Yesterday at this time, I didn’t think Nate Longshore had much of a chance to start Saturday. I don’t know what happened overnight, but he looked a lot better today at practice and I’d place the odds at 50-50 of him starting against UCLA.
Coach Jeff Tedford acknowledged Longshore made a lot of progress since Wednesday, but still said it would be a gametime decision. Longshore and Kevin Riley split the first team reps evenly on Thursday.
Longshore was moving significantly better on Thursday and didn’t appear to be favoring his right leg as he has during the past couple of weeks. Given another day and a half to heal, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he is under center against UCLA.
But if Longshore still isn’t ready, Riley has looked good this week and should get off to a better start than last week with a game and another week of practice now under his belt.
More good news for the Bears: wide receiver Robert Jordan and backup tight end Cameron Morrah both returned to practice and Tedford said both should play in their normal capacity Saturday. Both players suffered shoulder injuries last week against Oregon State. Jordan can set the school record for consecutive games with at least one catch against the Bruins. He’s currently tied for the record with Brian Treggs with 35.
Rover Marcus Ezeff practiced some but still is limping with a quad injury, and defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said he’d only use Ezeff on Saturday if he has to. Starting cornerback Brandon Hampton, who started every game last season at rover, has been taking reps there this week and might play there if something happens to Bernard HIcks. In the event of that development, it likely would mean more playing time for true freshman Chris Conte, who is from Los Angeles and spurned UCLA at the last minute to come to Cal.
Another development on the defensive line: Fifth-year senior John Allen will start at defensive end. Tad Smith has started the past couple of games in place of the injured Rulon Davis, but Gregory said Allen has played his way into the starting lineup. Speaking Davis, he wore his jersey to practice Thursday and did some light running, but still is expected to be out a couple more weeks with a sprained foot.
Gregory also said Zack Follett should play more than he did last week when he returned from a neck stinger, but he still wants to be careful with his star linebacker. Justin Moye will start in his place.
One notable moment Thursday came at the end of practice during field goal work, when kicker Jordan Kay amazingly hit the right crossbar three times out of four kicks. Kay is the No. 1 kicker the rest of the season with the announcement that Tom Schneider is out for the year with a muscle tear in his leg.