Rick Neuheisel could barely hold in his excitement.
The UCLA head coach made it barely halfway through his introductory statement to the media on Wednesday night before mentioning the return of sophomore F-back Anthony Barr from a knee injury.
“It was great to have Anthony Barr back out there,” Neuheisel said quickly. “Hopefully we can have him in some small role for the weekend.”
How much UCLA is to use him is to be decided, although he appeared healthy and able during Wednesday’s practice, seemingly cutting with ease.
How much the Bruins will need him? That is without question.
Down four receivers, UCLA is low on weapons, though the possible return of Barr and junior wide receiver Jerry Johnson from a broken ankle suffered last season would be a boon.
“We’ll try to see how many (plays) we can get out of him,” Neuheisel said. “He’s certainly a guy who has played, like Jerry, a guy who can help us. He gives us lot of flexibility. That was one of the great values we had when he was with us, so it was nice to have him running round today.”
With seniors Nelson Rosario and Josh Smith expected to see much of the reps at wide receiver and F-back Jordon James and tight end Joseph Fauria able to contribute as well, the hope among coaches is that they won’t have to rely too heavily on Barr and Johnson as they work their ways back from injury.
The Bruins found out the flip side of the hurry-back equation on Thursday against Arizona, as cornerback Sheldon Price returned quickly from a sprained knee suffered Week 4 against Oregon State and was punished for it, the Wildcats picking on him often.
“The answer is yeah you wish you would have them all 100 percent,” Neuheisel said. “But sometimes in the course of a football season, you don’t have that luxury. Certainly in the situation we find ourselves offensively this week, we certainly don’t have that luxury. If (Barr) is able to go, and I know he’s champing at the bit to go and it’s not as if it’s unsafe, we’ll continue to explore it.”
With Chris Ward out for practice the previous two days with a knee injury and Alberto Cid suspended for the first half against Cal for his role in the brawl at Arizona, UCLA is expected to go with redshirt freshman Wade Yandall at guard opposite sophomore Greg Capella. Yandall, who has been practicing extensively with the first unit with Cid mainly working the twos, saw extensive time during spring and fall camp with the ones.
Bumps and Bruises
Redshirt freshman kicker Kip Smith (hip) has not practiced this week after practicing more than he has in weeks last week, despite being listed as questionable.
“He’s got a more-significant injury that first thought,” Neuheisel said. “We’ve just got to let it heal.”
* Other notes – Saw some really good catch-and-runs today, particularly by Barr and Fauria. … James looks a go for punter this week with Taylor Embree suspended. … Nate Chandler and Justin Edison got extensive time with the ones as UCLA also has to replace Cassius Marsh, not just for one but two games.