Tuesday, September 18, 2007

San Jose Mercury: Cal filling holes on the line - MALELE, DAVIS THOUGHT OUT

By Jonathan Okanes
Cal Coach Jeff Tedford on Monday still did not know the severity of the injuries to starting defensive linemen Matt Malele and Rulon Davis. But the Bears have been proceeding as though neither player will be back any time soon. Malele and Davis each suffered foot injuries during Saturday's 42-12 victory against Louisiana Tech. Both players had MRI exams Monday; the results were not made available. After Saturday's game, Tedford said the preliminary diagnosis was that Malele might have a torn plantar fascia tendon and that Davis might have a stress fracture. Cal does not practice on Mondays, but both Malele and Davis were on crutches during Sunday's conditioning workout.

"Right now, without knowing what the MRIs are, I'd say we have to plan around them," Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said Sunday night, adding that he thought both injuries were serious. Losing either player, let alone both, would be a significant blow to Cal's improving defensive line, considered a question mark during training camp. Malele is the lone returning starter, while Davis earned a starting spot at end with a strong camp and played well in the first three games. "Other guys have to step up," Gregory said. "There's nothing else you really can do. Other guys who haven't played as much have to step up and play more." Gregory said junior Mika Kane, who started the season opener before suffering a concussion, probably would replace Malele. Sophomore Cody Jones, who had taken Kane's position in the starting lineup, should team up with Kane inside. Sophomore Tad Smith and freshman Cameron Jordan are the likely candidates to get the most snaps in place of Davis. "I think we have some young guys who are going to come in and hold it down for us," Cal middle linebacker Worrell Williams said.

As the only returning starter on the defensive line, Malele has, according to his teammates, emerged as a leader. Williams said the senior can still lead from the sideline. "Your presence doesn't always have to be felt on the field," Williams said. "I know he's going to continue to motivate us the best way he can. We'll definitely feel his presence, no matter what. We'll be playing for him." Meanwhile, Tedford said linebacker Zack Follett is day-to-day with a neck stinger that forced him out of the Louisiana Tech game. Tedford did not expect Follett to practice today.

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