Pac-12: Micah Kia

UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel understands the media and more than most coaches he's willing to help.

For example: Say you wanted an update Tuesday on the status of his quarterback Kevin Prince, who's missed nearly all of preseason camp with a small but bothersome tear in his back muscle. Neuheisel provided a eyewitness, play-by-play to reporters during the weekly Pac-10 coaches teleconference.

[+] EnlargeRick Neuheisel
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireRick Neuheisel thinks his unproven offensive line will be able to handle Kansas State.
"I'm standing right here watching him practice," said Neuheisel, with the typical practice chatter clearly audible through the phone line.

"He's going to throw this ball. I'll tell you after this throw... Oh, it's perfectly thrown. It's outstanding! I think he's going to be fine."

The verdict: Prince is "rusty but healthy." He will start at Kansas State on Saturday. Probably.

Neuheisel is all about optimism. His catch-phrase upon getting hired to rebuild the Bruins in 2008 was "relentless optimism." That optimism has been tested, however, by an 11-14 record his first two years and a fairly stunning array of injuries.

The current challenge to Neuheisel's power of positive thinking isn't just about getting Prince to the opener in one piece. His offensive line is in pieces.

All five starters from last year were projected to return this season, including 13 of 14 players on the 2009 depth chart. Yet guard Eddie Williams is the only returning starter who will be in the lineup at Kansas State, and even he missed half of the 2009 season with a fractured ankle.

Talented left tackle Xavier Su'a-Filo, who won a starting job as a true freshman, opted to go on a two-year Mormon mission. Then the chief candidate to replace him, Nik Abele, was forced to retire because of neck problems. Center Kai Maiava fractured his ankle during preseason camp. Guard Jeff Baca is academically ineligible. Right tackle Mike Harris is suspended for the Kansas State game. Toss in guard Stanley Hasiak's academic ineligibility, and Jake Dean ending his career a year early, and you have a lot of attrition from what might have been a greatly improved line.

This probably won't surprise you a bit, but Neuheisel is undaunted: "They're terrific," he said of his new lineup.

He even spots for reporters a potential feel-good angle with his makeshift line.

"It's kind of a neat story -- hopefully it will be one that's told for years and years after because of the success they have," Neuheisel said. "We have five seniors who've gotten here in kind of a round-about sort of way. Each has their own unique road they traveled to get here."

Those five are: right guard Williams, a junior college transfer; left tackle Sean Sheller, a fifth-year senior who spent much of his injury-riddled career on the defensive line; left guard Darius Savage, who started seven games in 2008 but fell out of favor last year; center Ryan Taylor, a JC transfer who started two games at guard and one at center in 2009; and right tackle Micah Kia, who started seven games in 2008 but missed last fall with a knee injury.

Despite the questions on offense, the Bruins visit to Kansas State probably comes down to something else: How a rebuilt front seven on defense handles Wildcats running back Daniel Thomas, who rushed for 1,290 yards last year. Thomas will be running behind a veteran line. Combine that with a new and unproven quarterback, and you can expect the Wildcats to try to challenge the Bruins with a physical, run-first attack.

In last year's game, the Bruins dispatched K-State fairly easily, 23-9. But this will be Year Two of coach Bill Snyder's return to where he produced perhaps the greatest rebuilding jobs in college football history, which explains why his name is on the stadium: "Bill Snyder Family Stadium." The Wildcats should be a much more finely tuned team, despite just 11 returning starters.

"He's a team builder, no question about it," Neuheisel said.

By the way, the Wildcats have won 20 home openers in a row.

Of course, Neuheisel is optimistic that his quarterback will be healthy and sharp, his offensive line and defensive front-seven will be stout and that winning streak is about to end.

UCLA's O-line takes another hit

August, 23, 2010
If you look at UCLA's offensive line depth chart from 2009, your first though is this: 13 of 14 guys, including all five starters, will be back for 2010.

Sounds great, eh? Sure, the Bruins' line has struggled in recent years, but those struggling young guys now will become salty veterans. And there will be depth.

