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UCLA FOOTBALL

Battle brewing between backup cornerbacks

Redshirt freshman Andrew Abbott appears to have a slight edge over Courtney Viney. 'He doesn't panic, and he can read routes,' the cornerbacks coach says.

August 20, 2009|Chris Foster

UCLA's offensive line had a bad time Wednesday, but not with its play during practice.

Center Kai Maiava, around whom the line is built, sat out the end of practice with a sore left shoulder. Micah Kia, who has been sharing the starting left guard spot, then suffered a knee injury and was carted off the field.

"What I thought was a really good practice was marred by a late injury to Micah Kia," a downcast Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "We'll have to see what the extent of that injury is. He has been having a good camp."

Kia was injured near the end of practice on a pass play and was to undergo an MRI either Wednesday night or this morning.

The injury came just as he had clawed his way into competition for a starting spot, splitting time at guard with freshman Stanley Hasiak.

The Bruins have also lost backup center Nick Ekbatani, who is out at least four weeks because of an injured left knee.

Neuheisel was less concerned about Maiava, who watched from the sideline the last part of practice. Ryan Taylor took over center on the first team and Jake Dean was center on the second team.

"It was precautionary," Neuheisel said. "He just has a sore shoulder, which is the nature of the beast when you're in the trenches."

Sugar and spice

There are different ways to handle a young quarterback. Redshirt freshman Kevin Prince is getting a couple of versions.

Neuheisel said the level of compliments he hands out depends on the quarterback's personality. With Prince, Neuheisel said, "He's a self-starter, he can take a little sugar. He can take a little. I don't want to give too much. He's too young."

Chow's tact is more humorous. "I told Kevin that I would go to the New York Athletic Club one more time, with him, and then I'll retire," said Chow, who has had three quarterbacks win the Heisman Trophy. "Ah, but by then I'll probably have been fired."

Prince had a good day Wednesday, throwing back-to-back touchdown passes in red zone situations.

Meanwhile, the quest to find a backup quarterback goes on. Chow was obviously unhappy with senior Kevin Craft and freshman Richard Brehaut during practice.

Hey, Abbott

Andrew Abbott, a walk-on cornerback, reestablished himself quickly in full-contact drills after returning from a concussion Wednesday.

He spent most of both practices on the first team as the nickel back.

"Working with the first team as the nickel is a good way for me to get on the field right now," Abbott said. "I'll do special teams, I'll do anything. I just want to play."

Travel tips

Using walk-on punter Dan- ny Rees as holder does cause a minor travel problem for the Bruins. Teams can take only 64 players on the road for Pacific 10 Conference games.

"That would be more of an issue if he clearly wasn't our best holder," Neuheisel said.

Quick hits

Defensive end Greg Townsend Jr., a high-end recruit from Beverly Hills High, was at UCLA's practice. Townsend, son of former Raider Greg Townsend, will be a junior this fall. . . . Tailback Christian Ramirez (hamstring) and linebacker Steve Sloan both returned to practice Wednesday, though Sloan was limited to non-contact drills. . . . Wide receiver Gavin Ketchum (hamstring) and safety Tony Dye (dizziness) sat out practice.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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