Cal lined up for its first post-practice stretching session of the 2009 season, and wide receiver Jeremy Ross began to lead a chant.
"Pac-10 champs," he barked.
"That's us," the team responded.
The Bears hit the field for the first day of training camp Friday, armed with large expectations and enthusiastic about the chance to live up to them.
"Everybody is a little giddy," Cal quarterback Kevin Riley said. "It's been awhile since we played. Coming out for the first practice is always exciting."
The Bears opened camp on the same day they debuted at No. 12 in the preseason USA Today top 25. Several publications have Cal ranked in the top 15 nationally, and the Bears were picked to finish second in the preseason Pac-10 media poll.
Cal has 17 starters back from a team that went 9-4 last season, including a win over Miami in the Emerald Bowl.
The Bears had a spirited and efficient first day, and coach Jeff Tedford said his team's experience can lead to more productive practices early on.
"With the leadership out there, you can move fast and let the young guys kind of pick up on their lead," Tedford said. "There's no question that the experience with the returners, everything just moves much more smooth."
One of those returning starters is Riley, but he once again is involved in a fight for his job. After winning the job over Nate Longshore in camp last season, the junior needs to hold off sophomore Brock Mansion and redshirt freshman Beau Sweeney this fall.
Riley, who started nine games last year, is the only quarterback on the roster who has taken a meaningful snap in a game. He had the best spring of any of the signal-callers, and he worked on his mechanics in an effort to help improve his accuracy.
"He looks much more compact in his fundamentals," Tedford said. "He's much more confident with what he's doing. You can tell when he gets to the line of scrimmage. He has great command of what he's doing in the huddle."
With Longshore now departed, Riley is the most experienced quarterback on the roster. He appears to have embraced the leadership burden that accompanies that position. As the team wrapped up stretching Friday, he told his teammates they had a strong first day and encouraged them to have the same kind of performance today.
"I'm one of the more experienced guys on the team," Riley said. "I think people look at me and think I know what I'm doing. I feel like I've matured with my old age. People look up to me and I feel like I have to take that role."
Notes: All players expected to be present for the first day of camp showed up. Heisman candidate Jahvid Best practiced for the first time since last season and appeared to be fully healthy. ... Best has been named to the watch list for the Walter Camp Award, given annually to the best player in the country. ... The players will add shoulder pads Sunday and hold their first full-pad workout Tuesday.