Head Coach Karl Dorrell continues to say that there is a chance Ben Emanuel could recover in time to play in the Silcon Valley Bowl, while other sources indicate that the groin injury he suffered in the USC game is more serious than that. In fact, there are those close to the situation that believe there is a possibility Emanuel could require surgery, which might make his return to spring practice questionable.
Sophomore Nnamdi Ohaeri has been working with the #1 defense in the place of Emanuel at strong safety. It's a bit of departure, with Kevin Brant previously this season getting the first nod off the bench at safety. Dorrell said that he intends to use four safeties in the bowl game, Jarrad Page, Ohaeri, Brant and redshirt freshman Eric McNeal.
Drew Olson has looked confident and strong at quarterback this week in practice.
With Tyler Ebell out for the bowl game and the position fairly thin, redshirt sophomore running back Jason Harrison could see time in the bowl game. Harrison suffered a severe knee injury last season and hasn't played yet this season. Dorrell said that Maurice Drew would be the #1 running back for the bowl, with senior Akil Harris filling the #2 spot.
As of this morning, UCLA had received three JC National Letters of Intent, from defensive lineman Kyle Morgan, tight end Matt Raney and offensive lineman Marc Villafuerte. The NLIs for quarterback David Koral and linebacker Dan Nelson were sent to the players yesterday, and UCLA was expecting them returned as early as today. It was believed Koral could possibly walk in his NLI when he takes his official visit this weekend.
With the NLIs received on Morgan and Raney, Dorrell was able to comment about the two players at practice. He said, "Morgan, that was a big one. He's a good player and we're real excited about him. He's obviously a defensive end that we think, with his experience, plus we're losing a lot of experience at that position from graduation, he's a guy that will provide some good leadership and get himself acclimated in our program."
Dorrell said they didn't actually have the chance to see Morgan play in person, but were very impressed with him on tape. He said that Morgan is projected at defense end. "We're losing four ends. We're thinking probably the right side (for Morgan), the offensive left side."
On Raney, Dorrell said: "We lose Blane Kezirian, so we need some experience. He and Kyle are both important that way. Get some older guys here. With Blane graduating and Keith Carter still on his injury status, we need some guys to come in and help us that physically can do that right away. That's why both of these guys are very important to get into our program right away."
Dorrell said Raney was more of a blocking-type of tight end than a pass-catching one.
It is Karl Dorrell's 40th birthday, and the one-year anniversary of his hiring as UCLA's football coach. Dorrell said, "I can't believe I'm forty. But actually, after this year, I can believe I'm forty."
When asked his appraisal of the year, Dorrell said, "It went fast. Wow, it went fast. Obviously we're not where we need to be. But I think we're doing the right thing in terms of what we're trying to build here. Recruiting is going well. So we're hoping to keep building on what we're doing and I think we'll be where we want to be. We knew it wasn't going to be a year miracle, in terms of turning things around. But I know we're going in the right direction."
The team is taking a field trip to Universal Studios this afternoon.