Cal QBs, Giants in 2009, Baron Davis and Warriors
by Glenn Dickey
Jul 30, 2008

JEFF TEDFORD made an interesting comparison between his quarterbacks, Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley, at the annual Bay Area college football meeting on Monday.

“With Nate,” he said, “he’ll go through the progressions (on pass plays) for No. 1,2,3, 4 and even 5. With Kevin, he’ll go to 1 and 2 and, if nothing’s there, take the ball down and try to make a play himself.

“So, with Nate, we’re trying to maybe get him to hurry it up slightly because if he looks for 5, the pressure might get to him. With Kevin, we’re trying to get him to be a little more patient and look for 3, but we’re not trying to change his game. Sometimes, it’s a good thing to be ready to make a play if the receiver isn’t open.”

Predictably, most of the questions directed at Tedford were about his quarterbacks, but the order remains the same: Longshore is No. 1 right now, but Riley will play more this season.

As anybody who read me in the last year knows, I was eager to see Riley as the starter in the second half of the season. But as the coach, Tedford has to consider other factors that aren’t always obvious to media and fans.

One is that Riley didn’t always work as hard at practice as he should have – a shortcoming he’s rectified; in the spring, he worked very hard and looked good, too.

Another is that some of Longshore’s interceptions and incompletions came because receivers didn’t run the right patterns. Tedford never says this, of course, but there was some hint of this in the tumble DeSean Jackson took in the NFL draft. When he reported to the Philadelphia Eagles camp, there were reports that one of his adjustments would be to run precise routes.

There was also the personal factor: To bench Longshore would have effectively ruined any chance he had of playing in the NFL. Before the second half of last season, he had been highly ranked by those evaluating pro prospects among college players. Tedford is obviously fond of Longshore, which is understandable. Longshore is a standup guy, always willing to take the blame if something goes wrong. He’s never pointed a finger at a teammate, especially with receivers who ran the wrong routes.

On and off-the-record, I’ve talked frequently to Tedford about this situation, and I believe that he really thought Longshore gave the Bears the best chance to win last year. I also believe that he has much more confidence in Riley this year and won’t be reluctant to make a change this season if he thinks it will help the team win.

As a former quarterback himself, Tedford is very much aware that quarterbacks get too much credit when the teams wins and too much blame when they lose, and that was certainly the case last season.

Tedford thinks that the players had trouble dealing with the free fall from the 5-0 start because they’d never been in that situation before. There was clearly a lack of leadership among the players, with nobody stepping up to take the roles that Marshawn Lynch (offense) and Desmond Bishop (defense) had assumed the year before. The defense absolutely fell apart against Washington, probably the worst effort I’ve seen from a Tedford-coached team, allowing a staggering 360 yards rushing. Probably saved Tyrone Willingham’s job, too.

Tedford did a lot of soul-searching in the offseason and has changed his overall approach, handing over the playcalling to Frank Cignetti and trying to be more involved with the whole team. I believe he’ll be more flexible in dealing with the quarterback decisions, too.

But we all need to take a deep breath and realize that there were many more problems than the quarterback play last season.

And Tedford remains the best Cal coach I have seen in more than half a century of watching the Bears.

QBS BEWARE: Pro and college coaches usually put red shirts on their quarterbacks in practice, but San Jose State’s Dick Tomey did just the opposite in the spring. “I wanted to find out which of our quarterbacks could put up with pressure and find ways to elude the rush,” he told the media, “so I told our defensive people to go after the quarterbacks.”

Myles Eden won that competition, but Tomey said he wants to take a longer look at Cal transfer Kyle Reed, who had to drop out of spring practice with a stress fracture in his foot. He’s completely healthy now.

Whoever the quarterback is, Tomey hopes for much better pass protection than the Spartans porous offensive line provided last year. “We had a lot of people in our backfield last year,” he quipped, “but not many of them were our players.”

STANFORD HOPES: Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh said, “Our goal has to be a bowl game,” but that won’t be easy for Stanford, which lacks offensive firepower.

The most interesting battle is at quarterback, where Harbaugh ranked returning players Tavita Pritchard and Alex Loukas even, with Michigan traansfer Jason Forcier slightly behind. Forcier had nagging injuries in the spring but is healthy now. “The quarterback competition is a good one,” said Harbaugh, adding that he considered the position one of the team’s strengths. “I wish we had that kind of quality at every position.”

A’S SUGGESTION: Why don’t the A’s close off their second deck, too? That would really give them the “intimate” experience they said they were looking for when they closed off the third deck.

Meanwhile, they continue to alienate their current fans by urging the few who can get their radio broadcasts to make early reservations for tickets at Cisco Field in Fremont, whose proposed opening has now been shoved back to 2013. My advice to fans: Don’t be in a hurry to get on the list. In the unlikely event that the park ever gets built, the ticket prices will be even higher than the Giants.

In San Francisco, the Giants can succeed with their prices because there is a lot of money there, both private and in the corporations based there. A’s owner Lew Wolff hopes to tap into the Silicon Valley crowd by labeling the A’s “Fremont of San Jose”, but most of those people are already emotionally and financially tied to the Giants, with many of them owning “charter seats.” They won’t transfer their allegiance.

GIANTS IN 2009? General manager Brian Sabean wants to hang on to catcher Benjie Molina and outfielder Randy Winn because they’re signed through 2009. But will the Giants be contenders in 2009? Not likely.

Sabean’s reasoning is that, being in the weak NL West, the Giants have a shot at winning with a team that’s around. 500. But, that assumes the division will remain that week, and there’s no reason to think that will happen.

The problem with the three clubs ahead of the Giants is that their young players are inconsistent, but they’re also talented and will improve. The Rockies already demonstrated that with their great run last September; this year, after a very slow start, they’re starting to rally again. Both the Diamondbacks and Dodgers have better young talent than the Giants, and that gap will only widen next season.

I don’t think the Giants should trade Molina because he’s a good player at a very important defensive position, and they need him to work with the young pitchers who are the main reason for optimism. But Winn, who would be no more than the fourth outfielder on a good team, should have been gone before this.

Realistically, the Giants first chance to be legitimate contenders won’t come before 2010. But Sabean is having difficult dealing with that, perhaps because he thinks he won’t be around then. We can only hope.

WARRIORS REDUX: With all the offseason shuffling, the Warriors will probably take a step backward next season, but the real losers are Baron Davis and the Clippers. Davis obviously figured that he would join Elton Brand in Los Angeles to form the nucleus of a playoff team – but then Brand left. The Clippers won’t be a playoff team, and the Clippers are on the hook for five years with the injury-prone Davis.

Davis’s decision to leave the Warriors seemed to come out of the blue, but when the Warriors’ Chris Mullin spoke to the media last week he said the decision wasn’t a surprise. “This was not an overnight thing,” he said. “We’d been talking for a long time.” The Warriors simply were not willing to commit to a five-year deal, which was smart. The Clippers will probably be paying a full-time salary to a part-time player for most of that contract.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL is coming and tickets from Cal home games are available on TICKETS! TICKETS! TICKETS!: Michigan State, Aug. 30; Colorado State, Sept. 27; Arizona State, Oct. 4; UCLA, October 25; Oregon, Nov. 1; Stanford, Nov. 22; and Washington, Dec. 6. New York will host the top tennis stars – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova – in August for the U.S. Open, and tickets are available. Tony Bennett will be at the San Francisco Symphony on Sept. 14, and top names are touring, such as Billy Joel, Neil Diamond and Jimmy Buffet. Madonna is back in the spotlight with her October tour. Just click on the local or national links and everything will come up.

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