NOTEBOOK: Return on Investment
BERKELEY -- Along with Joel Willis, linebacker Jalen Jefferson also returned to action with gusto, turning in a pick in seven-on-seven work against the scout team, with Hardy Nickerson, Jr., also tallying an interception. Jefferson then sniffed out a screen to Trevor Davis -- playing the part of Cooks, and just a few plays later, Michael Barton took his turn making an interception on Austin Hinder -- playing the role of Mannion – with an assist going to defensive tackle Viliami Moala, who blew through the interior to get a hand on the redshirt junior signal-caller.
With Brendan Bigelow spending much of his day with the inside receivers and Daniel Lasco on the shelf for two weeks with a shoulder injury, the tailback depth was plumbed on Tuesday, with Jeffrey Coprich getting the bulk of the carries behind Khalfani Muhammad, and Darren Ervin and former scout team back Jonah Hodges splitting third reps.
Several of the injured players mused that it was about time for Hodges to get some game carries, and he was effective both carrying the ball and on kickoff cover, coming down unblocked and stopping Muhammad on a return.
Bigelow was listed on the Tuesday depth chart as the No. 2 back behind Muhammad.
"It's going to be a work-in-progress," Dykes said of putting Bigelow in the slot. "You don't just move a guy all of the sudden and he's an overnight sensation. That doesn't happen very often. He'll continue to work and get better. He's better this week than he was last week, in practice, so I think that's encouraging. He's a talent. We want to try and figure out a way to utilize his talent, get him where he feels comfortable playing, and I think that, because of the knee injuries he's suffered in the past, I think he's a little more comfortable playing in space than he is, maybe, carrying the football in the box, and I think, as a result, he certainly can run fast, he's certainly got some talent, and we're trying to utilize him."
Dykes said that Lasco's injury is "not related" to the shoulder injury that kept him out of spring ball.
"It's hard to say right now," Dykes said. "Everybody responds a little bit differently to shoulder injuries. We'll see how he progresses. I think it's really too early to tell how quickly he's going to bounce back."
With starting center Chris Adcock out for the season, the Bears are hoping to get starting right guard Matt Cochran back into the mix after a high ankle sprain, but that won't happen for about two weeks.
Dykes said he's not yet close to practicing.
On last week's episode of The Drive on the Pac-12 Networks, Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said that losing Adcock was the worst thing that could happen to this offense, given the center's responsibilities.
That said, senior Mark Brazinski has yet to deliver a bad snap in his two games in the middle.
"Mark's actually filled in and done a good job," Dykes said. "His snaps have been good, he knows the scheme, he knows what he's doing. He's done a good job of getting us in the right protection and identifying the right people and doing all that kind of stuff. He's not as effective as a blocker, probably, as Chris is."
Linebacker Nick Forbes was still a bit stiff on Tuesday after a sub-par Monday practice, and Dykes said that the redshirt junior "played like a guy who hadn't played in a long time," when he took the field last week against the Bruins.
"It's just trying to get him comfortable," Dykes said of Forbes, who has been battling a disc issue in his back all season. "When you have a back injury, you have good days and you have bad days, and right now, that's kind of what he's going through. Physically, right now, I just don't know that we can count on him being 100 percent, and I don't think he knows when he's going to be that way. Some days, he feels pretty good, and some days, he doesn't feel so good. I don't know that he felt great after the game Saturday. It looks like he had a little bit of a setback this week."
The defensive line was stout in the red zone on Tuesday, but that didn't stop Garret Chachere from spending some one-on-one time with several of his defensive ends, including Puka Lopa, Antione Davis and Kyle Kragen during down time between defensive snaps against the scout team offense.
Defensive tackles coach Barry Sacks was very active coaching special teams, singling out Bryce McGovern and Lucas Gingold for their toughness.
"If I'm going to war," Sacks crowed, "I'll take 86 (McGovern) and 44 (Gingold)."
With offensive tackle Vince Johnson helping block punt returners in individual work, running backs coach Pierre Ingram mused aloud, "You are the skinniest offensive lineman I've ever seen in my life."
Ingram also coached up Bryce Treggs, pointing out a weak point in his previous punt returns.
"That's how you've been getting tackled: You make the first guy miss, but the second guy gets you," Ingram said. "You've got to save a little something extra for him."
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