"It didn't take more than about three plays," said Riley. "...The thing I'm most pleased with is this guy is also smart. He got right into pass protection, he got into our alignment formation changes, he (showed) and overall knowledge of the offense that I think was beyond his years. I really like that. And it was not unlike James."
Ryan McCants will likely start, said Riley, with both players used liberally. Jeremy Francis will also be used in certain situations.
| More from the head man of the Beavs|
RILEY ON MONDAY downplayed some of the traditional negatives often associated with a Pac-10 game for a season opener. |
"Bobby (De Carolis) and I talk a lot about these things and in the end we decide on and agree upon where we're going to head. And when the lot is cast, that's what we have and we don't complain or change it or want something else. I would say in general it would be nice, particularly with Stanford with a new defensive coordinator, it would be nice not to play them the first game. But we're not going to talk about that and make it an issue with our team. I think our team is very excited about playing Stanford and very excited about getting started."
Asked to list his concerns on the Cardinal, Riley cited the number of returning starters (16), plus the Cardinal's ability via the pass rush to bring pressure.
"And offensively, they've had a year to build on their identity. They took many shots at us down the field last year so how they approach the game will be an interesting factor," said Riley.
RILEY SAID HE couldn't limit to just one the pleasant surprise that's come out of camp, two examples he was pleased with were the development on the offensive line and how the punting competition played out and how kicker Justin Kahut has performed.
He also talked about the development of a defense that's replacing seven starters from last year. Riley expressed optimism, but also noted "We'll see how we are," when it counts for real against Stanford.
"That's what the first game is a lot of times -- you start finding out really who you are, how you're going to play in a ball game and then where you go from there," said Riley.
Brennan Olander could play a pivotal role on the inside of the defensive line, noted Riley, with Pernnell Booth continuing to heal up from an injury. Also in the mix are Sioeli Nau and Lat Moala. All three will travel to Stanford.
"Will it (tight end lining up on his side for support) be every time? No. But will it be thought about and (sometimes) orchestrated into a game? Yes," said Riley.
Alex Linnenkohl, making his first start at center, is also expected to be tested early by Stanford.
Riley said the third year sophomore is a good example of a player for whom the light bulb suddenly turned on.
"I've been very, very impressed with Linnenkohl...Yes, we are very fortunate to have two older guards (Gregg Peat and Adam Speer) with him and right next to him. I like these guards a lot. I like how they approach the game, I like their physical toughness, I like their knowledge. They're played a lot of football for us," said Riley.
Offensive guard Jeremy Perry (leg) has been slowed much of the offseason and will not travel to Stanford.
RILEY SAID EITHER Suaesi Tuimaunei or Austin Hall to get the nod in place of starting safety Al Afalava, suspended one game by Riley for an offseason incident. But again, either could get significant turns, along with a few other candidates, when the Beavs go to their different packages.
Riley said three quarterbacks will travel -- the starter is Lyle Moevao, Justin Engstrom is the Beavers' backup quarterback and Ryan Katz, who Riley wants to redshirt, will be on red alert as the No. 3.
The biggest difference, said Riley, in Moevao from last August to this year's vintage has been his confidence level, now soaring.
"That, then, related right into speed of play and decision making, understanding and the ability to take something that's happened and transform it into a positive," said Riley. "...And I think that comes from study, hard work and ability -- putting them all together. I think he's been playing at a high level of efficiency in practice."
AS PLEASED AS Riley has been with Moevao, he said probably the most disappointing thing to come out of fall camp also concerns the quarterbacks -- Sean Canfield 's surgically repaired shoulder has not healed as quickly as hoped.
"Even when he was throwing early, he wasn't throwing the same...we are still awaiting some final (medical staff) thoughts about where we go with Sean and we probably will know them when we get back from the game," said Riley.
Canfield, a junior, has already used a redshirt year.
HAVING BACK Sammie Stroughter for '08 as the Beavs' X receiver and punt returner means not just speed, but a lot of stop as well.
"Everyone talks about speed but one of Sammie's biggest assets is to run fast, be able to stop quickly, come out of a break and get open and separate from the defender.
"And I think he's back in all ways, in spirit and in technical, physical function," said Riley.
Riley said Stroughter missing last season will pay dividends for him this year and the receiving corps, with Darrell Catchings, James Rodgers, Shane Morales and Chris Johnson being more experienced this year than they would have been had Stroughter played all of last year.