Posted on: September 7, 2011 12:55 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
An already perilous offensive line situation has somehow gotten worse for UCLA. According to a report in the LA Times, starting center Kai Maiava will be suspended for the Bruins upcoming home game against San Jose State after testing positive for marijuana.
UCLA's drug policy stipulates that an athlete will be suspended for their next game after testing positive for a third time, according to the report. Surprisingly, four players were suspended last year for testing positive for marijuana for a third time.
"We had to suspend Kai Maiava for this week's game for a violation of team rules," head coach Rick Neuheisel said. "No other comment to be made on that point."
Redshirt sophomore Greg Capella is expected to take Maiava's place at center, which is undergoing several changes following UCLA's loss to Houston last week. Capella played guard in the season opener but with him sliding over, Chris Ward, Sean Sheller or recent junior college transfer Albert Cid will fill the guard spots this week. Injured offensive lineman Jeff Baca has recently began practicing with the team and could be in the mix at either guard or tackle as well.
"I'm not happy about the situation, but at the same time I'm not going to sit here and cry about it," Maiava told the Times. "Everybody makes choices. Everybody makes mistakes. I'm a grown man now and I'm going to learn from them."
The Bruins were already extremely thin along the line and losing one of, if not the, best offensive lineman will be a blow regardless who the opponent is. Following the home opener, UCLA will play Texas so it's imperative for Neuheisel to get his line situation - and marijuana issue - under control sooner rather than later.
Posted on: August 9, 2011 12:13 am
Edited on: August 9, 2011 12:23 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
LOS ANGELES -- UCLA kicked off fall camp Monday evening on a picturesque day in Westwood and while there wasn't much to report from the no pads practice, the Bruins got off the field without any injuries and with noticeably more depth at certain skill positions than years past.
Given the Bruins injury history (which is a very long, almost comical one), escaping every practice to the nearby icebaths without a signficant injury is key as the team looks to finally build some depth in year four under head coach Rick Neuheisel.
"These are all our guys," Neuheisel said. "We recruited them, we've coached them, it's our job now to get them to where they can compete successfully."
Quarterback Kevin Price took the field without a knee brace and intends to keep things that way unless ordered to wear one by trainers. The oft-injured quarterback missed most of fall camp last year before starting the opener and sat out all of spring practice with a knee injury. He took reps with the first team offense as expected and was sharp throwing the ball out of the pocket but still seemed to be a bit rusty with his timing running the offense.
"Not once did I feel limited physically. Like I said before, I feel 100 percent physically," Prince said. "I just have to make sure I know the playbook the best and can execute it the best. I do that and I think that will get me on the field."
With highly touted freshman quarterback Brett Hundley sidelined for a few weeks following knee surgery, Richard Brehaut was the man looking to take the starting job away from Prince but looked uneven throughout the two-plus hour practice. Brehaut tossed a few interceptions - including one into double coverage - but did make a several nice throws in the pocket. He said afterwards that he believes it is 50/50 between him and Prince to start but based on the number of reps and how Neuheisel coached during individual drills, it seems as though the head coach favors last year's starter.
Offensive line depth is still an issue and the team will be without one of their most flexible players in guard/tackle Jeff Baca, who is recovering from a broken ankle suffered in the spring. At this point UCLA will mix and match with several inexperienced players and finding the right group remains one of the big questions the offensive staff is looking to answer early on in camp.
"It's a work in progress," Neuheisel said of the line. "Especially at the inside positions. We're going to have to work through that and then see which freshmen can help with depth. The next question is when does Baca get back."
Tight end Joseph Fauria stood out, literally, as the tallest player on the team but also with his play catching passes over the middle. He seemed to only have one drop and there's no question that he'll be a big target for the quarterbacks to use if they're (likely) being chased out of the pocket by a few defenders. Wide receiver Shaq Evans and tailback Johnathan Franklin also impressed with their speed and quickness.
On the defensive side, ends Datone Jones and Owa Odighizuwa both looked good and the latter in particular seemed bigger and more confident than he was in the spring. Defensive tackle remains a work in progress but the Bruins should be able to get a decent pass rush from the front four if the ends do their job. Linebacker Patrick Larimore looks a little bigger than last year but still was able to cover one of the numerous tight ends the offensive sent out during 7-on-7 and team periods. The secondary was solid but not spectacular.
All in all, it certainly appears that UCLA has their deepest, and possibly most talented, team under Neuheisel but it remains to be seen if that can translate to wins on the field. It's early and there's plenty of time to incorporate some new pieces but for day one, things were not bad at all for the Bruins.
Posted on: April 1, 2011 4:08 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Arizona and UCLA have a few things in common this spring, namely that both are coming off of disappointing seasons and are hoping for a big spring camp to propel them to greater things this fall.
Unfortunately, another thing both now also have in common are injuries to players expected to be key contributors in 2011. It's the same old story for the snake-bitten Bruins, who in 2010 saw multiple offensive lineman go down to injury and tackle Jeff Baca miss the season with an academic problem. Now Baca's season is in jeopardy again, but this time for a fractured ankle suffered during an 11-on-11 drill Thursday.
Baca has already undergone surgery, but according to the L.A. Times Bruin officials do not know if he'll be able to return in time for fall camp. It's a huge blow both individually for Baca -- who started 13 games in 2009 but likely needed as much practice time as he could get to knock off the rust of missing last season -- and for a Bruin line that's struggled to find healthy bodies for what seems like the entirety of Rick Neuheisel's Los Angeles tenure.
If there's any consolation for UCLA, it's that they're not the only members of the new Pac-12 South dealing with an injury problem. Following the departure of Nic Grigsby, Arizona power running back Greg Nwoko was expected to take a much larger share of the rushing load after carrying 57 times for 270 yards a year ago.
But that may not happen after Nwoko suffered a serious knee injury last weekend:
"He was just making a cut, trying to elude a tackler," said Arizona coach Mike Stoops. "Just a freak injury."
Nwoko has already used his redshirt season, removing that as an option. He's not the only personnel issue for the Wildcats, either, as two reserve linebackers have left the team, Stoops announced, giving the Wildcats only five scholarship players on the unit.
None of this means that either the Wildcats or Bruins can't bounce back this fall. But it's not the way either Stoops or Neuheisel would have wanted to start such a critical spring, either.