Chris Markey came to UCLA with 3,832 yards rushing and 60 touchdowns on his high school resume -- 46 of the touchdowns scored when he was senior at Jesuit High in New Orleans.
He has a long way to go if he hopes to post similar numbers as a Bruin, but the freshman’s playing time has been increasing and Saturday against Oregon he could play his most prominent role yet.
That’s because starting tailback Maurice Drew suffered an ankle sprain in last week’s 31-29 loss to Washington State and his participation may be limited.
“We’ll see what he’s made of this week because I’m sure he’ll get more carries than he ever has” as a Bruin, quarterback Drew Olson said of Markey, who in seven games has run for 194 yards in 30 carries.
His most productive outing was in the 48-42 loss to Arizona State, when he gained 80 yards in five carries. His most carries were 10 in the next game, a 21-0 shutout of Stanford in which he gained 41 yards.
“His role is growing every week as he gets more comfortable [with the system],” offensive coordinator Tom Cable said. “He’s made great strides from a confidence standpoint and he’s just going to get better and better.”
Markey says he’s trying not to think about his increased responsibility: “I’ve just been focusing on practice and going into this game with an open mind, ready to win.”
Drew returned to practice Thursday and ran a few plays but spent most of the afternoon on the far side of the field testing his ankle with short sprints and subtle cuts. “He should be ready to go,” Coach Karl Dorrell said. Wide receiver Craig Bragg will replace Drew as the No. 1 punt returner.
Tight end Marcedes Lewis (bruised tailbone) did not participate in contact drills for a second day but is expected to play Saturday. ... Safety Jarrad Page (sprained foot) was back at practice and playing at full speed.
Dorrell on the importance of Saturday’s game: “There is a sense of urgency in a lot of respects: One, we lost a game last week and would love to get back to feeling good about ourselves. Two, we only have two games left and for us to have an opportunity to do something in the postseason it begins with this game, and this is the best opportunity we have.”
UCLA, which needs one more victory to become eligible for a bowl bid, finishes the season Dec. 4 against top-ranked USC.