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September 13, 2012
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BERKELEY -- According to reports, Ohio State tailback Jordan Hall will return to action after cutting a tendon in his foot this summer when he takes the field on Saturday against California, taking some of the burden off of the legs of quarterback Braxton Miller.
"We've got to play whoever is on the field," said Bears head coach Jeff Tedford on Thursday. "We're not going to do anything much different. We're going to be disciplined, and train your eyes and do what your assignment is and execute your assignment. It doesn't matter really who's lining up where, as far as the tailbacks are concerned."
This week, running back Darren Ervin has been simulating Miller in practice, while defensive back Cedric Dozier has been playing wide receiver on the scout team. Like Dozier, Ervin played wildcat quarterback in high school.
"He's done a great job," said defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. "He helped us last year with some of those spread-style teams, and he played that position in high school, so he did a great job this week."
[IN-DEPTH: Defense Prepares to Contain Braxton Miller ]
Over the past two weeks, Miller has rushed 44 times for 302 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 151 yards per game on the ground.
"We know they have a lot of different weapons," Pendergast said. "They're very talented on the perimeter and they have quality backs. Whoever they put in is going to be a quality back. They've got tight ends that can run and catch. It's definitely an offense that's very diverse in what they do."
Pendergast expanded on the qualities of the Buckeyes offensive line, earlier likened by defensive end DeAndre Coleman to the front five of the Oregon Ducks.
[VIDEO: Tedford Talks QBs ]
"I think they're extremely physical," Pendergast said. "They're big and they're physical and they like to get moving. It should be a big challenge for us ... They're a come-off-the-ball, physical group."
With Miller's mobility in mind, the defense will have to balance their usual aggression with a bit of caution, particularly on the edge.
"He can get out on any play," Pendergast said. "It doesn't matter if you're being aggressive or if you're playing any sort of zone coverage. He can get out there on any play. What your responsibility is within that defense, you just have to read your keys and understand that you're not sure where he may end up. He's very athletic and he can cut back, he can stay front side, he can run right up the middle, he can reverse field, he can reverse field and throw it, he can do a lot of different things. It's a very much read-your-keys type of game."
As a passer, Pendergast said that Miller is getting better every week, as evidenced by his 146.5 quarterback rating bolstered by a 32-for-48 passing line with one pick and 362 yards with three touchdowns.
[VIDEO: Tedford Talks Miller ]
"They spread the field, they do a lot of five wide receiver sets," Pendergast said. "They give him a lot of opportunities to throw, and he's been successful. I've seen him get better the last couple of weeks."
Miller's propensity to throw short passes - just seven completions over 15 yards in the first game against Miami (OH) and none against Central Florida - the secondary will have to be prepared. Last week, 26 of Southern Utah quarterback Brad Sorensen's 31 completions went for less than 15 yards, with 17 of those coming on Thunderbirds scoring drives.
"It's a totally different style of offense than last week," Pendergast said. "It's more similar to [Nevada] than last week."
[GAME WEEK FEATURE: Who Has The EDGE? ]
In a Week One upset, the Wolf Pack saw quarterback Cody Fajardo hit 20 passes for less than 15 yards, with 13 of those coming on scoring drives.
Over the past two games, the Cal defense has been atrocious on third down. Nevada converted 11 of 20 attempts, and Southern Utah converted 10 of 20.
"We have to get them off the field better on third down," Pendergast said. "We have to continue the sense of urgency as the game goes on, on third down. We can do better than that, for sure."
[Q&A: BuckeyeGrove.com Answers Questions ]
-- Outside linebacker Chris McCain appeared unencumbered after practice on Thursday, showing no ill effects of his shoulder injury from last week. The same could not be said of tight end Richard Rodgers, who was wearing a boot over his left foot, though it appears to be more precautionary than anything. Offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik said that Rodgers "seems to be" ready to go, and Tedford said that the team's health situation remains unchanged.
-- The Bears will arrive in Columbus, Ohio, at 8 PM Eastern tonight, and will perform a walk-through at the Horseshoe at noon on Friday.