UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince rolled to his left and flipped a short pass to Christian Ramirez during individual drills Tuesday. Observers perked up immediately.
"Hey, it was just a three-yard throw," Prince said later.
But a three-yard throw he would not have tried a day earlier.
"That's true," Prince said. "I am feeling more comfortable."
Barring a setback, there seems little doubt Prince will be healthy enough to start the season opener against Kansas State on Sept. 4. The question is, how much will his play be affected by his two weeks away from throwing because of a strained back muscle?
"I feel like I can fight through it," Prince said. "I'm sure that's not what coaches want me to do, and it's not what the trainers want me to do."
So the daily ritual of slowly intensifying his workout continued, followed by a post-practice assessment.
Prince threw the ball during one-on-one drills, completing six of eight passes. His velocity was better and his accuracy within acceptable parameters. He was on a "pitch count," Coach Rick Neuheisel said.
He had the look of a player getting ready to play rather than one testing to see whether he could play. Afterward, he sounded like a player getting ready.
"The ball felt good coming out of my hand," Prince said. "I'm throwing accurately, though not with as much zip on it as I would want, but it is a step in the right direction. . . . The pain is getting less and it's not lingering."
The Bruins have begun work on a game plan for Kansas State.
With two weeks to prepare, Neuheisel said coaches have to guard against the "inclination to want more because we have more time. We have to be careful that we're running what we can run, and running it well, so it can hold up to the scrutiny of a hostile environment."
Kicker Kai Forbath didn't make it out of the training room because of a sore groin.
"He was getting some rehab done," Neuheisel said. But holder Danny Rees spent a portion of practice working on placing the ball for a left-footed kicker.
Punter Jeff Locke, the backup kicker, is left-footed.
Locke said they were following the philosophy of special teams coach Frank Gansz Jr., "to expect the best but prepare for the worst."
Sophomore cornerback Andrew Abbott, a walk-on for two seasons, was awarded a scholarship at the end of practice Tuesday. . . . Free safety Rahim Moore was limited to individual drills because of "tight hamstrings, Neuheisel said. . . . Wide receiver Ricky Marvray sat out practice with a sore back. . . . Cornerback Sheldon Price returned to practice after dislocating the index finger on his right hand Monday.