Insert sigh from UCLA fans, players and coaches here. Things have certainly changed since the Bruins won the EagleBank Bowl.

The Bruins lost another lineman -- perhaps their best one -- early in Saturday's scrimmage when center Kia Maiava went down with a fractured left ankle. The junior almost certainly is done for the season.

The hit list on the line in addition to Maiava goes like this:
  • Talented tackle Xavier Su'a-filo opted to go on a two-year Mormon mission after starting as a true freshman.
  • The leading candidate to replace Su'a-filo, Nik Abele, was forced to retire because of neck problems.
  • Right tackle Mike Harris is suspended for the opener at Kansas State because of a violation of team rules.
  • Left guard Jeff Baca has been ruled academically ineligible, pending an appeal with the NCAA, and even if he wins his appeal he's nursing a stress fracture in his right leg.
  • Right guard Eddie Williams has missed practices due to a concussion, though he should be ready to play by the season opener.

Barring any more issues, the starting line probably will look like this at Kansas State on Sept. 4: Sean Sheller and Micah Kia at the tackles, Williams and Darius Savage at the guards and Ryan Taylor at center.

Understand: That's not a woeful lineup. Sheller, who's battled injuries and position changes, is the only one with no starting experience. Taylor replaced Maiava in the EagleBank Bowl last year, and Kia started 15 games before missing 2009 with a knee injury. And Harris will return after the opener.

Still, there isn't too much remaining margin for error if anyone else -- knock on wood -- pulls up lame.
UCLA's Norm Chow is widely regarded as one of the best offensive coordinators of all-time. Despite that pedigree, things haven't exactly rolled on offense his first two seasons in Westwood.

Injury issues as well as a lack of inherited talent have slowed the Bruins' development. The biggest problem: The lack of a dependable running game due to poor line play. An experiment with Nevada's pistol offense, which was intended to bolster the running game, appears to have been cut short as preseason camp has gone on.

Recruiting under third-year coach Rick Neuheisel has picked up substantially, though mostly in terms of collecting skill players. It hasn't helped that the yield of elite offensive linemen on the West Coast over the past two years has been surprisingly low.

[+] EnlargeKevin Prince
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireKevin Prince's health remains something the Bruins are keeping an eye on.
Still, the Bruins expect to take a step forward in 2010. The biggest issue in preseason camp so far: Getting starting quarterback Kevin Prince healthy. He's missed nine practices with a strained oblique and probably won't participate in the scrimmage Saturday.

So where do things stand with the Bruins' work-in-progress offense? We checked in with Chow.

So where is QB Kevin Prince with his strained oblique and when does that become a concern with the opening game approaching?

Norm Chow: He is right there. If we err, we're going to err on the side of caution. He's ready to go. He's had a great summer. He's been to all the meetings. He stayed with it mentally. He's going to be fine.

In general, where do things stand with the pistol offense? Are you seeing improvement since spring?

NC: We sure have. We obviously haven't adopted it totally. But the parts that we do, we like. Hopefully it will allow us to run the ball better.

How much option do you anticipate using?

NC: Quarterback option? Not too much, if any.

You guys have taken some hits on the offensive line. What have you seen from that unit this spring? What are they doing well and what are they struggling with?

NC: We're actually real pleased with our offensive of line. Our two guards [Darius Savage and Eddie Williams] both played last year, started some last year. Our center [Kai Maiava] is back from last year. Our right tackle is actually a sixth-year player [Micah Kia] who was hurt last year, who started before. Our starting left tackle at the present time has been a guy who it kind of took a while to figure out college and college football but is doing a nice job. And that's Sean Sheller. We have four seniors and a junior on the offensive line. They bring us leadership. They bring us maturity. We feel real good about it. The concern of it is, as it always is in a college program, is when you get someone hurt. We have some adequate backups, but they need to continue to develop just in case.

Explain the "F" position to me. You've got a lot of different body types at that spot on the depth chart.

