Predictably the beat writers in Los Angeles covering UCLA have been going a little crazy (some almost sound a little giddy) over the injury of Kai Maiava during Saturday's scrimmage. Most of these guys quit on the Bruins a long time ago not giving us much of a chance despite showing clear signs of improvement during the closing weeks of this past season. If you have been closely following their "coverage" of UCLA in recent years, you'd know by now they are just pouncing on any opportunity to weave the storyline of a "doomsday" scenario around Coach Rick Neuheisel's program.
So it's not a surprise to see these guys hyperventilate over Kai's injury in their effort to push the narrative that the season is over even before it begins for Rick Neuheisel's Bruins. Fortunately for us we do have a head coach who has been through his share of adversity and one of the most experienced offensive coaches in the entire game, who has seen it all.
The loss of Kai is no doubt disheartening. Put it simply, it sucks for everyone who loves the blue and gold and follow this program on a day by basis (sometimes on an hourly basis) as we do. I got the news from reading the comment threads while on vacation. My heart sank immediately for Kai who has had his share of adversities in recent months, looking to bounce back from academic issues and other nagging injuries this season. Yet from what I have learned about this guy by reading about him over the years, I have a feeling he is not going to let his team-mates get down. I am sure he is going to do his part to close ranks and rally his guys, so that they are ready to come out and give their best shot on September 4.
With loss of Kai, it appears that we will essentially go into KSU with our second team OL from last season without Jeff Baca (who is out with stress reaction to his foot and academic issues), XSF (mission), and Mike Harris (one game suspension). Eddie Williams should come back from his concussion this week. When Eddie returns, Ryan Taylor will step up at C, Darius Savage will move over to LG and our rotation will look like this:
|Sean Sheller (6-5, 300, Sr.**)||Darius Savage (6-4,330, Sr)||Ryan Taylor (6-3, 298, Sr.**) (2 at RG)||Eddie Williams (6-1, 329, Sr.) (6)||Micah Kia (6-5, 321, Sr.)|
|Brett Downey (6-7, 302, So.**)||Chris Ward (6-4, 318, Fr.)||Greg Capella (6-4, 320, Fr.**)||Wade Yandall (6-4, 329, Fr.)||Kody Innes (6-4, 279, Fr.)|
|Jeff Baca (6-4, 305, Jr.)(13)||Kai Maiava (6-1, 298, Jr.**) (12)||Casey Griffiths (6-4, 280, Jr)||Mike Harris (6-5, 319, Jr.**) (13)|
() game started
** indicates redshirt season
Italic indicates player who are currently suspended, questionable for season opener or out for the season.
Note I have Casey Griffith at RG. It is possible that Coach Palcic might try him out at center position as well. Coach Ryan Taylor didn't practice at center during camp last few weeks but he did step up and did well when called upon to replaced injured starter last year. Williams is expected back this week.
Of course this situation is not ideal, yet I am sure coaches like Bob Palcic and Norm Chow, under CRN's leadership are not going to wallow over it. They are going to do everything they can to get these guys ready for Wildcats and rest of the season. One of the interesting storylines of this pre-season camp has been the development of Richard Brehaut, who has taken advantage of additional reps due to Prince's injury. While there is a good chance that Prince will ultimately start in the first game, I think our OL should take their cue from the effort we have seen from Brehaut last couple of weeks.
Brehaut clearly took advantage of his opportunity and stepped up in a big way, coming up with his best performance in a Bruin scrimmage. If the whole offense takes on that attitude, I think our guys will have a decent shot in rallying and building on the positive results from this past season, despite being surrounded by a toxically cynical media hovering around them every day.