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Remembering The Seniors: Kevin Riley

BERKELEY, CA - OCTOBER 09: Kevin Riley #13 of the California Golden Bears passes against the UCLA Bruins at California Memorial Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
BERKELEY, CA - OCTOBER 09: Kevin Riley #13 of the California Golden Bears passes against the UCLA Bruins at California Memorial Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
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[We are remembering the contributions of our senior footballers.  We've already looked at Cameron Jordan.  Today, we look at Kevin Riley]

TwistNHook:  Well, this should be fun.  Kevin Riley is a microcosm of everything Cal football from 2007-2010.  Of knee jerk fans.  Of ups.  Of downs.  Of everything.

Solarise:  I will remember Riley13 fondly. Not just because the way his career ended, But because he always competed and stayed even-keeled through the up and downs. Arm Forces Bowl 2007 was Riley's signature game, leading Cal back from from 21-0 to victory. The Bears fans had high hopes after. Unfortunately things never quite worked out for Kevin.

Berkelium97:  I'll remember Kevin as a fighter.  He had some of the lowest lows of any QB during the Tedford era, but he kept battling back.  OSU fiasco in '07?  No problem, says Kevin Riley after leading Cal back from a 21-point deficit in the Armed Forces Bowl.    After sustaining a concussion against Oregon in 2008, the medical staff had to take away his helmet to stop him from trying to continue playing.  Then after his season-ending injury against OSU, he kept telling himself he'd be able to come back in and play.  During the post-game press conference he said:

Especially coming off [the field], when I was like, `Oh, let me walk. I can walk, I'm fine. I'll go back in the game.' And then I put a little bit of pressure on it more, and I was like, `No way.' [Then, once on the bench on the sideline] I tried to walk again and say, `I'm fine, just strap me up' 
He was the kind of guy who kept fighting, no matter how grim things looked.  He was always trying to do what he could to help the team.

Despite being one of the most scrutinized QBs of the Tedford era, he put together a solid senior season before sustaining the knee injury.  After a mediocre '08 season and an okay '09 season, he delivered a solid line in 2010: 60% completion, 2:1 TD-int ratio, and 7.5 yards per attempt.  That's a pretty good set of stats considering he was behind the worst O-line of the Tedford era.

It's a shame he wasn't able to finish the season.  He would have helped the Bears notch an upset over #1 Oregon, would have generated enough offense to hold off UW, and might have ended his Cal career on a high note with a Holiday Bowl win over a lethargic Nebraska.  Instead, he'll always be remembered for "what could have been..."

Hopefully he gets a shot at some form of professional football.  The NFL is a long shot, but he might have a chance in the CFL.  After all he gave to us Cal fans, he certainly deserves it.

HydroTech:  I think Riley was a victim of his own early "success" and from being the always-loved backup QB.  I put the word success in parenthesis because I'm not sure if there was a lot of early success.  I believe a lot of Cal fans perceived there to be a lot early and easy success for Riley.  Most Cal fans will think of how Riley almost led a comeback in the 2007 Oregon State game, and his lights out play in the 2007 Armed Forces Bowl when the team couldn't get anything going with Longshore as the QB.  But what Cal fans usually fail to remember is that Riley was just average throughout most of the Oregon State game.  And while Riley's performance in the Armed Forces Bowl was undeniable lights out, Riley was aided by the return of Robert Jordan, Desean Jackson, and Thomas Decoud who were all suspended for the first quarter when Longshore was the QB.  Since those facts where overlooked by most fans, they merely saw Riley as a superior quarterback to the ailing and failing Longshore.  

After 2007, Riley was clearly the fan favorite QB on the roster.  It was understandable, although perhaps not truly justified.  Riley eventually won the starting QB position to start 2008, but then lost it half way through the season.  Fans adored Riley so much they refused to blame him for any of the errors which occurred.  I remember reading the fan boards that season.  It was always Tedford's fault for trying to make Riley something he's not.  Or it was Tedford's fault for not letting Riley run.  Or it was Tedford's fault for making Riley stay in the pocket.  It was Tedford's fault for benching Riley when he wasn't doing well, starting Longshore instead, and shattering Riley's confidence.  Or it was Tedford's fault because Tedford was being overly loyal again.  

