The months went by fast for UCLA tailback Christian Ramirez after being ruled academically ineligible last July.
Now his self-imposed mandate is simple.
"I want to pick up where I left off," Ramirez said.
A year ago, Ramirez left spring practice earmarked for playing time. His spot now is less certain, as he is a part of a herd of tailbacks trying to distinguish themselves.
"You need to show the coaches right now," said Ramirez, who sat out the last part of practice Friday after "tweaking" his left hamstring. "Right now, they are trying to see who can do more with fewer [reps]. They are going to start weeding out guys, and you want to stay at the top of list."
There are six tailbacks looking to stay on top, with Ramirez, who will be a junior, and Derrick Coleman, who will be a sophomore, the most experienced. Raymond Carter, Aundre Dean, Johnathan Franklin and Milton Knox are also in the running.
"We're going to have to make some decisions early," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "We're going to have to say, 'These guys are going to get the brunt of the work.' There are going to be some unhappy people. Guys are going to have to learn vicariously, take other guys' reps and put it into their own computer."
The decisions may not be based entirely on what the coaches see.
"Sometimes you have to go on gut instinct," Neuheisel said. "No one said it was going to be all objective. Some of it will be subjective."
Ramirez, who gained 98 yards and scored one touchdown as a sophomore in 2007, was ticketed to be among the "happy" group a year ago.
But academic problems forced him to sit out last fall as a redshirt. That put him back with the pack.
"It's rough right now, because everyone is getting snaps," Ramirez said. "You kind of determine that on your own fate. You have to make the most of the time you get. [Thursday], it felt like I had five reps the entire day, but I felt like I made the most of what I did."
Coleman gained 291 yards and scored two touchdowns as the Bruins' No. 2 tailback last season, but there are no guarantees.
"We talked about that this morning, that it's going to be hard to sort these guys out," offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. "If you try to be fair to them all, you're not being fair to anybody. It's only Day 2. When it gets midway through [spring practice], I'm sure we're going to have to knock it back."
Ramirez said he suffered the hamstring injury accelerating but did not think it was serious. "I'll give it a try [today]," he said.
The Bruins will be in full pads for today's practice but will not scrimmage. Neuheisel said the Bruins' full scrimmages will be April 11 and April 17 but said, "we'll scrimmage some after Tuesday and Thursday."