NC: It's an old H-back deal. It's nothing new; no new revelation. It's the old H-back that a lot of people have used. It's a guy who can catch, who can block, who can run a little bit. We're blessed that we've got some talented people who can handle that: Morrell Presley, Christian Ramirez, Anthony Barr -- a young freshman who just came in -- they are very talented guys. We feel like we've got that position pretty well covered

Seems like you've got plenty of potential playmakers. Who's impressed you so far in camp?

NC: Our receivers are older and wiser. This is Taylor Embree and Nelson Rosario's third year playing and starting for us. Ricky Marvray and Randall Carroll have had tremendous camps. Then we have a transfer from Colorado who has to fight through some injury stuff, Josh Smith, who was a nice player at Colorado. So we have five that we think are good receivers. We just have to see how the game develops. Obviously if we are able to run the ball, it opens up the passing game and allow these guys to show their stuff.

Are the touted freshman, Jordan James and Malcolm Jones, going to break into the rotation at tailback, or are Derrick Coleman and Johnathan Franklin still ahead?

NC: We don't have to make that decision today. We have three weeks before we play a ballgame. Jordan James got cut short with a little hamstring pull. Malcolm Jones has had a terrific fall. He's certainly challenging the other two, but the other two have played well as well. So it's a nice situation to have. With injuries, and so forth we'll probably need them all. I'm sure Malcolm will have a real hand in the rotation we come up with.

Overall, how close do you feel your guys are to breaking through?

NC: I don't know. If I did know that, I probably wouldn't be coaching. I'll tell you what we have done: Our young guys have worked real hard. We've had a good summer. We lost the weight we needed to. We got stronger. We're excited about it. We'll just have to wait and see. We temper our enthusiasm because we play a really difficult schedule. I've heard it's the third toughest in the NCAA. But we're going to meet that challenge. We're excited about that challenge. We'll see what happens.

Pac-10 lunch links: USC's Johnson likely out the rest of spring

April, 23, 2010
Happy Friday.

Neuheisel wants 'more intensity' this spring

March, 30, 2010
UCLA starts spring practices Thursday, and third-year coach Rick Neuheisel said the getting-to-know-you period is over for him and his team.

It's time, to use his phrase, to "let the fur fly."

"Three springs into our term here, expectations are higher, not only externally but also internally," Neuheisel said. "The intensity needs to go up compared to springs before."

Some notes:
  • Neuheisel said sophomore Kevin Prince starts spring as a solid No. 1 at quarterback. Said Neuheisel, "We have a starter in Kevin Prince and he deserves to be named that. He had a very, very solid freshman season. But I don't want to water down Richard Brehaut's hopes of earning his spot in this lineup."
  • Neuheisel said Prince needs to become more accurate, while Brehaut, also a sophomore, needs to refine his knowledge of the offense.
  • Three seniors will miss spring practices due to injuries: offensive guard Darius Savage (back), offensive tackle Micah Kia (knee) and defensive end Reginald Stokes (knee).
  • Junior strong safety Tony Dye might be limited during practices due to a lingering toe problem. Offensive guard Eddie Williams is coming back from a foot injury, so he also might see only limited action, though he has been cleared for contact.
  • Two transfers are expected to immediately jump into the mix: sophomore tight end Joseph Fauria (Notre Dame) and junior receiver/return man Josh Smith (Colorado).
  • The only true freshman participating in spring practices from the 2010 recruiting class is offensive guard Wade Yardall. He's listed third on the left side of the line behind Jeff Baca and Stan Hasiak. True freshman linebacker Jared Koster is a grayshirt who joined the team in January.
  • Xavier Su'a-Filo, who started at left tackle as a true freshman, has gone on a two-year Mormon mission. Redshirt freshman Nik Abele is listed No. 1 at his spot, ahead of sophomore Brett Downey.
  • Four players have switched positions: sophomore Morrell Presley (receiver to tight end), junior Nate Chandler (tight end to defensive tackle, where he's listed as a starter), junior Glenn Love (safety to weakside linebacker) and senior Christian Ramirez (running back to defensive back).

