UCLA tackle Jeff Baca hurts his ankle during team drill
UCLA’s football team was in the second day of spring practice Thursday, players not even in pads yet.
And offensive tackle Jeff Baca was carted off the field after suffering an ankle injury, an all-too-familiar scene at Spaulding Field.
Baca, expected to be a starter, had a player land on his left ankle during an 11-on-11 drill. He was schedule to undergo X-rays, but no results were available.
“Hopefully, we’ll get good news and it won’t be an extensive process to get back,” Coach Rick Neuheisel said.
In the past year, every Bruins injury seemed to require an extensive process. The number of players lost has been such that Neuheisel was reduced to saying that “we’ll keep our fingers crossed” three times after Thursday’s practice.
It was another bad turn for Baca, who started 13 games in 2009. He was academically ineligible and unable to play in games last season, and he lost valuable practice time because of a stress fracture.
The injury was one of many for UCLA. The fallout is still being felt, with eight players sitting out spring practice after surgeries and four others whose participation is limited.
“It’s part of the game,” Neuheisel said. “We got our fingers crossed it won’t be long term.”
Stan Hasiak and Connor Bradford shared Baca’s spot with the first team after the injury.
It was another step in Hasiak’s rehabilitation after he was nearly thrown off the team as a freshman. He was suspended twice after being involved in fights on the field and screaming at coaches and players.
“I believe he has grown up,” offensive line coach Bob Palcic said. “So many freshmen are used to being the stars in high school that it is difficult for them to become a backup. He really struggled with that and has now accepted that he is playing football at another level. He’s matured and, up to this point, shown improvement both mentally and physically.”
Hasiak has also trimmed fat and become stronger. He was academically ineligible last season and worked on the scout team.
“I learned the team is the biggest thing,” Hasiak said. “It sounds stupid, but that’s been my focus. I came to that realization last season and gave it my all on scout team.”
His struggles as a freshman, he said, were because of “the culture and the people around me. The pace was different. What the players were doing to make this program better was new. I have conformed to that.”
Quarterback Kevin Prince will have his knee examined Saturday and might be cleared to participate in practice. Prince is limited while rehabilitating his knee from surgery and is not allowed to run laterally. … Jordon James had the play of the day, deking defenders on a long touchdown run. … UCLA will be in pads for the first time Saturday.
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