BERKELEY-Senior Cal linebacker Mike Mohamed was held out of practice again today, and continued to sport a boot on his lower leg. While the captain of the Bears' defense hasn't been able to get on the field to practice this week, that hasn't hindered his studying of Friday's foe, Nevada.
"They're running back, I think, 34, he's a good downhill runner, strong guy," Mohamed said of the Wolf Pack's Vai Taua. "Most of his yards come after the first contact, so we're going to have our hands full with him. The thing about these guys is that you can't just focus in on one guy. If you focus in on that running back, then they've got No. 10 coming outside. It's going to be a tough week."
Of course that No. 10 belongs to Nevada's do-everything signal-caller Colin Kaepernick, owner of more than 3,000 career rushing yards and 7,623 passing yards. With two such dangerous weapons, the Bears defense may very well employ a quarterback spy in order to contain Kaepernick.
"Potentially. You know, obviously, we're going to change up our defense a little bit to try and answer some of those problems with this guy, but we're just going to try and do our base thing," Mohamed said. "We can't just focus on No. 10, because No. 34 will scorch you. Everybody's just going to have to do their job and stop them one play at a time."
Head coach Jeff Tedford said that Mohamed is working through a sprained toe, and that others held to light duty-including true freshman wide receiver Keenan Allen-were held out as largely precautionary measures, while redshirt freshman Steve Williams underwent surgery on his thumb this morning to reattach a ligament and was not present.
"He's got a sprained toe, so we just need to let that rest, being a short week, and let it rest for a few days here, and I foresee him being fine to play in the game," Tedford said of Mohamed. "Keenan's alright. He's fine. (Williams') surgery was this morning, and we just got off the field. He went there at 7, and I think he had an 8:00 surgery, so I haven't heard, exactly, what's going on with Steve."
When asked if a potentially less-than-100-percent lower body could be a hinderance considering the Wolf Pack's overall team speed, Mohamed was quick to answer.
"They'll make you pay for it," Mohamed said. "If I'm not ready to go for some reason, they'll have somebody that is. But, I'm planning on being ready.
"It's alright. The boot's mostly precautionary, just to rest the foot. I was out there, I took my shoe down there and we were doing some stuff today. I'm going to be good to go. I'm planning on practicing tomorrow. I've talked to the trainers and they said they're going to get me ready to go. It's just a little tweak, nothing major. It's just to keep the pressure off of it, let it fully heal and get ready to go."
Though Mohamed hasn't been on the field to practice against Cal's stand-in for the 6-foot-6, 225-pound Kaepernick-6-foot-6, 237-pound Brock Mansion-he has had plenty of reps against the junior third-string QB in the past.
"It definitely helps," Mohamed said. "Brock's the closest guy we've got to him, and he's out there giving us a good look. He's doing his part, trying to get us ready. (Kaepernick) is a different kind of athlete. He moves well for being 6-6."
Kaepernick heads up the No. 1 offense in the nation, which has gained 1,184 yards in two games and scored 13 TDs. On the other side, of course, are the Bears, who tout the country's top overall defense. Early though it may be, Cal has allowed a total of 320 yards of offense and just one touchdown in its first two games.
"It definitely will be a great game," said Bears linebacker D.J. Holt, who made seven tackles last week against Colorado. "We've been game-planning this week and it's definitely exciting to play a good team. Nevada has a great quarterback, a great running back, just a great offense, so it's definitely a challenge for us, to see if we can stop the run and see where we fit in the nation. We're trying to be one of the best teams-along with one of the best defenses-in the country. This will be a great stepping-stone for us."
Holt spoke in detail about what it will take to defend a dual-threat QB like Kaepernick.
"Tackle him," Holt said, simply. "Execute and tackle. A lot of their plays get to the perimeter, and he makes a lot of guys miss, so we have to swarm to the ball. Everybody has to do their jobs, and give great effort. He might make one guy miss, but he can't make the whole defense miss."
With the defense already so highly-regarded, Holt said that the secret ingredient has been fun.
"We're having a lot of fun," Holt said. "We expect this from ourselves: that we're going to have a great season. The first two games were really good for us, as a defense. We jumped out early and fast, it's just really fun. It's really exciting. We have 10, 11 more games left, and it's still early, but as of right now, we're really having a lot of fun and we're enjoying ourselves."
But 'fun,' would be the last word to describe defending the Wolf Pack's patented pistol offense, which mixes in elements of the spread and the triple-option. In concept, the Nevada attack features many of the same principles as do the offenses at Arizona and Oregon.
"Their back, their backfield, can all run," Holt said. "Most teams, the quarterback is just a pocket passer, so now, we also have to contain not only the running back, the receivers-the skill positions-but they also have a talented quarterback that can also run. It's a great challenge for us as a defense. (Kaepernick) is a different type of athlete. He's bigger, he's fast, he makes a lot of guys miss and he can also throw the ball. He's a great leader, so it's a great challenge for us, and we'll see how things go on Friday."
Jacob Wark and Brandon Madueno both sported boots on their lower right legs ... Running back Shane Vereen was back in action after resting on Monday, catching passes with ease ... True frosh Jed Barnett is showing vast improvements in the punting game, consistently booting 50-yard spirals ... David Wilkerson was riding the exercise bike early in practice, but was dressed out in pads and without the boot that he sported on Monday ... Solomona Aigamaua showed good ball skills during drills with the quarterbacks.