LOS ANGELES — Linebacker Erik Kendricks has quietly made a name for himself as one of the conference’s top defenders once again this season. Last year’s leading tackler hasn’t missed a beat, leading the Bruins and nearly the Pac-12 with 39 tackles. The number is second in the conference and tied for 17th in the FBS standings.
Yet Kendricks has been overshadowed by a few others on the team. He’s not the most recognized like Anthony Barr, the freak of athletic nature like Myles Jack or just the loudest, most outgoing linebacker – no one can compare to Jordan Zumwalt in those categories. But Kendrick’s been a steady force and insists other teams have began to notice him more.
“I expect them to, but I’ve just got to handle my business and learn to expect that,” Kendricks said. “I’ve got to get over the top and strike them when I need to.” Preview: What to expect from California
The struggling Golden Bears might not have the record to reflect their toughness but some key plays in key games have shown otherwise. It all starts with quarterback Jared Goff, a true freshman that all coaches across the board have said isn’t playing like one.
One simple description from Mora should say it all: “It’s not too big for him.”
“When you watch the film of him, there’s nothing about him that says freshman,” Mora said. “His poise for his age and his experience, his ability to get the ball out of his hand quickly and throw accurately, his decision-making – I think he’s a really good football player.”
Goff is second in the Pac-12 throwing for 364.2 yards per game with nine touchdowns. His favorite target so far has been a local product in Crespi’s Chris Harper. But the Bear Raid offense features several weapons and wracks up the yardage in the air.
“Offensively, they’re very dynamic,” Mora said. “They throw the ball a lot. They’ve got three really good running backs. They’ve got a young quarterback that isn’t playing like a young quarterback, he’s playing like a veteran.”
But the defense is another story.
The Bears are allowing 524 total offensive yards per game – 121st out of 123 FBS teams. The defense has been decimated by injuries and Cal just lost another corner back in Stefan McClure to season-ending knee surgery this week. Burned red shirts and position changes have been regular things in Berkeley and the defense will be taxed trying to handle the fourth-best offense in the country in the UCLA. Other notes
— Despite all of their efforts in camp, the Bruins have still had an issue with penalties. The New Mexico State game, although it was a blowout win, particularly highlighted that problem. But it’s an issue the team and staff are working hard to correct, as they are bringing in officials for Tuesday and Wednesday practices.
— Brett Hundley caught a touchdown pass from Devin Fuller in the win over Utah and now that everyone knows that wasn’t a mistake in the box score the question is will it happen again? No one is saying but Fuller, a former quarterback, and Hundley, the current quarterback clearly enjoyed the switch for a play.
“I said, ‘You’ve got to score.’ And I needed to execute it well,” Fuller said. “It was great. I threw my first touchdown and Brett had his first receiving touchdown.”