Players to watch: Chris Harper, Shaq Thompson

Chris Harper, Cal receiver

Who needs Keenan Allen?

With Allen scratched from the game due to an injured knee, the future of Cal’s receiving corps will be on full display against Washington. Four freshman receivers and a sophomore tight end will try their best to fill the void the Bears’ all-time receptions leader.

The leader of the bunch thus far this season is Chris Harper, somewhat of a surprise considering the lack of hullabaloo surrounding the three-star recruit’s commitment to Cal. But Harper has been beacon of hope for the Bears in the midst of a struggling season, particularly on the offensive side. He is second on the team in both receptions (29) and receiving yards (380) behind Allen.

And Harper has done his best Keenan impersonation with several one-handed grabs throughout the year. Still only a freshman, Harper has had his share of fumbles — but he’s a star in the making.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

Shaq Thompson, Washington nickelback

Twice a Cal commit and the younger brother of former Cal cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson, Shaq Thompson has started every game for the Huskies at nickelback, and for the most part he’s lived up to his five-star billing. His 44 tackles is one short of leading his team, and his run stopping ability has played a major roll in Washington giving up a touchdown less per game than it did a year ago.

But he’s also had plenty of moments to remind everyone that he is a freshman, and his over aggressiveness in the passing game has left the Huskies vulnerable over the top at times.

Whenever Thompson is in the game, something is exciting is bound to happen – whether it be a big open field tackle or trying to undercut a route and getting burned deep. He likely won’t be giving Cal quarterback Zach Maynard too much respect in the passing game, so Friday night could be another big run stopping night for the 6-foot-2 freshman out of Sacramento.

— Connor Byrne

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