"At the quarterback position, we have to see who the second quarterback's going to be or who's going to compete for the starting quarterback job," said Cal Head Coach Jeff Tedford. "Nate's obviously the starting quarterback right now but we have to find out if Kyle Reed or Kevin Riley are ready to take that next step."
If you ask many fans about Reed, many mistakenly believe the Oakland qb is heading into his junior season. The fact that he's just a second year frosh catches many by surprise –perhaps because Reed was a local star for a couple years before coming to Cal and was also one of the first commits from the Class of '05. Many have nearly written him off or started rumors of a transfer, even though the youthful Reed is only in his 4th semester at Cal.
"Being a local kid (from nearby McClymonds in Oakland), that's so hard for me to deal with sometimes," said Reed. "You have to deal with people saying, ‘You have this, you have that…what's going on?' Me being able to explain to people that I wasn't ready yet and the process is coming along –it can be a little overwhelming because people want to see action right away and that's not always realistic.
"People were expecting me to play when I came in," said Reed, with a laugh. "You gotta get out there! I was like, wow…"
"But taking gradual steps and learning that becoming a good quarterback is a process has been one of my biggest steps and I'll continue to take those steps."
If yesterday's opening practice was any indication, Reed looks to have taken a step up, throwing with confidence and authority and appearing read the defense well in 7 on 7 and 11 on 11 drills, zipping the ball all over the field.
"I'm real confident coming into this season," said Reed. "I've been working a lot with (QB) Coach (Kevin) Daft and working on lots of little things. It's been coming along really well.
"My main point of emphasis has not only been improving myself but thoroughly understanding what Coach Tedford wants out of his quarterbacks. That's been the biggest thing for me.
"Yes, I have a lot of physical ability, but if you can't put those two tangible things together –you're nothing. But I've been working hard to step out of that realm and take strides forward."
Many would find the specter of understanding an advanced system like Tedford's and being able to put everything together and execute up to the successful coach's lofty expectations intimidating but the confident Reed shows no such inclination.
"It isn't intimidating," said Reed. "Coach Tedford wants the best out of you and the best for you. It's more a source of motivation for me. Like, ‘You're gonna put me on the field by the time I leave here.' I wouldn't have come here if I was intimidated."
"Hopefully I'll be able to play a big role for the team this year, either as a backup or competing to start."
Last season, Reed had the difficult task of accepting that he'd not be a part of the 3 deep rotation at quarterback, playing behind two senior qb's with significant playing time in Steve Levy and Joe Ayoob.
"Of course it was frustrating for me last year because I didn't feel those guys were as good as me," said Reed. "But as a team player, you have to think about what's best for the team and the idea that maybe they had a better grasp on the mental aspects, maybe they had more game experience. You have to put those things together and I really had to understand the situation.
"It took a while, though. I was pretty sour for a while. But then I thought, ‘You know, I have 3 more years and these guys are playing under Nate.' It wasn't like they were starting. So it took a while to understand –I know it's a cliché, but there's no "I" in team."
Many are looking at the battle for the #2 slot –and maybe a shot at challenging Longshore to start- with great interest. Reed is battling the extremely talented Riley for the opportunity and most have no idea how the battle will turn out.
Should Reed lose the battle and end up #3 on the depth chart as a soph, where would that put him psychologically?
"We'll just have to see if that comes," said Reed. "I'll just have to try my best and prevent that from happening. I don't feel that I'm going to allow myself to let that happen. I've been busting my ass, doing lots of little things, understanding the process, reasoning and all sorts of stuff and I think it's going to pay off."
Reed also addressed his comfort level running the offense coming into practice this spring compared to just 7 short months ago last fall.
"Oh yeah, I'm more comfortable," said Reed. "I can see what's out there and understand what's going on.
"At first when I came out here, it was like, "Man! Okay…let me just make a play -and I'd try and force things. Now, its like, ‘Oh, you're gonna give me that? Then I'm going to take it.' Coach Tedford tells us to be greedy out there and take what the defense gives you and I'm doing it. It's all coming together for me out there."
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