCLA.

It's been tough this week to get a gauge on the sprained right ankle of starter Nate Longshore, who shared the first-team repetitions with backup Kevin Riley on Thursday. Just a day earlier, Longshore hobbled around the field and had trouble even trying to hand off the ball. Longshore "looked a lot better today," Tedford said Thursday. Longshore has maintained that his ankle is getting better every day, but his actions have been drastically different than his words. He was still a little gimpy Thursday, but his passes were much crisper than a day before, when he struggled to push off his right ankle and hung a couple of passes up for grabs. Riley went 20-for-34 for 294 yards and three touchdowns (one rushing) in losing his first start 31-28 to Oregon State on Saturday. He continues to gain confidence in practice, but he took more second-team snaps Thursday than he has in any practice since Longshore got injured Sept. 29. "I think Kevin took a lot out of his first game, probably more positives than negatives," Tedford said. "Sure, it was a learning experience, but he played his butt off and made some plays. He wants to start, not because he wants to prove something, but because he wants to compete."

Pass protection: A week after limiting Oregon State, the nation's top pass-rush unit, to two sacks, Cal's offensive line has another stiff test this week in UCLA defensive end Bruce Davis. Davis' 121/2 sacks in 2006 were tops in the nation among returners, and he has 61/2 this year.  "Bruce is very athletic and very fast," Tedford said. "He can cause a lot of problems. He's a guy who can really come off the edge, and he can chase things down from sideline to sideline." Davis regularly lines up on the weak side and will be matched up with left tackle Mike Gibson most often. Last season, Cal ran for 167 yards and allowed only one sack against UCLA. "I'm pretty familiar with him, and, trust me, he's watching film on me, too," Gibson said. "We pretty much know each other inside and out."

Receiver injuries: Robert Jordan and Cameron Morrah, who each have a sprained shoulder, practiced for the first time this week Thursday, and Tedford expects both to play Saturday. Jordan took most of the first-team repetitions before removing his shoulder pads midway through practice, and Morrah participated in all contact drills without a hitch.

If Jordan is limited, either LaReylle Cunningham or Sam DeSa would play in three-receiver sets. Leading-receiver Lavelle Hawkins can play both his usual slot spot and Jordan's split-end position. Cunningham, who caught five passes for 112 yards against Washington State in 2005, probably has better hands and plays mostly in the slot. DeSa is the faster option and usually lines up as a split end.  "All I need is an opportunity to do what I do," Cunningham said. "I catch everything. If you get the ball in my vicinity, I'll go get it.

"It takes a lot of mental toughness waiting for your time, but I know good things will come if I'm willing to wait."

Briefly: Center Alex Mack was selected as one of 12 semifinalists for the Lombardi Award, given to the nation's top down linemen. ... Defensive back Brandon Hampton took reps at cornerback and safety as rover Marcus Ezeff is continuing to heal from a quadriceps strain. Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said Ezeff will travel but probably won't play. ... Gregory said fifth-year senior defensive end John Allen has earned his first start. ... Defensive end Rulon Davis was in a helmet, doing agility drills on the sideline and running stairs, for the first time since injuring his foot in Week 3 against Louisiana Tech.


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