Still, Riley is back out on the practice field looking to; once again, earn the spot that he so desperately wants to excel at. But he comes in understanding why he has to go through the process all over again.
"I think last year was a disappointing year and I definitely did not play as well as I should have," says Riley. "So I definitely know why it's open. You just have to come out and practice hard, and do what you can."
Riley entered 2008 as a fan favorite following his performance in the 2007 Armed Forces Bowl against Air Force, when he went 16-19 for 269 yards and three touchdowns to lead California back from a 21-0 deficit. Today, Riley enters 2010 knowing that some fans are becoming impatient. Yet, the criticism does not faze him.
"I'm used to it, now," Riley says. "All I can do is work hard."
That hard work is more than apparent, especially when Riley spends an extra 30 minutes after practice working routes with his receivers and his mechanics with the other quarterbacks.
Two years ago, Kevin Riley won the starting spot, while working with a set of completely green wide receivers.
Today, Riley is working with a plethora of wide receivers that have in-game experience.
"They're getting better," said Riley. "Marvin [Jones], since the fall, has really stepped up his game. He got hurt a little bit, but he's just playing great and catching the ball great. [Alex] Lagemann does what Lagemann does: he catches the ball well and runs good routes. I would say Mike Calvin has definitely come on strong after his knee injury. He came back a little slow, a little tentative running his routes and things like that. But he's getting more comfortable everyday, and making more plays, and getting more consistent, so that is huge."
Two years ago, Kevin Riley entered spring with a new offensive coordinator – resulting in a new offensive philosophy, new schemes, and a new QB-coach relationship.
Today, for the first time in his career, Riley has the benefit of working with the same offensive coordinator – Andy Ludwig – in back-to-back years. In other words, Riley does not have to spend extra time building that chemistry with the play caller. That means more time can be focused solely on improving the offense.
"The biggest thing is that we're comfortable," said Riley. "We know each others likes and dislikes, and he knows what I am comfortable with. He'll try and call those plays more often, because he knows that I am obviously better at those plays."
"But that's the big thing. We are comfortable with each other, and we have gone through a whole season together. We just know each others strengths, and what we are trying to get accomplished."
Two years ago, Kevin Riley had a goal of getting Cal to the Rose Bowl.
Today, he is much better prepared to accomplish that goal.
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