As Saturday's game versus California rapidly approaches, DuckTerritory examines five Golden Bear players Duck fans should acquaint themselves with before kickoff. Below is all the pertinent information you will need to identify the biggest weapons on both offense and defense for Oregon’s opponent heading in to the weekend.
Does Cal have enough firepower to knock off the Ducks in Berkeley?
5. #6 WR Chris Harper - FR - 6'0", 170 lbs. - Encino (Calif.) Crespi
Lightly recruited coming out of California high school powerhouse Crespi, Golden Bear true freshman Chris Harper has developed into a reliable number two option next to star wide receiver Keenan Allen this season. With Allen now sidelined a knee injury, Harper will enter his second straight week as Cal's top receiving threat as the Golden Bears get set to take on Oregon this weekend. Last Friday versus Washington, Harper caught seven passes for 101 yards -- including an amazing one-handed grab that will be sure to make a postseason "top plays" highlight reel somewhere -- and his 36 catches for 481 yards and two touchdowns this season currently ranks second on the team behind Allen. Small and slight in stature, Harper is an exciting young player with a promising future ahead of him.
4. #1 DB Steve Williams - JR - 5'10", 185 lbs. - Dallas (Texas) Skyline
When it comes to overall pass defense, there hasn't been a ton to get excited about if you're California Golden Bears fan. Heading in to Saturday's game, Cal ranks eighth in the conference in pass defense, giving up 243.7 yards per game. Perhaps the one positive for that group, however, has been junior cornerback Steve Williams. Through 10 games, Williams is tied for the team lead in interceptions and is ranked third on the team in tackles with 64. At 5'10", 185 lbs., Williams combines above average cover skills with impressive physicality when called upon to stop the run. While there doesn't figure to be one primary player Williams will matchup against on Saturday, expect him to quite active in all phases of the defense.
3. #40 LB Chris McCain - SO - 6'6", 225 lbs. - Greensboro (N.C.) Northern Guilford/Oakridge Military Academy
Formerly a verbal commitment to Oregon during the 2010 recruiting cycle, McCain switched his commitment to California when high school teammates Allen and defensive lineman Gabe King decided to head to Berkeley. After redshirting in 2010, McCain started six games last season, ranking fifth on the team in tackles for loss (6.0). This season, McCain has proven himself to be one of the Golden Bears' best players on defense. Measuring 6'6", 225 lbs., McCain is an athletic specimen who excels at getting in to opposing backfields and wreaking havoc from his outside linebacker position. He currently leads the team in tackles for loss (8.0) and sacks (3.5) and will no doubt have Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota in his crosshairs all night long.
2. #9 RB C.J. Anderson - SR - 5'11", 210 lbs. - Vallejo (Calif.) Bethel via Oakland (Calif.) Laney College and #20 RB Isi Sofele - SR - 5'8", 200 lbs. - Salt Lake City (Utah) Cottonwood
Between Anderson and Sofele, the Golden Bears have rushed for 1,192 yards and six touchdowns, with the yardage total between the two players good enough to rank third in the Pac-12 Conference behind Oregon's Kenjon Barner and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin. In Anderson, Cal has a bruising tailback who's at his best moving the chains running between the tackles. His 673 rushing yards and four touchdowns leads the team in those categories and the 160 yards he gained on the ground last week versus Washington equalled a season best by any Cal running back this season. In contrast to Anderson, Sofele is a quick and slippery back with home run ability if given a crease. Against Oregon in Eugene last season, Sofele was one of the bright spots for a beleaguered offense, rushing 12 times for 119 yards. With 519 yards and two touchdowns to his name this season, expect Sofele to split the carries with Anderson against the Ducks on Saturday.
1. #5 RB Brendan Bigelow - SO - 5'10", 190 lbs. - Fresno (Calif.) Central East
Admittedly, Bigelow's placement at No. 1 is a bit of a reach, but with Allen and quarterback Zach Maynard likely to miss the Oregon game, Bigelow quite possibly emerges as the top weapon for the Golden Bears heading in to this game. Despite having only rushed for 392 yards this season, Bigelow is averaging nearly 12 yards per carry (11.9) and has four total touchdowns. With Allen out of the lineup, Bigelow is far and away Cal's most explosive offense weapon as his size/speed combination is among the best of any running back in the conference. Though he's only played 60 snaps this season, Bigelow ranks second on the team in all-purpose yards behind Allen with 956 and is third in the Pac-12 in kickoff return yards with 472. While the Golden Bears will be a significant underdog against the Ducks on Saturday, Bigelow's gamebreaking ability gives Cal its best chance to win.
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