Oregon could be without a pair of starters Saturday night at California.
Running back Tony Brooks-James and defensive end Austin Faoliu, who both left last week’s 38-31 overtime loss to Stanford with ankle injuries, were labeled by coach Mario Cristobal as “50-50” to play against the Bears.
Brooks-James had six carries for 28 yards against Stanford before leaving in the third quarter. He didn't go through drills at the start of practice Wednesday when the media was allowed to watch.
“He did take some reps in the run game and then when we got the good-on-good stuff, where it is a little bit of a heavier load, we kept him out precautionary,” Cristobal said. “It is trending the right way, feel pretty good about him playing on Saturday.”
If Brooks-James is out, Oregon would have a young group of running backs to face the Bears after senior Taj Griffin transferred earlier this week.
Redshirt freshman C.J. Verdell leads the Ducks with 314 rushing yards on the season while true freshman Travis Dye has 138. Redshirt freshman Cyrus Habibi-Likio has been Oregon’s runner at the goal line and has five touchdowns on seven carries.
The only other running back is sophomore Darrian Felix, who did not suit up against Stanford because of injury. Felix, who has 14 carries for 47 yards this season, returned to practice this week.
“It is a young group that has done a pretty good job, especially against our guys in practice and has shown up in games as well,” Cristobal said. “We trust them and prepare them to go.”
Faoliu, who ranks sixth on the team with 15 tackles, has yet to practice this week.
“We have been very conservative with him the last few days to see how far we can get him from a health standpoint,” Cristobal said. “I think we should know by Friday or Saturday morning.”
Juniors Drayton Carlberg and Gary Baker would see more time if Faoliu can’t go.
Baker got the start against Stanford when Jalen Jelks moved to outside linebacker and had four tackles in the game. Carlberg had three tackles, including a stop of Cameron Scarlett on fourth-and-one in the fourth quarter.
“I feel good about those other guys,” Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt said. “They played some good snaps. You saw the play Carlberg made on fourth-and-one, what a great play.”
The 6-foot-5, 282-pound Carlberg played in five games as a freshman, including a start at Nebraska, before an injury ended his year. He played in all 13 games last season as a reserve.
“My dad texted me (Saturday) saying to wait for my opportunity and when it knocks, to kick the door in,” Carlberg said. “I knew if I got a chance, I’d try and make a play. … We will see how Austin is healing, but if I need to step up and play, I’m going to do that.”
Cristobal said junior-college transfer Sione Kava could make his debut on the line for the Ducks.
“Kava has had a couple strong weeks and has been activated,” Cristobal added. “He got a lot of work with the ones and twos. I think everybody is going through that this time of year. We are figuring out our answers and feel good about it.”
Oregon ranks fourth in the nation in run defense, allowing 75.5 yards per game on the ground. Stanford ran for 71 yards on 24 carries with Bryce Love gaining 89 yards on the ground.
“Stopping Love, we knew would be a challenge,” Leavitt said. “They got the one power on us that went to the pylon for about 20 yards. We didn’t fit it up real good there, but other than that, I thought we did a good job. That was a big challenge for us and I thought our guys did a good job.”