Two can play at this game
One football, apparently, will be enough for UCLA’s tag-team tailbacks.
“Everybody wants to be the man, that’s why we play football, to be that guy,” tailback Kahlil Bell said, but added, “I don’t worry about carries.”
He didn’t have to last Saturday in a 45-17 victory over Stanford. Bell, the Bruins’ backup tailback, had 19 carries that he parlayed into a career-high 195 yards. Chris Markey, the starting tailback, had 71 yards in 20 carries.
Markey carried the load last season, with 1,107 yards in 227 carries. Bell, who sat out four games because of an ankle injury and was suspended for two others last season, had 239 yards in 60 carries.
Neither has displayed breakaway speed, but both are adept at churning out yards. Bell had a handful of runs where he broke two or more tackles against Stanford.
“I told Kahlil, ‘Let’s be the best backfield in the nation,’ ” Markey said. “That’s our goal. One of us is going to be on every game. I wasn’t really on [against Stanford] and Kahlil was, and we won.
“I’m a workhorse. But however [many] carries they give me, let’s get at it. That’s how I feel.”
Besides, Markey said, “20 is a good number.”
Still, it’s doubtful there will be 39 carries to divvy up each week, as was the case against Stanford.
Plus, Chane Moline, a short-yardage back, will probably claim some of those carries beginning Saturday against Brigham Young after being cleared to play Thursday.
Moline, who has been out because of a broken bone in his left wrist, had 33 carries for 101 yards last season and led the team with five rushing touchdowns.
There’s also Christian Ramirez, the converted safety who Coach Karl Dorrell said would remain third on the depth chart until Moline regained his form.
Still, Markey and Bell are expected to get most of the work.
“I got caught up in that last year, worrying about how many carries I was going to get,” Bell said. “That stuff doesn’t matter. When you get a chance to carry the ball, you got to show the coaches what you can do.
“Most teams in the NFL have two backs, so it’s a good thing for both of us. If one of us is tired, the other can go in and there’s no drop-off. If we can keep switching back and forth like that, I think that’s a great thing.”
Dorrell said he wasn’t worried that his players would take Brigham Young lightly given the Cougars’ 11-game winning streak and the Bruins’ less-than-perfect performance in their opener.
“These guys have the second-longest win streak that’s going right now. We’re not overlooking anything,” Dorrell said of the Cougars. “I’m not taking them for granted at all, and I don’t think any of our players are.
“We just want to play better than what we did last week. We know we’re a better team than how we played. Even though it was a convincing win for us, we want to be better.”
Cornerback Rodney Van returned to practice Thursday from a sprained left ankle and was expected to play Saturday, though Dorrell said Alterraun Verner could get the starting nod at left cornerback. “It will be a game-time thing,” Dorrell said of the decision. “It really doesn’t affect us either way.” . . . Defensive tackle Jerzy Siewierski also practiced one day after wearing an ankle boot because of plantar fasciitis in his left foot and was expected to play. . . . Dorrell said fullback Michael Pitre would have his injured knee examined by his doctor today, giving the Bruins a better idea of how quickly the senior might return.
Times staff writer Ben Bolch contributed to this report.