As Cal’s players walked off Witter Rugby Field this morning, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of red jerseys. The Bears are very healthy for this time of season, and not counting guys who have season-ending injuries, should have all hands on deck for Saturday’s game against UCLA at the Rose Bowl.
The Bruins, of course, as they have six players suspended because of last week’s brawl in Arizona. That development should allow walk-on wide receiver Jerry Rice Jr. to make his college debut.
Not that the Bears are making a big deal about it. “Just another guy in a uniform,” coach Jeff Tedford said. When asked if it was accurate to assume he’d be a little worried if it were Jerry Rice Sr. suiting up for UCLA, Tedford said: “Perfect answer.”
Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast had some run-ins with the elder Rice during his extended NFL coaching career. He said he ran into Rice a couple of times when he was the defensive coordinator at Arizona and Rice was playing out the string with the Raiders and Seahawks.
Rice may not have been at his best anymore at that point of his career, but “our guys were still wide-eyed when they saw him take the field, I know that,” Pendergast said.
Pendergast doesn’t know much about Rice Jr., obviously, and that will be the case with much of UCLA’s receiving corps after four wideouts were suspended for the game. It will be a new look for the Bruins, but Pendergast said the team is simply preparing for the Bruins’ schemes, not personnel.
The running game was the strength of UCLA’s offense already, and you’d have to think the focus will be even more on that with the missing weapons in the passing game. The good news for the Bears is they have a pretty strong run defense, allowing 115.57 yards per game, fourth in the Pac-12 and 27th nationally.
The Bruins have a pretty good 1-2 punch at tailback with Johnathan Franklin and bruiser Derrick Coleman, who combine to average 123 yards per game. The Bears held them in check last season, with Franklin getting most of the carries and gaining just 54 yarsd in Cal’s 35-7 win.
“”They are two formidable backs who give you two different styles,” Pendergast said. “They’re kind of thunder and lightning. One can get on the perimeter and the other can take it between the tackles.”