Cal wide receiver Jeremy Ross sometimes doesn't have much contact with the outside world, so hunkered down during training camp does he become. But when he does rejoin the outside, he is asked a pretty popular question.
"Everywhere I go, they ask me who the quarterback is going to be this year," he said.
Those inquiring minds will get their answer soon.
The Bears will practice one last time today before beginning to put in their game plan for the season-opener against Maryland on Sept. 5. While the players are enjoying an off day Tuesday, Cal's coaching staff will be getting together to determine its depth chart.
Cal coach Jeff Tedford said he will announce his starting quarterback Wednesday, the Bears' first practice in preparation for Maryland.
Incumbent Kevin Riley appears to have the job all but locked up. The redshirt junior has taken the majority of first-team snaps during camp, especially as the days have wore on. Redshirt sophomore Brock Mansion has had some nice moments, but he clearly hasn't done enough to take more reps away from Riley.
As recently as Friday, Tedford said he didn't know who the starter was going to be. He estimated Riley has taken about 70 percent of the first-team snaps during camp but cautioned that doesn't mean Mansion isn't a serious contender.
"It's all been pretty even and pretty competitive as far as opportunity is concerned," Tedford said. "We don't look at it like (Mansion) has to take the job from him. It's who actually is doing the things on a consistent basis."
Riley started nine games last season, splitting time with Nate Longshore to lead an offense that ranked just 83rd nationally in passing. Riley threw for just 123.6 yards per game and 14 touchdowns but also tossed just six interceptions.
Longshore is now departed and Riley is the only quarterback left on the roster who has taken a meaningful snap in a game.
"I think I've played well throughout camp," Riley said. "I did what I wanted to do _ get better every day, which I did."
Riley appears to have the confidence of his teammates. Several players have talked about Riley's leadership in camp, and Riley himself appears to have embraced his role as the dean of Cal's quarterbacks.
"I think he's embraced the leadership aspect by demonstrating it with his play on the field," said Cal backup tight end Garry Graffort, Riley's roommate and close friend. "He has the right attitude, he shows confidence, he runs the right plays. He kind of motivates everybody almost to act like him. He's always been a confident person. It's nice to see now that everybody is embracing him."
Riley said none of the quarterbacks have gotten a hint from the coaching staff where they might stand in the competition, but he is confident given his experience and the share of first team snaps he's received. Riley hasn't set the world on fire during camp, but he's demonstrated a better grasp of the offense than last season and has been the Bears' most efficient quarterback this fall.
"I've made some good throws, and of course, I've missed some throws," Riley said. "When that's happened, I've learned from it and haven't made the same play over again. I think I've played smart, and I've played well. I've been running with the (first team), especially the later part of camp. It's hard to tell."
Ross said it's clear Riley is more comfortable now that he's the most experienced quarterback in the program. Riley has some natural leadership skills but he never gained complete control of the Bears with Longshore on board. Riley was benched twice last season in favor of Longshore. "We're really confident in him," Ross said. "We know he can get the job done. This year, having one year under his belt, he definitely has a lot of confidence out there. I have a lot more confidence in him. He's a lot more comfortable. Now that he's being looked to be that guy, he's really stepped into a leadership role."
NOTES: Freshman running back Dasarte Yarnway will undergo surgery to repair a torn tendon in his foot and miss the season. . . . Safety Marcus Ezeff suffered a sprained ankle for the second time in camp. X-Rays were negative and Tedford expects him to be out only a couple of days.