UCLA lost three valuable young contributors on Monday, with the revelation that sophomore center Kai Maiava and freshman wide receiver Morrell Presley were declared academically ineligible and freshman guard Stanley Hasiak was sent home to Hawaii for “personal reasons” and was unlikely to return.
Maiava’s loss will certainly hurt the Bruins the most immediately as they prepare for their EagleBank Bowl matchup with the 9-3 Temple Owl. After sitting out last season following a transfer from Colorado, Maiava started every game this season, anchoring a young offensive line. Presley was expected to do big things in his first season for UCLA, after enrolling in the early last year to get a head start on his college career. However, Presley had just six catches for 43 yards, including three for 22 yards against Stanford in Week 4, after being suspended for the Kansas State game the week before for violating a team rule.
“It’s disappointing; they should have done better in school,” UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel said. “There’s no other way to say it – they didn’t work hard enough to get that done. We’ll hopefully get them to be more productive in the classroom when they return for the winter quarter.”
With Maiava out, the Bruins will move junior Jake Dean into the center spot and senior Nick Ekbatani in at right guard.
Dean started UCLA’s last two games of the regular season at right guard and started seven games last season. Ekbatani started six games at tackle and six games at guard in 2008.
“All great football teams – and we’re certainly not in the category of great – have guys who rise to the occasion,” Neuheisel said. “Jake and Nick have this great opportunity to do just that. Jake’s done it now in the last couple of weeks, and now he’s going to get to go play center. I’m hopeful they’ll work their tails off.”
Losing Maiava is a devastating blow to an offense facing the No. 19 rushing defense in the country. Leading a line that was reassembled after last year’s group struggled mightily, Maiava was seen as both a calming presence and a vocal leader of the unit.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Prince – whose work is increasing daily as he recovers from a mild shoulder separation – got to work with Dean extensively on practice Monday, hoping to develop with Dean some of the chemistry he forged with Maiava.
“It’s tough – but I don’t think anyone’s taking it harder than he is on himself,” Prince said. “He’s apologized to the team on Saturday, and it’s a blow to not only the offense, but the whole team. He’s the leader of the offensive line, and he brings that kind of fire and passion that really helped the offensive line play better this year.”
Like Presley, expectations were lofty for Hasiak entering the season.
Rated the No. 9 offensive guard recruit in the country last season by Scout.com, Hasiak spent much of the fall camp with as the starting left guard, paired with fellow freshman Xavier Su’a-Filo at left tackle. However, before the San Diego State opener, Hasiak was moved to the second unit and played sparingly early in the season. After being left home for the team’s Oct. 31 game at Oregon State, Hasiak returned to Hawaii the following weekend and took a leave of absence from the program, returning to the team on Nov. 12.