Pac-10 injury update

August, 31, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

Based on news reports and this this useful Web site: The latest on injuries heading into week one.

TE Rob Gronkowski, back, questionable
OG Vaughn Dotsy, finger, probable
WR Delashaun Dean, hamstring, probable

Arizona State
OT Tom Njunge, biceps, questionable
C Garth Gerhart, toe, questionable
C Thomas Altieri, concussion, probable
OG Zach Schlink, knee, out
DT Lawrence Guy, biceps, probable
DE James Brooks, suspension, out

RB Jahvid Best, toe, probable
TE Tad Smith, knee, out
OT Mitchell Schwartz, leg, probable
S Marcus Ezeff, ankle, questionable
WR Michael Calvin, knee, probable
LB Robert Mullins, knee, out
TE Skylar Curran, ankle, probable

WR Rory Cavaille, shoulder, out,
OT Bo Thran, knee, questionable

Oregon State
WR Darrell Catchings, wrist, out
WR Markus Wheaton, NCAA Clearinghouse, questionable
WR Geno Munoz, abdominal, questionable
QB Lyle Moevao, shoulder, out
RB Ryan McCants, knee, out
CB Brandon Hardin, leg, out
OT Timi Oshinowo, knee, out
LB Tony Wilson, knee, out
S Josh LaGrone, knee, out
S Lance Mitchell, hamstring, probable

OT Allen Smith, knee, out
S Taylor Skaufel, knee, out
OT Chris Marinelli, shoulder, probable
LB Alex Debniak, knee, out

OG Micah Kia, knee, out
OL Nick Ekbatani, knee, out
DE Reginald Stokes, knee, out
DT Jess Ward, knee, doubtful
RB Christian Ramirez, ankle, questionable
DE Chinonso Anyanwu, hip, out
WR Gavin Ketchum, hamstring, questionable
OG Stanley Hasiak, stinger, probable
FB Chane Moline, hip, probable

CB Shareece Wright, knee, academics, questionable
WR Ronald Johnson, collarbone, out
DE Armond Armstead, foot, out
C Kristofer O'Dowd, knee, doubtful
DT Averell Spicer, ankle, questionable
OG Nick Howell, ankle, questionable
LB Luthur Brown, academics, out
TE Blake Ayles, heart condition, probable
QB Aaron Corp, leg, questionable
QB Mitch Mustain, illness, probable
CB Patrick Hall, knee, out

CB Justin Glenn, knee, questionable
DT Cameron Elisara, shoulder, probable
RB Johri Fogerson, ankle, probable
RB Chris Polk, concussion, probable
WR James Johnson, ankle, probable
DE Darrion Jones, illness, probable
TE Kavario Middleton, hamstring, probable
DE Everrette Thompson, ankle, questionable
S Jason Wells, Achilles, doubtful

Washington State
WR Jeshua Anderson, hamstring, probable
RB James Montgomery, knee, probable
CB Brandon Jones, ankle, probable
WR Jeffrey Solomon, ankle, probable
LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis, foot, questionable

UCLA's Kia out for the year

August, 21, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

UCLA senior offensive guard Micah Kia will miss the season due to a torn ACL, the school reported.

That likely means touted true freshman Stanley Hasiak will start for the Bruins. 

Kia injured his knee late in Wednesday's afternoon practice. An MRI revealed the tear.

Kia, who has a redshirt year available since he played as a true freshman in 2006, will have surgery once the swelling in his knee subsides.

UCLA's O-line takes a hit

August, 20, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

UCLA's chief concern entering preseason camp was its offensive line. That's still the case, particularly with another potential starter going down to injury.

Senior guard Micah Kia hurt his knee during Wednesday's practice. He left the field on a golf cart, according to reports, and will have an MRI, results of which should be available Thursday.

The line previously lost backup center Nick Ekbatani, who is out at least four weeks because of a knee injury.

Also, starting center Kai Maiava missed the last portion of practice with a sore shoulder.

