The first significant injury of UCLA's preseason socked an area where the Bruins were just beginning to establish some quality depth. Coach Jim Mora announced Thursday that offensive lineman Kenny Lacy had suffered structural damage to his hips that would require surgery and likely end his season.
"You just hate to see that happen," Mora said. "You hate to see it anytime, but especially in this guy's senior year before the season has even started."
Lacy realized he was hurt during practice Tuesday when he tried to get into a stance and felt what Mora described as "a pinch." A subsequent MRI exam revealed the extent of the damage. Lacy had spent time as one of the starting right tackles when training camp started before moving to left tackle with the second team over the final week.
The injury will likely end Lacy's career because he is a redshirt senior. He can petition the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility, but that typically requires a player showing that he has spent the equivalent of two seasons injured and Lacy spent the bulk of his first season at UCLA on the scout team while redshirting.
UCLA had rejiggered its first-string offensive line over the final week of training camp, with redshirt freshman Michael Alves taking over at right guard while bumping Andre James to right tackle. The other starters in that alignment were Kolton Miller at left tackle, Najee Toran at left guard and Scott Quessenberry at center.
Lacy moving to the second team had given that unit four players with starting experience before his injury; Lacy started nine games last season at guard. Mora held out hope for the possibility that Lacy could return sooner than expected.
"The human body is a mystery in terms of how it's going to heal, so you just don't know," Mora said. "So we don't like to put timelines on guys. I said he was out for the season, but they might go in there and he might have a miraculous recovery and be back, so we'll see."
The Bruins have started formal preparations for their season opener against Texas A&M on Sept. 3 at the Rose Bowl, giving players an opportunity to feel as if they're pummeling someone besides themselves.
"It's been 22 days of practicing against the same guys," UCLA offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said, "so they know our plays, we know their defense."
There's far less certainty when it comes to Texas A&M. The Aggies are still deciding among a trio of starting quarterback candidates in senior Jake Hubenak, redshirt freshman Nick Starkel and freshman Kellen Mond. That means UCLA's defense has to prepare three different game plans.
"We have to be ready for a little bit of any one of them," Bruins defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said.
The biggest challenge for UCLA might be getting its scout team to simulate the speed and precision of the up-tempo offense that Aggies offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone — who held the same position at UCLA for four seasons — likes to run.
"We can get the play moving fast," Bradley said, "but to get it done right, I think that's the hardest thing to duplicate."
The Bruins will continue their prep work during a mock game Sunday at the Rose Bowl, exactly one week before their opener.
Concerns about privacy at the Luskin Center that abuts the Bruins' practice facility prompted an abrupt end to practice and the cancellation of media availability Wednesday, according to a person close to the situation who was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.
The year-old Luskin Center features an outdoor terrace overlooking the practice fields. The luxury hotel also has rooms with views of the fields on one side.
"An issue came up [Wednesday]," Mora said, "but I'm just pleased with the way everyone at UCLA has responded and trying to do the best that they can to make this a secure practice environment for us."