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Five Santa Clarita Valley locals to play in Pac 12 this season

Posted: July 26, 2014 8:19 p.m.
Updated: July 26, 2014 8:19 p.m.

Cal running back and West Ranch graduate Jeff Coprich runs against UCLA in Pasadena on Oct. 12, 2013.

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Football fans across the Santa Clarita Valley should have a little bit of familiarity with five names spread around the Pac-12 conference this season.

In what is expected to be one of the most exciting season’s in recent memory in the conference, two running backs could see action at the position in Steven Manfro at UCLA and Jeff Coprich at Cal.

Tedric Thompson, a Valencia High graduate, has the potential to make an impact on Colorado’s defense this season, West Ranch’s Nick Nowakowski has worked his way from walk-on to No. 2 on the depth chart at center for Utah, and freshman Cade Apsay, from Canyon High, joins the Colorado squad in 2014.

The biggest name of the bunch is Valencia High’s Manfro, who has already racked up 177 yards on 32 carries and three touchdowns in two seasons with the Bruins, and has a total of 400 receiving yards on 37 receptions with two touchdowns.

“He’s a beast man,” said teammate and linebacker Eric Kendricks. “Manfro is one of the hardest workers I know and one of the best athletes I know. On paper, he tests very well. He’s very tough. One of the toughest players I know. It’s not can he (make an impact), it’s he is going to play a role. He’s going to find a way to make an impact on this team whether it’s special teams or offense — he’s going to do it.”

Coprich, a West Ranch graduate was recruited at Cal as a defensive player, but was moved over to running back in head coach Sonny Dykes’ first season in Berkeley in 2013.

In his first year, Coprich rushed 40 times for 156 yards and a touchdown, and caught four passes for 23 yards.

The Golden Bears are expected to employ a running back-by-committee of sorts, and Coprich could see himself in the mix for playing time at the position.

“Jeff is a guy we’re expecting good things out of,” Dykes said. “Jeff he played a lot last year. We had a lot of injuries at the running back spot. When he got a chance to perform, I thought he performed well. He did some good things this spring. We’ve got four or five guys that are going to be competing for that spot at the tailback position, and he’ll be in the mix and we’ll see how he does and how he improves.”

Thompson is another player who should see significant playing time in the Pac-12 this season.

The hard-hitting safety had 33 tackles in his first season last year, and will be in a competition with Marques Mosley, Terrel Smith and Ryan Moeller for the starting position.

“Tedric brings a toughness. A very physical player, and he brings that to special teams. He’s what you would call a run-stopping type safety,” said Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre. “He can definitely play the pass too, but his best attributes are physical, on the run and different things like that. He can drop it down in the box and do different things like that, like another linebacker, which is good because he can play in space, and you need to be able to do that in our league.”

Thompson will be joined by former rival Apsay, who graduated from Canyon in the spring and will join the Buffaloes for fall practice in August.

“Cade Apsay is a really good quarterback that we’re excited about,” MacIntyre said. “I get to see him here August 2nd when we get on the field. Seems like he’s fit in school well this summer and in the weight room and everything. So I’m excited about Cade. I think he has the ability to move in the pocket and make plays and move around. He has a very accurate arm.”

At Utah, Nowakowski walked on in 2012 and has a good shot at making the Utes’ travel squad this season.

Listed as the team’s No. 2 center, Nowkowski played seven downs in 2012 in a game against Washington State, before redshirting last season.

“Nick is a blue-collar guy. Puts his head down and works. Never complains. Does everything that’s asked of him,” said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. “Great in the classroom. He’s doing a great job. This third year he’ll be a red-shirt sophomore. He’s put himself in position (to make the travel squad). He’s just a great guy. Love him, love him.”

The Pac-12 conference kicks off play on Aug. 28, when Idaho State travels to Utah and Weber State takes on Arizona State.

Manfro and the Bruins debut on Aug. 30 at Virginia, while Colorado opens with Colorado State in Denver on Aug. 29 and Cal’s season begins Aug. 30 at Northwestern.

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