If Kia, who started seven games last year, is out for an extended period of time -- the initial diagnosis was a knee sprain -- that would open the door for touted true freshman Stanley Hasiak to start against San Diego State on Sept. 5.

Pac-10 internal affairs: Rudy may be running (limping?)

October, 22, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

Getting deep into this week's games.

Will Arizona go small and get big?: USC's defense hasn't allowed a point in 10 quarters. It's ranked No. 1 in scoring defense and No. 2 in total defense. In other words, the Trojans have the nation's best defense. Only one team had success of any kind against them and that was Oregon State, which used a balanced attack to gain 343 total yards in a 27-21 victory. Balance is the key. Without at least a threat to run, an opposing quarterback is simply fresh meat for a fast USC defense, which can then tape its ears back in the pass rush. The Beavers, however, gashed the Trojans with diminutive true freshman Jacquizz Rodgers, who used his 5-foot-7 frame to his advantage instead of disadvantage. After the game, the Trojans defenders actually complained that they couldn't find Rodgers amid the crowd of large bodies. Just so happens that Arizona boasts two speedy, undersized backs. Freshman Keola Antolin (5-foot-7) burst onto the scene with 149 yards rushing on 21 carries with three touchdowns in the 42-27 win over California. He stepped in for Nic Grigsby (5-foot-10), who fumbled in the first quarter, but Grigsby is solid when he holds onto the football -- see 627 yards rushing and nine touchdowns this year with a 5.9 yards-per-carry average. Considering the Wildcats' offensive line is a more experienced group than the Beavers' was, the question is whether the Trojans have learned to find the little guys who are trying to slice them apart.

Ducks foresee sack time with Rudy: In Oregon's 35-23 win over Arizona State last year, the Ducks sacked Rudy Carpenter nine times, including 3.5 takedowns by end Nick Reed. To say the least, it was a long day for Carpenter. The problem for him this go-around is there are abundant reasons to believe he will be again running for his life ... or limping for his life, considering he's nursing an ankle sprain. The Sun Devils have no running game to slow down Oregon's pass rush; they rank 117th in the nation in rushing. While the inexperienced offensive line has mostly pass protected better than last year's unit that surrendered 55 sacks, it still has yielded 2.5 sacks per game. Meanwhile, Reed is back, leading the Pac-10 with eight sacks this season, and his opposite end, Will Tukuafu, is just behind with six. In fact, Oregon leads the Pac-10 with 3.57 sacks per game. So there's your game: Can Rudy get enough time to pick on the Ducks hobbled secondary? Or will he hobble off the field himself?

Washington's players can make a statement on their feelings for Tyrone Willingham by playing hard vs. Notre Dame: It's not hard to pick apart what's gone wrong with Washington during the Tyrone Willingham Era. That's been going on ad nauseum for nearly two years and it won't end until the school puts his administration out of its misery. What can be said is this: Willingham is a man of integrity who cares about his players and has never been accused of unethical behavior. So how do his players feel about him? We'll see this weekend. While Willingham played off the Notre Dame angle this week, this also is a man of considerable ego and his ego will never be more vulnerable than it will be Saturday. If the Fighting Irish blow Willingham out of Husky Stadium, it will be a humiliating repudiation of him as a coach, at least in terms of popular perception. Thing is, Notre Dame isn't that good and the Huskies aren't that bad. If Washington plays hard for four quarters and fights for its coach, this won't be a blowout.

UCLA's offensive line vs. California's defensive line is a battle of wounded animals: UCLA's offensive line was considered a significant weakness entering the season. Each time coaches shuffled the available bodies and produced a small step forward, adversity seemed to bite back. This week, after starting the same five for consecutive games, it was freshman left tackle Jeff Baca going down with a hamstring injury during practice Tuesday. If he can't go against California, Micah Kia (bad back) likely will replace him, while Mike Harris (bum ankle) would make his first start at right tackle. Meanwhile, Cal's defensive front was forced to burn the redshirt of touted freshman Trevor Guyton against Arizona. With end Rulon Davis and tackle Kendrick Payne out and end Tyson Alualu slowed by a leg infection, the Bears got pushed around up front by Arizona, which gained 404 yards on a defense that had previously given up just 291 yards per game. The advantage here might go to the Bears for a simple reason: UCLA can't win on the road. The Bruins have lost five straight away from the Rose Bowl and 12 of their past 15. The O-line is the area that suffers most in a hostile environment.

