Monday Afternoon: Injuries Hit

While the team generally continues to look good overall, injuries spoiled the party a bit today. One player is taken off the field in an ambulance. The defensive line is now very thin...

The one thing most would agree that UCLA had to avoid this year to be successful was injuries.

So far the program hasn't done very well avoiding them.

Defensive ends Kyle Morgan and Brigham Harwell both underwent arthroscopic knee surgery today, successfully, according to UCLA. A spokesperson said that each had torn cartilage, but the surgeries were smooth and successful. UCLA is estimating 3-4 weeks for each to return.

On the field at practice this afternoon, cornerback Jebiaus Brown received a blow to his neck, lost consciousness momentarily and was motionless for some time. He was put on a stretcher and taken off the field by an ambulance, then taken to UCLA Medical Center for precautionary x-rays of his neck. He had feeling in all of his extremities and the coaches are hopeful he'll be okay. If you remember, Brown sat out almost all of last season with concussive symptoms and you'd have to believe that suffering such a potentially serious injury as he did today could lead to questions about his future.

As of 10:00 p.m. Monday, Jebiaus Brown's x-rays were negative and his CT Scan was normal. He'll be released from the UCLA Medical Center ER tonight.

Sitting out because of various degrees of concussive symptoms are Manuel White, Marcus Everett, C.J. Niusulu and J.J. Hair. Eyoseph Efseaff sat out due to an injured groin.

Craig Bragg, Maurice Drew and Junior Taylor look to be the #1-3 punt returners.

Among the wide receivers, it appears the coaches are trying to motivate some of the younger players. Walk-ons Andrew Baumgartner and Chris Steck were taking reps as the #3 and #4 receivers (behind Bragg and Taylor), ahead of Joe Cowan, Matt Slater and Alex Ghebreselassie. Slater and Ghebreselassie received a few tongue whippings today, and ran a few laps between them. Cowan, in the night practice, had two great receptions, one in which he caught the ball behind him with one hand. But then he received a tongue-lashing himself when cornerback Mil'Von James locked him up while the quarterback was getting blitzed. Freshman Brandon Breazell, who must be the skinniest player on the team, had a couple of very nice catches in the evening session, one where he caught the ball over his shoulder on a fade in the corner of the endzone for a touchdown.

Marcedes Lewis is obviously going to be a favorite target, with the quarterbacks looking for him on every passing play. He caught a couple of touchdown passes in the redzone drill and would have caught another had the pass been accurate.

Among the running backs, Maurice Drew is slowly getting put back into the rotation, getting his first live reps today. While his reps were limited, he made the most of them, with two very good runs where he bounced off tacklers. Jason Harrison is probably getting the majority of the reps at tailback at this point. On one screen, he made a couple of nice moves to gain 12 yards. The fullbacks look good, with both Pat Norton and Michael Pitre having good moments.

The quarterbacks are looking good overall. Olson continues to have a stellar camp. But back-up David Koral has made vast improvements in the last couple of days and had a good first two-a-day. He's getting more zip on his throws and is finding receivers much quicker. Freshman Patrick Cowan is also light years from how he looked the first couple of days of practice, throwing the ball much better.

On defense, the question is the defensive line. With Morgan out, and Niusulu temporarily out, the d-line is particularly thin. The starters for practice today were Bruce Davis and Justin Hickman at defensive end and Kevin Brown and walk-on Robert Garcia at tackles. On the second string is Nikola Dragovic and William Snead at the ends, with Noah Sutherland and Phillip Rauscher at tackle. Davis had a couple of sacks and a deflection. Surprisingly, Dragovic and Snead also looked good today, getting their share of pressures and even sacks. This group of d-ends might actually be able to put some pressure on a quarterback – but the question could be whether they can stop the run.

The linebackers have had a great camp so far, and looked stellar today. Middle linebacker Justin London was dominating at times, breaking up passes, putting hits on ball-carriers and rushing the passer. Spencer Havner also had a good performance, putting a stinging hit on fullback Michael Pitre and getting a nice sack. Back-up middle linebacker Tim Warfield made a couple of plays today, getting a tackle for a loss and almost an interception on a break-up.

The defensive backs, overall, also looked good. There isn't necessarily a flashy corner who really stands out, but the coverage by the corners has been very solid. Matt Clark has been steady and the two candidates for the open job – Marcus Cassel and Nnamdi Ohaeri – have been consistently good. The safeties haven't distinguished themselves particularly. Back-up free safety Chris Horton, who is also the #1 nickel back, has made a couple of plays, getting a nice break-up today.

Back-up corner Joe Garcia has left the team for personal reasons.

Wide receiver Tab Perry, who is trying to get rein-stated, attended practice and said that he had his complete academic records prepared. He said he could expect an answer as soon as tomorrow.

Karl Dorrell said: "We got a lot of work in, and a lot of guys are getting better. Offensively we're starting to make the plays down the field and in the run game. Defensively there are some of those young corners and safeties making plays, and linebacker-wise, we had some guys who stepped it up and did some good things there. I'm really pleased with where we're at for our first two-a-day. The team is working hard and spirits are high. It's a good start."


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