That was the storyline the entire year.  I have no doubt that it hurts when a QB gets benched, but Riley had his chances and unfortunately he didn't perform well enough to keep his starting job.  In what might be the big ironic twist of fate, these same fans who once adored Riley would begin turning on him in 2009 and 2010 when Riley struggled.  No longer did you hear people blaming Tedford for Riley's errors like you did in 2008, but instead it was just "Riley sucks."  People started calling for the backups to start instead of Riley.  Oh, how ironic.  Riley, the ever-loved backup QB who fans wanted to see start, was now the hated starting QB who needed to be benched for a backup.  In essence, Riley was now Longshore.  Riley was now the QB that the fans hated.  

I do think that if Riley hadn't ended his career by suffering a season-ending injury, that the level of venomous disdain for him would be much higher.  As much as you may not have liked Riley as a QB, it's always heart-breaking to see a kid's dreams of playing football shattered when his knee gets hyper-extended backwards, and he falls to the ground in obvious excruciating pain.  That injury right there rehabilitated Riley's image in the mind of a lot of Cal fans.  

I will always be a fan of Riley.  I don't hate him for Oregon State 2007.  Everyone makes mistakes -- even when the coach just told you 1 minute beforehand to not get sacked or run with the ball.  To me, he was a kid who went through the highest highs, and the lowest lows.  He improved over the past few years.  I think he grew more mature as a person and a player.  He stayed out of trouble.  He gave effort and wanted to win.  That's all I ask for from the Cal Football players and he met all those expectations.  I appreciate his play and effort for Cal Football.

TwistNHook:  In some ways, Riley both under and yet over achieved at Cal.  Very odd.  

LeonPowe:  I also think two more things marred the image of Riley - living up to Aaron Rodgers and even Nate's 2006 performances still relatively fresh in fans minds. 

Me, I loved riley,but any QB who runs around looking for someone to block on runs and someone who clearly played with a lot of enthusiasm ("he's just like a kid out there!") and he always had a good attitude.

TwistNHook:  The concern I always had was that his excitement and enthusiasm caused him to force throws when throwing it away might have been the better option.  

Where do you see Kevin Riley's career taking him?

Solarise:  I've asked around. Coaching is in Kevin's genes since his dad is a coach @ Beaverton. Kevin might bounce around the CFL/NFL for a couple of years. Someday he could make a terrific coach shaping young men's character & desire to succeed.

Yellow Fever:  To the AFL for two years and then a career in insurance sales.

Seriously though, I don't think there's any room for him in the NFL, as a developmental quarterback or otherwise.  His accuracy issues are pronounced and the sample size is definitely large enough that it's clear he's just not an accurate thrower.  If he couldn't complete in the mid-55% range in college, what hope is there seriously for him to do better in the pros?

He might be able to spend some time in the AFL or AFL2 (whose tagline should be, so easy, even Joe Ayoob can do it), but there's roughly 0% chance he lands in a NFL training camp later this year.  Assuming there are any training camps later this year.

OhioBear:  To somebody's training camp in the NFL (if and when the lockout ends) and maybe on somebody's practice squad.  Beyond that, I see too much inconsistency and accuracy issues to believe that Kevin will be a pro quarterback.  And since the Arena League puts a premium on accuracy, I don't see him there either.  I want to be wrong, however, because I like Kevin and appreciate his dedication to the Cal program.

His dad, Faustin Riley, is a legendary high school coaching figure in Oregon.  I wonder if the coaching bug will rub off on him.   

Solarise:  Just checked. Faustin Riley is the head coach @ Sunset High in Portland after his stint as the offensive coordinator @ Beaverton. Kevin seems well positioned to get a shot @ coaching w/ his dad and perhaps someday w/ Tedford.

HydroTech:  Unfortunately, I'd have to agree with YellowFever.  I don't see Riley making an NFL roster.  Competition at the QB position is so fierce in the NFL.  Even college QBs with much better stat lines than Riley don't get drafted or even make it through training camp.  I would find it pretty surprising if somehowRiley did.  Don't me wrong though, I'd love to see it happen and I'm rooting for him, but I just think it's pretty improbable right now.  

TwistNHook:  And that wouldn't be a Faustian Bargain!

I'll show myself out.