Cal Quarterback Kevin Riley Puts Body of Work on the Line
But it didn't take Jeff Tedford's quarterback at Cal. And Tedford took a moment to remind folks from the podium at media day about Kevin Riley's body of work.
"He's the (Pac-10's) active leader in wins, games played and touchdown passes (37)," Tedford said.
And if that came off a just little defensive, maybe it's because Tedford knows that his fifth-year senior quarterback has been through the wringer during his time in Berkeley and he wanted to make sure Riley got what he had earned, even if he doesn't have enough star power to merit a trip to ESPN.
Tedford offered Riley another reminder of what he's earned at the start of training camp when he named Riley the starter from the start. No camp competition. No question marks. Nobody breathing down his neck.
Both the quarterback and the coach say Riley has responded. Riley said he worked harder in this offseason than any other since he arrived in Berkeley from Oregon, lifting consistently, watching film and improving his fundamentals and decision-making.
"I'm more relaxed than any camp I've ever been in," Riley said last week. "Each day I've gotten better, and I'm throwing really well. I have a lot of confidence and people are feeding off that and it feels very comfortable out there."
Tedford said Riley's camp has been "very solid" thus far. The Bears are wrapping up their double-days and settling into preparation for the Sept. 4 season opener against UC Davis.
Tedford said he named Riley the starter before camp for one simple reason.
"He's earned it," Tedford said. "He's worked very hard and he's been our starter and it felt like there was a clear-cut choice. It was important going into camp that he knows he's the guy and that the team knows that he's the guy. But it wasn't a mind thing. It was more that he deserved it through his body of work."
Riley is 15-8 in his 23 starts, which is second in the Pac-10 only to Washington's Jake Locker. He's thrown for 4,773 yards with 37 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions.
But he's been revered and reviled at Memorial Stadium throughout his career.
He saw his first action as a redshirt freshman, replacing Nate Longshore and leading Cal to a bowl victory over Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl.
He beat out Longshore the following season, but ended up being benched twice. It was Longshore who started the Emerald Bowl game at the end of 2008.
Last season, he made all 13 starts, absorbing the ups and downs of a 8-5 year in which the Bears rose to as high as No. 6 in the national rankings and finished with an 0-4 mark that saw Cal lose those games by a 145-30 margin.
"It's a humbling experience to go up and down, everybody loves you and everybody hates you and you can't listen to it," Riley said. "I've matured more from my football experience in the last three years than anything that could possibly come up in my life."
Tedford also sees a more grown-up Riley.
"As the quarterback, you get too much credit and too much blame and he's had his share of both here," Tedford said. "But he's grown as a person to be able to put that in the proper perspective. He knows that's the way it is. He's not going to get too carried away when people stroke him, and I hope he doesn't get too down when there's some adversity.
"Because he's not going to be perfect. But he needs support and he needs to know that he has support."
Expectations have been lowered for the Bears, who are no longer viewed as the second-fiddle to USC.
Riley won't have to live up to them any more. He and the Bears will have to defy them.
"I'm taking that as a little disrespect," Riley said. "People say we've been overrated in the past and we've played badly and you can say that looking at the games we lose. But we know the type of team we are, and we've been through more ups and downs than most."