UCLA’s defensive line concerns grew Monday, and the line got a couple of new bodies.
Defensive tackle Jess Ward is expected to be out two to three weeks because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. Defensive end Reginald Stokes is out indefinitely after tests revealed torn cartilage in his right knee. That caused offensive linemen Sean Sheller and Connor Bradford to move to the defense.
“Part of it was in the event of an emergency, and part of it was we have the luxury of time to take a look,” UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said about the Sheller and Bradford moves.
Ward, who has played in 24 games, was expected to be the team’s No. 3 defensive tackle. Sheller will play defensive tackle.
“Hopefully, we can bring him up to speed so he can play 15, 20 snaps for us,” defensive line coach Todd Howard said.
But the weight of the defensive tackle depth falls mainly on David Carter, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound junior.
Carter was converted from defensive end during the off-season with UCLA needing more bodies inside. That concern was heightened when Brandon Warner, a transfer from Compton College, didn’t get into UCLA because of transcript issues. The move required Carter to gain 30 pounds.
“When you’re on edge, a lot time you’re the contain guy, you have to be athletic,” Howard said. “Inside, you’re going against more beef.”
Carter was more than willing and began to rework his game.
“It definitely involves different techniques,” Carter said. “You have to move your feet differently and learn how to play with the big boys.”
Bradford will play defensive end, which is also down in numbers.
Besides Stokes, the Bruins are without Chinonso Anyanwu, who had hip surgery. Redshirt freshman Damien Holmes is the top reserve defensive end.
QB learning curve
A tough morning turned into a more productive afternoon for UCLA quarterbacks, who had a number of passes intercepted early.
“We were not going through the true progression of the reads,” Neuheisel said.
“That’s like throwing chum to piranha. They go right where the eyes are looking.”
The afternoon was sharper, with starter Kevin Prince consistently connecting with receivers with crisp passes.
“This morning I was kind of being a little lazy,” Prince said. “I made a point in between practices to focus and go through my playbook better.”
Offensive line moves
Micah Kia, a senior who has started 15 games, split time with freshman Stanley Hasiak at left guard on the first-team offensive line.
“I trying to give everybody opportunity,” offensive line coach Bob Palcic said.
“A lot of guys are working hard and they deserve a chance. I’m just looking at different combinations.”
Backup center Nick Ekbatani will be out four to six weeks because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
Morrell Presley, a freshman who came to UCLA as a tight end, has been shifted to wide receiver. Presley, who has big-play potential with his speed, was too light to play tight end. . . . Freshman fullback Jayson Allmond left practice after throwing a block and was to be checked for a concussion. . . . Tailback Christian Ramirez and tight end Logan Paulsen were held out of contact drills because of sore hamstrings. . . . Walk-on punter Danny Rees will hold for field goals and extra points this season.