Cornerback Aaron Hester returned to the starting lineup last week after getting benched for the Oregon game and he said the one-week exile really opened his eyes.
"It was a major wake-up call," Hester said. "I don’t like being on the bench and I hope I’m never on the bench again in my whole career. It motivates me. It still motivates me every day. I play every day like my spot is on the line because I know that any day I could be back on second string."
Poor play, including missed tackles and a string of pass interference calls, was the main factor in his benching, but Hester rebounded with a good game against Arizona. He made an interception in the end zone, though he did draw another pass interference call.
"Aaron had a good game last week," coach Rick Neuheisel said. "Wasn’t perfect, but certainly showed confidence. But I saw growth."
Hester, who missed most of last year because of a broken leg, said the early part of the season was difficult because he wasn't used to game speed.
"It was kind of like I was just getting back used to playing," he said. "Everything is slowing down now and it clicked for me Saturday. I felt more comfortable out there and I was able to make more plays to help my team. It took me to not start to really see what I was doing."
Freshman running back Malcolm Jones did not have a carry last week against Arizona, the first game this season he did not have one. Neuheisel said it had nothing to do with performace or injury.
"We didn’t have a lot of plays," Neuheisel said. "We only had 22 minutes of possession time so it was difficult to get everybody in."
Receiver Nelson Rosario and cornerback Sheldon Price went through the entire practice Thursday, though neither got many first-team reps. Rosario is trying to come back from a sprained ankle and Price from a sprained knee. Neuheisel said they would both suit up for the game Saturday.
"How much those guys will play remains to be seen but I think they’re available," Neuheisel said.
Safety Dalton Hilliard did not suit up for practice and Neuheisel said his concussion would hold him out of Saturday's game. Receiver Taylor Embree is recovered from his bruised sternum and was out of his red no-contact jersey.