Hump day is upon us, the middle of the final week of prep before a game at the Rose Bowl for our seniors, and for Coach Neuheisel. Yesterday afternoon's practice saw the return of several injured members of the team return to practice, in varying stages of participation. The big names returning to the action on Spaulding include Richard Brehaut and Tony Dye. Richard got some reps with the 2nd team offense and ran sprints while preparing to likely backup Kevin Prince on Saturday, while Tony Dye felt good mentally as well as physically in his return to full participation with the 1st team defense.
Dye returned to practice fully on Tuesday and inserted right back into the starting defense. His presence had already been felt with the maturation of fellow safeties Tevin McDonald and Stan McKay - Dye said he served as a "bridge between coaches and players since I've been out" - but he said he's relieved to make it known on the field, even if he wasn't sure it would happen.
"The last few months have been rough, I'll tell you that," Dye said. "Just watching from the sideline, win or loss, just knowing you could be out helping. Unfortunately as competitive I am, I can't lose at anything or I'm growing home crying - it's a terrible thing, a real depressing thing. Luckily, I had the opportunity to get back in pads - I didn't feel like I'd be back this year."
Tony reported feeling no pain or numbness after practice, and while currently listed as questionable, is on track to return on Saturday. The defensive backfield could seen further reinforcements in the final weeks with the possible debut of Anthony Jefferson. After sitting out with an injury redshirt last season, and while recovering from preseason back surgery this season, Anthony recently began participating in practice, and has now been cleared for contact and to play, though it is uncertain if he will be game ready either by next Saturday or for any Bowl game the Bruins might be invited to. Even if only for one or two games, Anthony wants to get back on the field this fall, to help him build up to the offseason and into 2012.
Our swan dive in Salt Lake did not go unnoticed, despite Fox Sports' best efforts to keep us out of the eyes of national TV audiences. Spencer Hall saw fit to include us in this week's edition of The Alphabetical, one of his SBN sideprojects from EDSBS.
K is for Knew Heisel. As in the past tense, since Heisel's about to be out of a job again after severely damaging his chances of surviving 2011 with a 31-7 loss to Utah. Utah left the game as the 109th ranked offense in the country. UCLA left the stadium with a 24 point loss to that team. Rick Neuheisel lost his ability to coach football sometime around the same time Radiohead stopped making accessible music. Am I suggesting that this season is Neuheisel's King of Limbs? Not at all, since some people like that album. No one likes watching this UCLA football team, and given their performance in a pillowy soft Pac-12 South, it's hard to blame the spectators for rejecting the artist's vision in this case.
If the state of Neuheisel and of UCLA Football is obvious looking in from SEC-land, it certainly should be clear from the confines of Morgan Center. In a bit of good news for Neu, he did miss the cut in Pat Forde's list of the 5 coaches that should feel the most insecure about their jobs. Maybe he thinks that Neu's departure is too obvious, or maybe he knows Dan Guerrero too well...
In further injury news, Alex Mascarenas has returned to practice - in a no contact jersey - while recovering from a concussion that has kept him out the past few weeks, while Jordan Zumwalt was also practicing to a limited extent yesterday. Derrick Coleman got banged up in Utah, but practiced fine and will be available against Colorado.
In other Bruin Football news, Andrew Abbott has been nominated for the Burlsworth Trophy, which is intended to celebrate "the most outstanding football player in America who began his career as a walk-on." The award is one of the newer awards in college football, created last year and inspired by the late Arkansas walk-on turned Colts draftee Brandon Burlsworth.
The Trophy is named in honor of Brandon Burlsworth. Without any Division 1 scholarship offer, Brandon walked on to the Razorbacks team in 1994, worked his way to being a three-year starter, and was eventually named an All-American in 1998. Burlsworth was selected as the 63rd overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1999 NFL draft, but was tragically killed in a car accident 11 days later. The Burlsworth Foundation was created in his memory and supports the physical and spiritual needs of children, in particular those children that have limited opportunities.
Kudos to the Burlsworth family and to the Arkansas community for finding a way to keep their Son, Brother and Friend's memory alive, and congrats to Andrew for being in the running for the award. He and the rest of the UCLA squad return to Spaulding Field this afternoon.