You'll know in the first quarter if USC is going to roll: USC went to Oregon State planning to take the crowd out of the game. It didn't happen when the Trojans fell behind 21-0. A fast start at Arizona is a hot topic this week. "It's imperative that we're scoring on that first drive," USC quarterback Mark Sanchez told reporters Tuesday. "That means a lot. For the offense, it gives us confidence. It pumps up the defense. Things just go." While the Wildcats received a confidence boost by whipping Cal, they are not at the point where they won't lose faith against an early show of force from the Trojans. And it's not just a fast start; Oregon got that but then faltered for a moment and USC exploded. The Wildcats will have to be at their focused best -- think that dominant third quarter vs. Cal for an entire game -- to notch the upset. In Arizona's favor: It has won six in a row at home, tied for the longest home winning streak in the conference with USC and Oregon State, and a packed house is expected. A tight score at halftime will keep fans in the stands barking at the Trojans. A big USC lead at the break will send them to University Blvd. for a cold one. Or two.

UCLA's ground game takes a (baby) step, won't face Fresno's best DL

September, 22, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

Let's see if we can write something that has a positive spin for UCLA.

It won't be easy.  

UCLA entered its game with Arizona ranked last in the nation in running with an embarrassing 19 yards per game (0.8 per carry) and a season-long run of seven yards.

After rushing for 115 yards against the Wildcats, the Bruins moved up two clicks to 117th (51 yards per game, 2.04 yards per carry).

And Chane Moline's 40-yard run in the 31-10 defeat even gave them a respectable big play from the ground game. 

So there's a bright side to not scoring a TD in eight quarters.

Of course, we're not going to mention that the Bruins rank 117th in total offense (241 yards per game) and 114th in scoring (12.33 ppg), or that now the brunt of the blame is being heaped on QB Kevin Craft, who remains the starter but probably owns a precarious hold on the job.

A couple items might help the Bruins run the ball against Fresno State this weekend. One, the Bulldogs will be without their best defensive lineman, Jon Monga (doesn't that name just say defensive lineman? "Monga want to eat QB! Feed Monga!).

Second, senior RB Kahlil Bell is expected to play for the first time since getting hurt early against Tennessee.

More changes could be ahead for the offensive line, though, with freshman Jeff Baca replacing junior Micah Kia.

Pac-10 Morning: Oregon's Costa out for season

August, 28, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

And so it begins. Pause for a moment and imagine yourself 14 weeks hence. Are you smiling? Love the optimism!

Teleconference quick hits: Coaches' updates

August, 26, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

  • Oregon coach Mike Bellotti says the Ducks offense won't change much with Justin Roper running the show instead of the injured Nate Costa. He added that the Ducks, otherwise, are mostly healthy.
  • Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said Tavita Pritchard won the starting QB job because "he practiced better." Said he expects him to be much better in year two of the system and "will win us games." As for Oregon State's completely rebuild front seven: "Look at their track record of plugging fine athletes into their system."
  • Arizona coach Mike Stoops said it's still inconclusive as to whether TE Rob Gronkowski has mononucleosis and his status is "week-to-week." As for his replacement, A.J. Simmons, "He's a prototypical tight end," Stoops said. That means he doesn't have Gronkowski's athletic ability, which means more balls for the Wildcats WRs. "We are deep at receiver," Stoops said. Devin Ross and Marquis Hundley are the starting CBs, ahead of touted freshman Robert Golden, who will see action against Idaho as the nickelback. As for the offense: "This is the best offense we've had since we've been here," Stoops said. He also added: "This is the best team we've had."
  • Oregon State coach Mike Riley admitted it's difficult to replace an entire defensive front seven but, "We feel good about guys who have played here in the past and guys who have been developing." Offensive guard Jeremy Perry won't travel to Stanford and his status remains up in the air: "I think we'll have to play that out for a while ... I can't even put a finger on it," Riley said.
  • USC coach Pete Carroll said he expects QB Mark Sanchez will get his final OK tonight from team doctors to start at Virginia. As for the backup QB competition between Aaron Corp and Mitch Mustain, Carroll said there is "nothing to declare yet." He said the competition will continue until the end of the week. Same vagueness at TB: "Whatever we list will have an 'or' next to it." Carroll said Joe McKnight, Stafon Johnson and C.J. Gable will get carries with Allen Bradford also in the mix.

