Change is in the air in the Strawberry Canyon—a new special teams coach, a new defensive coordinator, and lots of big-time pieces (Syd'Quan Thompson, Jahvid Best) that need replacing.
So it only seems fitting that after two years as the Cal football team's starting quarterback, it’s time Kevin Riley starts seeing nothing but pine.
Need a reason why? How about five...
The numbers don’t lie.
In Cal’s five losses in 2009, Riley completed just 46 percent of his passes with three touchdowns, four interceptions, and six fumbles (three lost).
His quarterback rating was a lackluster 93.90, almost 70 points lower than the rating he posted in wins.
That’s where the greatest frustrations with Kevin Riley lie. His line in eight wins: 62 percent completion percentage, 15 TDs, four INTs, and a 161.50 QB rating. His flashes of brilliance have always been marred by his consistent inconsistencies.
The Bears' first three games of 2010:
Sept. 4: UC Davis
Sept. 11: Colorado
Sept. 17: at Nevada
Combined, Cal’s first three opponents finished 17-19 last season. The FCS subdivision Aggies won the Great West Conference despite a 6-5 record and have already dubbed their season opener at Memorial Stadium a “historic matchup” (Granted, the teams haven’t played since 1939, but still...).
Colorado finished 3-9 last season, meaning the Bears should cruise to a 2-0 start before making the short trip to Nevada.
The Wolf Pack went 8-5 last season and return 15 starters. They’re seasoned, but they’re also from the WAC—Cal should finish the non-conference schedule undefeated regardless of who’s under center.
This is where things get interesting.
Cal’s 2012 season opener in Columbus will undoubtedly be the Bears’ highest profile non-conference game under Jeff Tedford (sorry Tennessee).
Bench Riley this year, and Beau Sweeney, Allan Bridgford, or Austin Hinder could enter that nationally televised affair with two years of starting experience.
What’s more, if the Bears win the matchup and both teams take care of business during the conference season, a Rose Bowl rematch seems entirely possible (and probably something the AP voters, BCS computers, and network execs would be pulling for).
Oh, and the Bears host the Buckeyes in 2013, when Bridgford and Hinder would both be seniors.
While waiting for Riley to develop, Tedford has stockpiled quarterbacks and will carry five on this year’s roster, including the incumbent.
Last spring, junior Brock Mansion lost the starting nod to Riley despite an 8-for-11, 90-yard passing performance from Mansion in the spring game. He was the first to find the end zone in the scrimmage, connecting on a 51-yard scoring toss.
Redshirt sophomore Beau Sweeney usurped Mansion on the depth chart during the season, and completed five of nine passes last season for 45 yards in three games. He appears to be the biggest threat to Riley’s throne.
The other two, redshirt freshman Allan Bridgford and true frosh Austin Hinder, are the Bears’ most highly-recruited QBs since Riley. Rivals.com rated Bridgford the nation’s fifth most accurate quarterback in 2009, while scout Tom Lemming rated Hinder the No. 5 pro-style quarterback in 2010.
Stanford freshman Andrew Luck replaced senior Tavita Pritchard under center last season, becoming the first frosh starter for the Cardinal since 1996.
He led Stanford to wins over Oregon and USC and its first bowl game in eight years.
Luck made most freshman All-America teams last season after passing for 2,575 yards and 13 touchdowns with only four interceptions.
Austin Hinder, anyone?