Cal coach Justin Wilcox is hoping to have his team more fully intact for Saturday’s game against No. 21 Oregon, but doesn’t yet have definitive word on either the COVID-19 quarantine or injury fronts.
Wilcox sounded somewhat optimistic that starting running back Christopher Brown Jr. might be healthy enough to do more than play in a pinch-hit role, as he did last week in the Big Game.
Starting offensive linemen Jake Curhan, Valentino Daltoso and Will Craig each missed their second straight game last week against Stanford so their 14 days in quarantine would likely run its course prior to Saturday.
“We’re hoping they’re cleared by this weekend,” Wilcox said. “I’m not in charge of that but we’re looking forward to getting everybody back, whether it’s contact tracing or injury. There’s nothing new to report yet.”
The exception is freshman defensive end Ethan Saunders, whom Wilcox said will be out for the remainder of the season due to an undisclosed injury situation.
Saunders played in the Bears’ first two games, totaling one tackle, but was not available for the Big Game. As a result, the Bears utilized just three defensive linemen the entire game — nose guard Brett Johnson and ends Zeandae Johnson and JH Tevis.
Brown, who sat out the Oregon State game and didn’t play against Stanford until the second half, may soon be able to shoulder playing a full game.
“We’re hoping for that,” Wilcox said. “Again, that’s based on the discussions and his health, between him and the trainers. They’ll let us know what’s appropriate.
“We’re hopeful that he’ll get going to where he’s able to play more. I think things are probably trending in the right direction, but it’s a day-to-day discussion.”
Brown rushed for 914 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019 despite battling injuries at times during the season. He again has had trouble staying healthy, but was able to provide a boost off the bench against Stanford, particularly on Cal’s final touchdown drive.
“He’s a real competitive guy. He’s a tough guy,” Wilcox said. “He’s had to work through some things on the injury front. We would love to get him up to speed as fast as possible, but that will be determined throughout this week.”
Brown has carried the ball just 12 times for 51 yards this season, although he did score the touchdown last Friday that pulled Cal within 24-23 before Stanford blocked the extra point to secure the win.
Other players the Bears would like to see on the field again include starting inside linebacker Evan Tattersall, tight end Collin Moore, outside linebacker Braxten Croteau and freshman defensive lineman Stanley McKenzie.
Tattersall did not play against Stanford after starting the first two games.
“He’s working through some injury things. We’ll see where he is this week,” Wilcox said. “At practice yesterday he was able to do a little more. We’ll see what he can do moving forward.”
Freshman Mo Iosefa started in Tattersall’s spot against Stanford and played well, according to Wilcox, who seemed to suggest there will be competition for that job when Tattersall is fully healthy.
Moore has missed the past two games, possibly in quarantine, and and Croteau also has not played since the opening game.
KcKenzie, who could ease some of the depth issues on the defensive line, has yet to appear in a game because of an injury. The 6-foot-2, 310-pounder was projected as a possible starter at nose guard, which would have allowed Brett Johnson to split his time at the two D-line positions.
Cal (0-3) and Oregon (3-1) kick off Saturday at Memorial Stadium at 4 p.m. The game will be televised by ESPN.
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo
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