Have to start this Hump Day with a bit of bad news. We lost yet another OL to injury yesterday. Left Tackle Micah Kia, arguably the most athletic and gifted OL in our roster left practice yesterday with a broken left hand. Going in this camp, Kia had the most experience in our OL depth chart, starting 8 games last season. However, note the injury is not season ending and there is a chance, he might be available for season opener. Let’s lead off with Brian Dohn’s report on Kia’s injury:
"We're past overly concerned," Neuheisel said. "On that Ouija Board, with concerning we're past overly. Yeah, this is concerning. No question about it."
Kia broke the hand early in Tuesday's practice while blocking on the field-goal team.
Brandon Bennett, who has not played in his first two seasons at UCLA, took Kia's spot with the first-team offense, and gave the Bruins an offensive line consisting of a converted tight end Nate Chandler at right tackle, Sonny Tevaga and Nick Ekbatani - both of whom did not play last season - playing the guard positions with converted guard Micah Reed playing center.
Instead of doing a woe is me routine, Neuheisel addressed the latest injury news with humor, while maintaining his relentless optimism. He talked about how it still might be possible for Kia to play with his hand in a cast against the Vols:
Obviously coaches and Kia will have to wait to hear the doctor’s assessment on his injury before making any kind of decision. But we have seen in the past how OL have a whole different threshold of pain tolerance than average human (or even football players). So I won’t be shocked if Kia comes back for the
"Guys play with that all the time, especially if you still have the use of some of your fingers," Neuheisel said. "It'll keep him from holding. How's that?"
More on Palcic’s philosophy in putting together his OL from the Press Enterprise:
The bumps and dings include Nate Chandler, a tight end turned tackle who sat out three days because of turf toe, and guard Scott Glicksberg, a converted tight end who is still bothered by a sore shoulder.
"I had this experience in the NFL, where you can go into a game with seven linemen sometimes," offensive line coach Bob Palcic said.
"I remember coaching in the Canadian League and going into one game with six guys. That one substitute had to know all the positions.
"That prepared me tremendously for what is going on here now. I'm shuffling a lot guys around, making sure they know all the positions. That's why I don't get quite as nervous at it, as a lot of people do."
Besides, Palcic said, "We have 12 days and I'm going to be living with these kids."
If Palcic is not nervous, we shouldn’t worry too much. Again right now all we are looking for is these kids to give everything they have and get better as a team on a week to week basis.
"If my third tackle is better than my third guard, then my third tackle is going to play guard. The five best guys, I have to get them out there. When it initially happens, it slows down progress but eventually you are working with the five best guys, and that's what's best for the football team."
For the short term, there was some good news as RT Mike Harris (who had suffered a sprained ankle earlier in the camp) could be returning this week. Also returning to practice this week will be Jess Ward (who the coaches moved from DT to OL last week), who is recovering from a knee surgery in December. Moreover, according to Micah Reed, Brandon Bennett stepped up in practice yesterday after taking Kia’s place in the lineup:
If you are wondering why these kids are not showing any kind of woe-is-me attitude in the face of adverse developments, I will leave you with this comment from CRN in response to a question whether he will ask the coaches to back off during practice:
"I'm not just saying this, but Bennett really stepped up his game (Tuesday)," Reed said. "In one-on-one pass rush, I don't think he lost one rep. He was ready to play. So when his number was called, he was ready to deliver. I'm pretty excited about that."
Asked whether he had thought of backing off practice because of the injuries, Neuheisel said, "That would certainly be an option. But if you stop being physical, you stop giving yourself a chance to play, because it is going to be a physical game. I can call [Tennessee Coach] Phil Fulmer and ask if we could just play touch. I don't think he'll go for it."
Yeah ... so let’s carry on ... there will be peace ...(oh just cue our band).