Tuesday was reportedly a tough day of practice, which took place at Drake Stadium on a hot and muggy day (which should help against Houston...a little). You have to think that the coaches are busy installing the game plan for the trip to Houston, but there are still a lot of drills being done. That being said, the main concern for the season opener is to get there with a full roster, which is understandable after the most injury-plagued UCLA football season in memory. Unfortunately that looks a little less likely after today's practice.
Chris Ward, who is competing with Capella and Cid for the two guard spots, was carted off the field after an ankle injury that looked quite serious. Luckily, an X-Ray examination showed that it was only a sprain and his status is listed as day to day. You can imagine how painful that can be when you weigh 330 lbs. Obviously that is somewhat of a sigh of relief for CRN and Coach Palcic but it is not clear whether Chris will be back for the game against Houston. There is a little depth at the position this year, but not much.
"We've got our fingers crossed that he will be back shortly," Coach Rick Neuheisel said.
Fingers crossed, rubbing the rabbit foot, clutching the 4-leaf clover, telling Jobu to go F himself...whatever works Coach, we'll try it too. Other than that, concern trolls need not apply and no reason for fans to freak out either. For now, it looks like Albert Cid would take Ward's spot on the starting lineup, with a few other tweaks:
Offensive line coach Bob Palcic said that he has options on the line if Ward is out for any length of time. That could include moving Sean Sheller from tackle to guard and playing Brett Downey at tackle.
Meanwhile, it looks like our tight ends are finally going to be more than pass rush blockers. Both Cory Harkey and Joseph Fauria had an excellent practice, making one-handed catches in drills. Gold notes that Harkey has really upped his game lately, something Chris Foster also noted a few days ago...but I just rarely like linking to Foster's stories.
On the QB front, it sounds like Kevin Prince had a nice day today, demonstrating touch and accuracy on a wide range of passes. Brehaut likewise showed the accuracy he has displayed throughout camp, but it seems Richard has a harder time throwing on the run. The rollout is a pretty good weapon so hopefully Richard can get better at it. In the last few years, throwing on the run was pretty much mandatory for a UCLA QB. Hopefully this year it will be done as a choice and not out of panic. As for Brett Hundley, they are slowly increasing his workload and exercising caution in order to bring him up slowly after his injury. Understandably, he was a little rusty throwing the ball, so he needs to have some patience because there is really no rush for him to be available. It is getting close to crunch time though and CRN needs to settle on a QB very soon so that he can get all the reps with the 1s. My gut feeling is that it will be Kevin Prince.
On the WR front, Taylor Embree reportedly got an MRI yesterday, as his calf injury lingers, but no word on the resutls yet. Sadly, we hear yet again of bad drops by the wide receivers. Gold is generous in attributing this to the uptick in tempo, but I don't buy it. It's concentration and focus and I am quite sure it will rear its ugly head at times this season. Be prepared. Don't have sharp or heavy objects nearby when you watch the games.
Moving on to the Defense, Tony Dye finally returned to practice at full strength, and his teammates on D respondedimmediately by having a great day. Looks like we have our leader. And also inspirational is the ongoing Andrew Abbott story. Coach Tresey certainly sees something in him:
"He's got a savvy to him," Tresey said. "He just has to become more urgent on every play. His tempo changes off and on."
We had heard bits and pieces about Andrew here and there, and today he had a fantastic practice with two great interceptions that were more the result of his great play than bad throws by the QBs. Although Aaron Hester's hamstring injury turned out not to be serious, with Jamie Graham and Anthony Jefferson out of action, it is imperative for Andrew to step up, and he understands this:
"It's a responsibility to be game ready," Abbott said. "With these guys down, I will be needed more."
Finally, it sure looks as though Jeff Locke will be our kicker this year, at least to start the season. He closed practice with a good field goal.