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Injury update: Taylor Embree returns

As expected, receiver Taylor Embree went through a full practice Monday -- the first time he has done so since he strained his right calf on Aug. 10.

Embree, the team's leading receiver the last two seasons, didn't seem affected by the nearly three-week layoff as he shined in the two-minute drill at the end of practice with receptions on three consecutive plays to help set up a field goal.

He caught a fourth-and-six pass for an 18-yard gain, gained 15 on the next play then found the sidelines for a six yard gain to put the ball at the 20. Three plays later, Kip Smith made a 30-yard field goal.

"It's great to have him back," coach Rick Neuheisel said. "He made some great plays in that clock drive. A very valuable player."

Neuheisel says he expects to have Embree available for Saturday's game at Houston. Being a senior and a three-year starter, the time off from camp won't hurt much, Neuheisel said. In fact, he said it might have helped.

"I think it’s actually a blessing because his legs are fresh," Neuheisel said. "He’s one of those hard workers who can kind of end up running himself dry."

Embree had 32 catches for 409 yards last season and had 45 catches for 608 yards in 2009. He also returned punts for the Bruins last season and returned to that unit during special teams practice Monday. He wasn't expected to miss as much time as he did and had an MRI exam last week that revealed some fluid but no major injury so he was cleared to resume playing this week.

In other injury news:

  • Offensive lineman Jeff Baca was in shoulder pads and a helmet as he went through some drills and running on the side and is expected to return to practice sometime this week. It was the first time Baca had been in pads since breaking his ankle in spring practice last March. Barring any setbacks, Baca is expected to play in Week 2 against San Jose State.

  • Defensive lineman Seali'i Epenesa fractured his elbow during Friday's scrimmage at the Rose Bowl and did not dress for practice. He had his arm in a sling, but said the injury was not serious and he would probably miss only one game.

  • Offensive lineman Chris Ward, out because of a sprained ankle, dressed for practice but did only light work. Neuheisel said he expected to have Ward available for Saturday's game.

  • F-back Damien Thigpen, out since the first week of training camp because of a pulled hamstring, dressed for practice but didn't participate in any of the team drills. He is not likely to play Saturday.