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Tuesday, September 27, 2011
UCLA's secondary hit by injury bug

By Peter Yoon

UCLA's secondary, about to face one of the top quarterbacks in the country, is getting dangerously thin because of injuries.

Cornerback Sheldon Price sprained his knee near the end of last week's victory at Oregon State and did not practice Tuesday. Also sitting out most of the session was safety Dalton Hilliard, who has a sprained shoulder. Tony Dye, who did not dress for the Oregon State game because of a nerve issue in his shoulder, dressed for practice but did not participate.

Coach Rick Neuheisel says he hopes to have all of them available Saturday's game against No. 6 Stanford, which features quarterback Andrew Luck, but he thought he'd have Dye last week too. Luck has passed for 768 yards and eight touchdowns in three games and leads an offense that is averaging 46 points a game, so the timing of timing of the secondary issues couldn't be worse.

"It wouldn't be the best," Neuheisel said.

Cornerback Andrew Abbott also missed last week's game because of a concussion, but he returned to practice Tuesday in a red non-contact jersey as he completes the concussion protocol and will be available if he passes all the tests. He would get the start if Price is unable to go.

Price, who injured his knee jumping in frustration after failing to haul in an interception near the end of UCLA's victory at Oregon State, had an MRI exam, but Neuheisel said it showed "no real damage."

With Abbott still not cleared, Aaron Hester and Brandon Sermons were the only healthy scholarship cornerbacks at practice Tuesday. Walk-on Librado Barocio was getting extensive action with the No. 2 defense. Dietrich Riley and Tevin McDonald are the safties with Alex Mascarenas and Stan McKay backing them up.

Mascarenas, however, hurt his hand on a collision during practice. He stayed in for the rest of practice but sat out of the field-goal drill at the end of practice. Mascarenas is the holder for field-goal atttempts.

"We’ve got to get healthy bodies," Neuheisel said. "It is what it is. We’ve got to do the best we can and get guys healthy and go out and play."

Cornerback Jamie Graham, who had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in August, is close to a return and could help add depth, but he said last week he was two weeks away from a return to action. He dressed for practice Tuesday and did some light drills.

In other injury news, F-Back Anthony Barr sat out of practice because of a knee injury and was scheduled to see a doctor Tuesday night.

"I’ll have more to say about him later," Neuheisel said.