UCLA had been tinkering around with junior Randall Carroll since its bye week.
Finally against Arizona State in a 29-28 win on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, he was pressed into action.
The wide receiver with speed to burn provided depth at cornerback after spending the week practicing at the position, as the Bruins are losing what seems like a defensive back a minute.
“We have had such attrition in the secondary,” Neuheisel said. “After losing (sophomore safety Dietrich Riley), we’re down to three safeties. You lose one, and it might be (junior cornerback) Andrew Abbott. If he’s a safety, who’s your corner? That’s Randall.”
Carroll could be pressed into action quickly, as junior cornerback Aaron Hester, who was reprimanded by the Pac-12 for comments he made about the quality of officiating in the Bruins’ win over the Sun Devils, suffered an ankle injury during Wednesday’s practice and needed crutches to walk off the field. Neuheisel said he expected Hester to be “fine” and available for the team’s matchup at Utah on Saturday.
With junior Sheldon Price only recently on the mend from a sprained knee, senior Jamie Graham lost for the season after knee surgery and Anthony Jefferson likely sidelined for the year after back surgery, the Bruins were already thin at the position, limited to just Price, Abbott, Carroll and sophomore Brandon Sermons.
From the sound of it, Carroll is welcoming the opportunity, though it may take him from the offensive side, where he’s caught three passes for 34 yards this season after catching 15 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns last year.
“It was real fun playing on defense,” Carroll said. “Get to run around, have fun, get to stop opposing team on third down. It was just basically fun.”
After initially saying that Riley was expected to be fine after suffering temporary loss of feeling following a collision with Cal’s Isi Sofele in a UCLA 31-14 win in Week 9, Neuheisel downgraded Riley’s status drastically on Wednesday.
“He saw another doctor, probably will see another one – those are his options – but it doesn’t look like it’s a career-ending injury,” Neuheisel said. “It looks like he’ll be back, the question is when.”
Neuheisel went on to say that the neck injury could “potentially” be season-ending.
Some extra practice notes:
* Pretty good attitude and energy out of the team the last couple days, and they seem to be in a good frame of mind, understand the difficulty that Utah will present on Saturday.
* Anthony Barr had a couple nice grabs today and seems to be moving around well.
* Richard Brehaut is noticeably rusty, but he’s throwing late after practice to try to catch back up. He looks like he’s moving OK for where he was a couple weeks ago, but I’d still be surprised if he returned this season in a non-emergency situation.
* Senior safety Tony Dye practiced for the second straight day, both in the non-contact jersey, but Neuheisel sounds skeptical about a return.
* Jordan Zumwalt missed practice again with a hip pointer, but Neuheisel said he expects him to play Saturday.
* Chris Ward (knee) again out.