After taking Sunday off following the weekend's scrimmage, the Bruins were back at the practice field yesterday afternoon not only continuing their own preparation and positional battles, but starting to install the game plan for the opener at Houston, now only 12 days away. The big news from practice was the return of Brett Hundley; he participated in drills, and saw time with the first team offense in team drills, but has not yet been cleared to run much during his participation. While Brett was pleased to be back on the field and confident in his abllity and willngness to compete, Coach Neuheisel acknowledged that with the time lost recovering from his knee operation, Hundley is not likely to win the starting job, but left open the possibility that he may install a package of plays designed for Hundley to run this season.
"... but I’m not saying he won’t get a chance to play. We need to see exactly what he’s capable of doing."
... the most intriguing possibility is that Neuheisel will install a package designed to take advantage of Hundley's skills and use him on a part-time basis.
"I think that’s probably the right way to say it, but how extensive that package is depends on him," Neuheisel said. "I don’t have to make that decision now. I’m going to saturate him with as much work as I can and see where he is a week from now, 10 days from now, and then we’ll make the decision as to what is the prudent thing to do with respect to his playing time."
Jon Gold captured Brett's thoughts on the possibility of running a limited number of plays v. redshirting this season.
... Obviously if I play, there's still a chance throughout the season for me to start. I don't ever keep that out of my mind. If things happen to go wrong, I can easily get a shot at starting. It's a big game right now. We're sort of just talking it through and sort of seeing what's going on. After this week we'll know a little better what's going to happen. We're going to figure out (whether) it's worth playing 10, 15, 20 snaps a game or redshirting or just coming back next years as a redshirt freshman.
Considering that Hundley will likely play just a small part in this year's offense, if he does not end up redshirting, the more significant development coming out of the day may have been Jeff Locke being asked to kick a few field goals in practice - kicks which he converted. Given the up and down performance of kicker-in-waiting Kip Smith through the offseason, folks have been speculating that Locke could end up taking over the role. Gold speculated that Locke could pass on his kickoff duties to Smith to conserve his leg, while becoming the primary placekicker. With that said, he went on to say how Smith's practice struggles are a mechanical issue - well, a maybe a mechanical issue brought on by some nervousness rather than a pure mental issue - according to Special Teams coach McClure, he has been inconsistent with his timing, hurrying (what turns into) his unsuccessful kicks. That seems like an issue that he and the coaches should be able to solve, giving Kip a good shot at making it into the season as our kicker.
Of course, it would not be a UCLA Football update without injury news. As I noted at the top, Brett Hundley returned to practice, but not yet released for full participation. Taylor Embree is still out of practice with a leg injury, and was expected to see a doctor on Monday. Tony Dye participated in individual drills after missing a few days with a groin injury, and Aaron Hester was back at full speed - Saturday's hamstring scare turning out to be nothing.
While a few of those guys are preparing to return after missing time with injuries - if they did not already participate on Monday, there were a couple of players that went down on Monday. After what is thought to have been a minor 'tweaking' of his knee early in practice, Dalton Hilliard sat out of Monday's team drills, but is expected to return to full participation today. While not resulting from Monday's practice, the more significant injury news was the disclosure that Wesley Flowers has sustained a collapsed lung during Saturday's scrimmage. At some point on Saturday after the scrimmage, he was taken to UCLA Medical Center, where he was treated and kept overnight. While he attended practice on Monday, he did not dress, and is not expected to return to action for at least a few weeks.
While Wesley is going to be out a while - and let's all wish him well and hope for a speedy recovery - there are the continuing rumors over Coach Tresey getting another D-Lineman to play with in the form of Brandon Willis. I would not be surprised to hear that he is officially back at UCLA in the next day or two, with the question becoming whether the NCAA will allow him to play for the Bruins in 2011. Certainly something more to watch out for over the next few days.