UCLA held a night practice Monday, starting the session at about 6 p.m. and finishing at around 8. The accommodation had to be made because many of the Bruins' players have classes Monday afternoons. UCLA doesn't normally practice on Mondays, but did this week because the Bruins play a Thursday night game.
"Class schedule required a later start, but I was pleased with the way they came to work," coach Rick Neuheisel said.
The energy level didn't suffer much as the team showed fire and pep, especially early on. The fact the Bruins can get into a tie for first place in the Pac-12 South division with a victory Thursday has infused the team with a charge of excitement.
"Everybody is eager," receiver Nelson Rosario said. "We're ready. We know we're in a race right now and people are showing energy that they haven't previously shown. We know what's at stake coming up here."
A few tidbits:
Safety Tony Dye did not dress for practice after attempting to go on Sunday. Neuheisel said it didn't look as if he would be able to play Thursday and that they are still thinking about the possibility of redshirting him this season because of a nerve issue in his neck that creates numbness when Dye hits. "Obviously that’s dangerous and we’ve got to make sure that the folks that know do what’s right for Tony," Neuheisel said. "We just have to make sure what is the prudent thing to do as we go forward."
Neuheisel also ruled out cornerback Jamie Graham (knee) and safety Alex Mascarenas (concussion) from playing Thursday night.
Receiver Shaquelle Evans went full speed in practice and was out of the red no-contact jersey he wore Sunday, a sign that he has passed the concussion protocol and is OK to play Thursday.
Albert Cid and Chris Ward are locked into a battle for the starting strong side guard spot and they have alternated reps with the first team this week, but no favorite seems to have emerged. Said Neuheisel: "I like it when it’s close and I like when they keep clawing and trying and fighting for it and both become better players and consequently our depth gets better."
Johnathan Franklin appears to have regained an extra burst during the bye week. He had been nursing a bruised hip the last two weeks but flashed some excellent runs Monday night. After scoring on one run, he jogged back to the huddle and gave every offensive lineman a high five.
Kevin Prince had a bit of an off day at quarterback, throwing several interceptions in different drills. He had one in a red-zone drill where he threw into double coverage and Stan McKay picked it off, and another in the two-minute drill where Andrew Abbott picked off a swing pass in the flat and returned it for a touchdown. "There are some things we can fix, but the mistakes that were made were ones that are easily correctable," Neuheisel said. "We just can’t turn it over. That’s the key. We’ve got to keep working within his comfort zone to make sure that’s the case."