Cal football plays without key defensive linemen at UCLA

Sam Albillo/Senior Staff

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Cal will be without defensive linemen Aaron Maldonado and Stanley McKenzie on Sunday morning. The two nose guards were expected to be key contributors — Maldonado is listed as the starter — and their absence means sophomore Brett Johnson will start at the position instead.

The Bears will begin their unprecedented season in many unanticipated ways. COVID-19 outbreaks at Arizona State and Utah have driven Cal and UCLA together for an unexpected contest.

A positive COVID-19 test among Cal’s defensive linemen was the cause of a no-contest game against Washington a week ago. Their quarantine, a result of contact tracing mandated by the city of Berkeley public health department, left the Bears bereft of players at the position.

Johnson, who will replace Maldonado, is no stranger to the position — the sophomore started nine games on the defensive line last season. He had shifted to defensive end in 2020, and his absence there will put redshirt sophomore JH Tevis on the spot. Cal’s defensive front three against the Bruins is rounded out by veteran senior Zeandae Johnson.

Jasper Kenzo Sundeen covers football and is the deputy special issues editor. Contact him at [email protected].