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October 18, 2009, Miami football coach Randy Shannon had an important decision to make.
After his Hurricanes overcame a 10-point deficit to knock off Duke in Durham’s Wallace Wade Stadium, Shannon faced a difficult question from the assembled media.
True freshman quarterback Jacory Harris had just become the first Miami passer in four years to account for five touchdowns (four running and one throwing) in a game, after relieving starter Robert Marve in the second quarter following an interception on a poorly thrown deep ball.
After weeks of fans calling for Harris to assume the role of the team’s top signal caller, Shannon had the opportunity to make the popular switch for good.
Instead, the second-year head coach opted for a seemingly unlikely response.
“Robert Marve is our starter,” Shannon said.
And with that, Shannon made a statement.
At least for the time being, there would be no competition, and certainly, no controversy.
And Marve responded a week later, leading the Hurricanes to a come-from–behind win against Wake Forest.
Now, while Shannon’s first two seasons in Miami have undoubtedly been a rough road, the former defensive coordinator understands team dynamics and, though Marve would eventually lose his job and transfer anyway, Shannon’s answer was the right one and one that Cal coach Jeff Tedford should take a good look at.
After week one of the Bears’ fall camp, three things are obvious:
A) Jahvid Best is as good as advertised (and advertised and advertised).
B) Cal’s defense is poised for heights unwitnessed thus far in the Tedford era.
C) And finally, Kevin Riley will undeniably be the Bears’ starter under center come September 5.
In most cases, two out of three wouldn’t be so bad, but Tedford’s refusal to acknowledge Riley as the starter NOW could have disastrous repercussions.
My quarterbacking background pales in comparison to Tedford’s, but I can write with absolute certainty that Riley can’t be happy with his coach’s apparent indecision between the Portland, Ore., native and redshirt sophomore Brock Mansion.
Ask him about the situation and Riley will give you the company line; he feels like the job is his to lose.
And until he’s named the starter, officially, Riley will continue to play ‘not to lose,’ looking over his shoulder with every misstep or bad ball.
The one upside to Tedford’s silence is that it’s giving Mansion motivation to improve. Brock legitimately believes that he’s got a shot at the start, and with that, his fall has been noticeably stronger than in the past.
But ask his receivers, they’ll hint that Riley leads the race. And I’ll add, at the moment, the Texan isn’t even close.
That said, though, Riley hasn’t been allowed to reach his full potential.
The notion that your coach doesn’t have absolute confidence in you is a jarring one for a quarterback, leading to inevitable mistakes in the pursuit of perfect football.
And that’s the message that Tedford is sending Riley by not naming a starter with less than three weeks between them and the season-opener against Maryland.
But now isn’t the time for mind games.
While Cal’s defense should be stellar and Best’s output, out-of-this-world, balance breeds victory.
In Urban Meyer’s tenure at Florida, no Gator has rushed for 1,000 yards, but a well-rounded offense has garnered college football’s highest paid coach two national titles in four seasons.
If the Bears are to take a stab at their most realistic Rose Bowl chances in years, Riley’s play is going to need to be at its peak, an impossible task if he doesn’t feel he has the faith of his head coach.
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