It has been a rough season for head coach Rick Neuheisel and his UCLA Bruins. It got tougher Tuesday evening with the news that one of Neuheisel's best players -- senior strong safety Tony Dye -- will miss the rest of the 2011 season due to a neck injury.
Dye, who shared MVP honors last year with outside linebacker Akeem Ayers (the 39th overall pick in 2011 by Tennessee), entered the year ranked as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2 senior strong safety. Considering that this appears to be the second consecutive weak crop of senior safeties, Dye's injury is potentially a significant blow to NFL teams needing help at the position.
Dye has not used a redshirt and thus could elect to petition the NCAA to gain a medical redshirt and return to the Bruins next season.
Dye entered the year having already started 26 games over his career. While viewed as one of the better open field tacklers at his position, he has not proven to be a big playmaker. Over his career, including the four games in which he played this season (three starts), Dye has only one career interception. He led the team in tackles (96) and passes broken up (nine) last season and was a more consistent player than his more hyped teammate Rahim Moore, a free safety whom the Denver Broncos invested the 45th overall pick into last April.
Dye suffered the neck injury early in the season and originally attempted to play through it. He's struggled with nerve damage since, however, as too often he's lost feeling in his arms as he attempted tackles.
Neuheisel told the media following Tuesday's practice that he knew Dye may consider taking time to heal the injury and elect to pursue the NFL. He advised against it, however.
Said Neuheisel, "Tony and his family will continue to look for maybe another way, but I just don’t think it’s the prudent thing to do. I think Tony need to get himself 100 percent healthy and hopefully come back and play for us next year."