Injured Jess Ward sits out practice

UCLA's depth on defense may have taken a hit, as reserve defensive tackle Jess Ward sat out practice Saturday because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.

Ward will have an MRI exam Monday to determine the extent of the injury, though Coach Rick Neuheisel said he was led to believe it wasn't serious.

The Bruins have Brian Price, one of the nation's best, and Jerzy Siewierski, one of the team's best all-around athletes, as starting tackles. But Ward, a 6-foot-4, 296-pound senior, has played in 24 games, starting six in his career.

"The doctors don't think it's serious, but he'll have an MRI on Monday, so we'll find out," Neuheisel said. As for need to have Ward available, Neuheisel said, "Depth is an issue."

Ward has struggled with injuries in the past. He injured his left knee in 2007 and required off-season surgery. He said he injured the right knee, "doing a pass rush. I dragged my foot and I felt a little pull" on Friday.

The Bruins also have junior David Carter, who has played in 15 games in his career, at defensive tackle.

"I feel our tackle situation is solid enough," defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough said. "We have Brian and Jerzy." As for depth, Bullough is counting on Ward.

"It's like we told Jess, we got to get him to the game," Bullough said. "He was going to have little tweaks to that knee, but he's got to be one of those guys we just get through to the game every week rather than wear him out in practice."

Said Ward: "I showed up and played really well at camp. [The coaches] know what I can do. I just got to make sure I'm healthy. I got to be in the game."


Jones improves

Neuheisel said sophomore defensive end Datone Jones has exhibited the qualities the coach is looking for in his program, and after a strong off-season he could be very effective.

Neuheisel called Jones "a guy who . . . now is developing into what I think is going to be a really, really good player in this conference."

Jones, who had 15 tackles in 10 games last season, stayed after Saturday's afternoon practice flipping tires up and down the end zone.

"Every day I look at it as getting better," he said.


Injury update

The Bruins were also without linebacker Steve Sloan, who is expected to be out a few days because of a concussion.

"He has to go through the whole concussion protocol," Neuheisel said.

Sloan started nine games last season after Kyle Bosworth was injured.

Tight end Ryan Moya (knee), wide receiver Randall Carroll (groin), defensive back Andrew Abbott (concussion) and defensive lineman Iuta Tepa (hamstring) also sat out the morning practice. None are expected to return until Monday.

Senior guard Nick Ekbatani hurt his left leg and limped off the field. Neuheisel said the initial prognosis was an injury to the medial collateral ligament in the left knee and he would "be down for a bit."

"You hate to have injuries in your offensive line, but unfortunately it's kind of part of the deal," Neuheisel said. "Somebody's going to have to step up, which is always the case."


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