Offensive line still is taking some hits

Times Staff Writer

UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel laughed, tossing out an isn’t-that-an-understatement chuckle when asked whether losing yet another offensive line was overly concerning.

“We’re past overly concerned,” Neuheisel said. “On the Ouija Board of concern, we passed ‘overly.’ ”

So ended another day of musical offensive line for the Bruins.


Junior tackle Micah Kia was out, having suffered a broken left hand during Tuesday’s practice. Freshman lineman Jeff Baca was scheduled to have an MRI exam today on his left knee today. Tackle Mike Harris did not participate, as he is still recovering from a high-ankle sprain.

The Bruins were inexperienced on the offensive line -- Kia and center Micah Reed were the only linemen to play in a game last season -- to begin with. Now they are inexperienced and injured.

The bumps and dings include Nate Chandler, a tight end turned tackle who sat out three days because of turf toe, and guard Scott Glicksberg, a converted tight end who is still bothered by a sore shoulder.

“I had this experience in the NFL, where you can go into a game with seven linemen sometimes,” offensive line coach Bob Palcic said.

“I remember coaching in the Canadian League and going into one game with six guys. That one substitute had to know all the positions.

“That prepared me tremendously for what is going on here now. I’m shuffling a lot guys around, making sure they know all the positions. That’s why I don’t get quite as nervous at it, as a lot of people do.”

Besides, Palcic said, “We have 12 days and I’m going to be living with these kids.”

The bright side?

Harris is expected to return to practice Monday. And Jess Ward could return to practice Monday as well, giving the Bruins a defensive tackle who is being asked to play offensive line for the first time in his college career, but hasn’t been able to practice while recovering from knee surgery.

Asked whether he had thought of backing off practice because of the injuries, Neuheisel said, “That would certainly be an option. But if you stop being physical, you stop giving yourself a chance to play, because it is going to be a physical game. I can call [Tennessee Coach] Phil Fulmer and ask if we could just play touch. I don’t think he’ll go for it.”

Center of attention

Reed, the most experienced lineman with Kia out, pushed the positive outlook after practice, despite the fact that he has had different guards lining up next to him almost daily.

“When I heard Micah went down, I was concerned at first,” Reed said. “But we went through one-on-one drills and Brandon Bennett was really stepping it up. I’m pretty excited about that. If he didn’t have a good practice, I’d be a little frightened.”

Others were remaining relentlessly optimistic.

“I think our offensive line is fine,” tailback Kahlil Bell said. “Anyone watching practice today, saw the offense dominated.”

Quick kicks

Linebacker Reggie Carter, safety Glenn Love, tight end Logan Paulsen and defensive back E.J. Woods, who have been out with concussions, returned to practice. . . . Linebacker Kyle Bosworth (strained groin), linebacker Patrick Larimore (back spasms) and defensive back Andrew Abbott (knee) sat out practice. . . . Long-time UCLA track coach Jim Bush required treatment by paramedics for dehydration at the Bruins’ practice but was not taken to a hospital.