UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel said that senior safety Tony Dye did not play against Utah in a 31-6 loss on Saturday despite being medically cleared because of lack of full contact in practice for weeks, but that he would participate in more team drills during practice this week as the Bruins prepare for Colorado.
“The last thing we want to do is have his first hit come in game action,” Neuheisel said. “What we prefer is he try and see what that feels like and we’ll see this week. He says he feels fine. Need to make sure the contact doesn’t bring back the symptoms.”
Dye has been plagued by soreness and numbness in his neck for most of the season, last playing in a Week 3 49-20 loss to Texas at the Rose Bowl. The team’s leading tackler last season, Dye was practicing in a red non-contact jersey even before he was thought to have been out for the season.
Neuheisel said as much as recently as late last month, but Dye has maintained that the pain has improved and that he’d like to play again this season.
That would eliminate the option for a medical redshirt, but Neuheisel said that he has spoken extensively with Dye and Dye’s father, Mark, about the issue, and that’s clear where their thoughts lie.
“He’s a bright young man, his father Mark is a bright guy, they know the whys and wherefores,” Neuheisel said. “Sometimes you start bringing up a bunch of numbers, facts and figures, it looks like you’re trying to coax him to do one thing. I want all the youngsters in the program to know we support them.”
While UCLA players tried to dispel the notion that they were affected by a heavy snow in the second coldest game on record at Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium, Neuheisel said the weather did plague the Bruins in one aspect of the Bruins’ 31-6 loss.
“We didn’t get the quarterback out on the edge as much,” Neuheisel said. “Some of that was because of what they did, and some of it because I don’t think we were ass agressive as we needed to be. Some of that may have been the footing, the idea that they were not able to outrun people because of the traction.”
Neuheisel said he never considered pulling junior quarterback Kevin Prince despite his struggles and the growing deficit the Bruins faced. Prince finished 12-of-24 passing for 146 yards and two interceptions, including one returned for touchdown and ran for just 10 yards on 12 attempts.
Junior quarterback Richard Brehaut said he was about “80 percent” in his return from a broken left leg last week and the Bruins have tried to preserve the redshirt of Brett Hundley.
“No, that was not a situation to put Brett Hundley into,” Neuheisel said. “And, it was not a situation, you know, a cold night like that, to put Nick (Crissman) or Richard Brehaut into. I didn’t think that was the prudent thing to do either.”
Brehaut was upgraded to probable on the team’s Monday injury report and he is expected to see more practice time this week as he continues to work out the rust. Depending on his health and performance he’ll assume the reps that Hundley has taken in practice with Brehaut sidelined.
“I’ll know more about that as the week goes on,” Neuheisel said. “But late in the week last week he looked like he was rounding into form.”