Harris back in the mix on the line

Mike Harris couldn't help but notice the wagon load of offensive linemen brought to Westwood this summer, and he knew what it meant.

Harris started the last five games of 2008 for UCLA at right tackle. But considering the Bruins were 116th of 119 major-college teams in rushing yards per game last season, changes were coming.

Yet, with 11 days before the season opener against San Diego State, Harris is back in the mix. Freshman guard Stanley Hasiak suffered what was called a "stinger" in his shoulder, which put Harris back with the first team on Tuesday. He moved in at right tackle and Jeff Baca was shifted to Hasiak's left guard spot.

The temporary change was a chance to look at options in case of more injuries. It was also an indication that Harris was on the short list for substantial playing time.

"I think he has really worked hard during the off-season," offensive line coach Bob Palcic said. "He's stronger, more confident. He understands the system."

Harris was at a disadvantage when training camp started. He missed spring practice with a broken bone in his right foot. A new batch of linemen came in, including Hasiak and fellow freshman Xavier Su'a-Filo.

"I knew they were going to give all those guys a shot," Harris said. "They're a bunch of good guys. X and Stan are two good freshmen. If not this year, then in years to come they will help this team get back to where we want to be."

Harris, a redshirt sophomore, wants to be a part of that as well.

"I knew I had a lot to make up because I missed spring," Harris said. "Every chance I took mental reps, stayed after practice to get in work. I knew it was going to take a lot of effort and a lot of hard work to get back in the rotation."

Meanwhile, Baca was getting a refresher course at guard.

"The type of player you're going against is a little different," Baca said. "Defensive ends are usually more agile. Defensive tackles are usually shorter and a little stronger. You have to be more powerful."

Catching on

Redshirt freshman Jerry Johnson has moved into contention for a spot in the wide receiver rotation after a week of making eye-catching receptions.

"He has been a much more efficient pass catcher," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "He's made plays almost daily. He just has to prove he knows what he's doing. We had a busted play at the end where he forgot he was on the two receiver side."

Johnson said, "I've been focusing more on the playbook and making plays and being consistent. That was a problem before; now it is automatic."

Frustrating day

Johnson stood out Tuesday, as he was about the only receiver or back who was catching passes the first half of practice.

At one point, Neuheisel took a drill sergeant tone, barking at receivers, "Come on, we're UCLA! We're Division I! We have to make Division I catches!"

Later, Neuheisel put it down to a bad day.

"This is one of those commando days; you've just got fight through it," Neuheisel said. "We'll reap the rewards from this later on."

Quick hits

Kicker Kai Forbath, out a week because of a sore right leg, kicked some while warming up but did not participate in special team work. Neuheisel said Forbath should be ready for Friday's scrimmage at the Rose Bowl. . . . Wide receiver Morrell Presley was limited to individual drills because of a quadriceps injury.




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