(Read full post)

Pac-10 Morning: No official word on Costa's knee

August, 23, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

One week and it begins...

Afternoon musings: Riley opens up about Oregon State

August, 21, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

I'm starting a movement to end all preseason injuries.

Doubt UCLA's O-line? 'Watch us' says center Reed

August, 21, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- It passed through my head that perhaps I should ask UCLA center Micah Reed whether he'd seen "The Dark Knight," or what he thought of Michael Phelps at the Olympics or whether he'd noticed that it was another beautiful day in Southern California.

His look of resignation -- I'm UCLA's center, therefore I know why I'm standing here -- made me want to ask anything other than the obvious, which amounts to "Hey, Micah, word is you guys on the line aren't very good. Care to comment?"

"It gets old," Reed said. "I've heard it about 100 times. Pretty much every reporter has asked me about it."

Fact is, after watching a scrimmage and a practice and talking to harrumphing reporters who cover the team -- let's call them "The Sunshine Band" -- it became difficult to spin this one positively.

The Bruins O-line looks like a crew that's going to struggle this year.

First, understand that UCLA lost four starters from a line that wasn't too stout a year ago. The Bruins averaged 3.7 yards per rush and surrendered 36 sacks while ranking ninth in the conference in scoring (22.4 points per game). Sure, there were big issues at quarterback, but just about every game film included defenders running free (other than the blowout win over Washington).

At the beginning of spring practices, the Bruins' top three tackles were Aleksey Lanis, Micah Kia and Sean Sheller.

Lanis retired due to recurrent injuries. Sheller suffered a season-ending knee injury in a summer ATV accident. And Kia, who started eight games last year, broke his hand this week.

If Kia is unable to play against Tennessee on Sept. 1, then Reed, a senior, will be the only starting lineman who saw any action in 2007. The starting tackles would be sophomore Brandon Bennett and redshirt freshman Nate Chandler, who converted from tight end at the beginning of preseason practices and is listed at 271 pounds.

Coach Rick Neuheisel told reporters this week that he was "past overly concerned."

Reed isn't buying it or buckling.

"We're working hard," he said. "We've got some guys stepping up. I think we're coming together pretty well. It's just mental mistakes. We've got inexperienced guys, guys who've moved from tight end, guys who've moved from the D-line. There's a couple of guys who've just got to rep it out, get repetitions, and they'll figure it out. Hopefully we'll get it together in the next couple of weeks."

That's not exactly what Neuheisel said.

"I think we know what we're doing -- there weren't a lot of mental busts," Neuheisel said. "It's just now being able to carry out the assignment. That's the challenge."

When Neuheisel added that effort wasn't a problem either, it left only one explanation: The linemen aren't able to physically block the guy in front of them.

Reed countered that the guys they're trying to block are pretty tough, particularly tackles Brian Price and Brigham Harwell.

"It's a great thing for the interior three," Reed said. "They're two of the best defensive linemen in the nation so that's just going to make us better. If we can block these guys, we can block anyone."

Reed is admirably defiant about the line. He knows they're doubted. He knows many Bruins fans believe the line is the team's Achilles' heel.

What does he say to them?

"Just watch us on Monday night against Tennessee on Sept. 1," he said. "That's it. Be looking out for us."



Friday, 10/24
Saturday, 10/25