BERKELEY -- After catching two passes for 24 yards in the first half of last week's game, California inside receiver Richard Rodgers was a non-factor in the second half because of a thumb injury. Against the No. 5 passing defense in the conference in USC this week, the Bears will need all they can muster from all four receiver spots, and that will include Rodgers.
The 6-foot-4, 245-pound receiver underwent a minor procedure on his thumb this week, and practiced with the thumb immobilized on Thursday. Head coach Sonny Dykes told BearTerritory that he expects Rodgers – who has caught 33 passes for 463 yards this season – will play against the Trojans.
"He came out and did some stuff today, so we'd expect him to play, so we think he'll be full-speed," Dykes said.
Also listed as "probable" on the final injury report of the week is WILL linebacker and Butkus Award semifinalist Khairi Fortt, who has a biceps strain.
"He did some stuff today, ran around, mostly," Dykes said. "He didn't do a lot of the stuff working with the defense. We kind of kept him off to the side. It's kind of the same thing: I would expect him playing, as well."
Dykes said that it "would be safe to say" that redshirt freshman Michael Barton will start at the WILL in place of Fortt. Barton has played in eight games this season, registering 32 tackles. 4.0 tackles for loss, one breakup and one quarterback hurry. Saturday would be his first collegiate start.
"I would anticipate Khairi Playing," Dykes said. "I think he'll get in the mix."
Dykes also addressed the collision of Trevellous Cheek and Darius Allensworth after Wednesday's practice, which saw Cheek sent to the hospital for observation. Both are on the "out" list this week, though the pair was going to redshirt in any event.
"They were doing some individual work, and I think Cheek went the wrong way and ran into Darius and it ended up being a pretty serious deal, but the good thing is, both of them will be fine," Dykes said.
Allensworth losing a few days of practice is particularly vexing, given the fact that the freshman corner has made huge strides over the past weeks since getting his knee brace removed for good.
"I've really liked what I've seen from both of those guys, both of the young corners," Dykes said. "Both Trey and Darius, I think, have really come a long way, and I think Allensworth, in the last two weeks of practice, in particular, has really looked like a different guy. I think he's stronger now. I think he's more confident in what he's doing, more comfortable. Hopefully we'll get him back in the first part of next week and he can continue to progress."
With those two set to enter the rotation next year, the emergence of Cameron Walker, the anticipated returns of both Stefan McClure and Avery Sebastian, along with the influx of new talent with defensive back commits Jaleel Wadood, Jeremy Winchester and Quentin Tartabull, the unit that has been perhaps the thinnest this year for Cal could turn into a position of strength.
"Getting everybody back is going to be huge," Dykes said. "Obviously, we'll get Stef back and we'll get Avery back, and that's a game-changer for us. Those are guys that have played a lot, have a lot of experience, and so the good thing is a lot of guys are getting experience right now, so that'll be a position on our team that probably is incredibly inexperienced right now, but will have a lot of experience next year, and a lot of depth."
Defensive back Dan Fadelli is listed as "out" for Saturday, and running back Darren Ervin is listed as "probable."
THURSDAY: Rodgers back, update on DBs
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