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UCLA FOOTBALL

UCLA is kicking around an interesting idea

Injuries to kickers puts the team in a bind, so Rick Neuheisel gives a soccer player a tryout.

September 14, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA kicker Kip Smith didn't practice Wednesday because of injury, but Coach Rick Neuheisel expressed confidence he will play Saturday against Texas.
UCLA kicker Kip Smith didn't practice Wednesday because of injury,… (George Bridges / MCT )

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

UCLA kicker Kip Smith did not suit up for practice Wednesday, resting what is being called a "sore hip flexor." Joe Roberts, his backup, was sidelined because of a quad injury.

That left punter Jeff Locke kicking field goals, and brought a mystery guest to Spaulding Field — Tyler Gonzalez.

Coach Rick Neuheisel said, "Jeff Locke looked good today and we're looking at other avenues."

That would be Gonzalez, a senior who is the team manager for the UCLA soccer team. He received a tryout Wednesday.

"He's the roommate of one of our student assistants," Neuheisel said.

Gonzalez kicked one season at Fullerton High, where he was a third-team All-Southern Section selection in soccer. He would be an interesting addition to UCLA's long history of kickers — Kai Forbath, Justin Medlock, Chris Sailer, John Lee, Team Manager From Soccer.

Gonzalez handled himself well, making a 40-yard field-goal try at the end of practice while players surrounded him screaming.

The concern for Smith's leg has led Neuheisel to seek other solutions as a back-up plan to Locke. Linebacker Glenn Love, a kicker in high school, tried some extra points after practice.

Neuheisel said they will see how Smith "responds to treatment." He added, "I expect him to go" when the Bruins play Texas on Saturday.

Locke made two of four field-goal tries during special team work.

"If Kip's leg is still feeling stiff, I'll do what they need me to do," Locke said. "It's just a mental thing. I know exactly what I'm doing wrong when I miss. It's a matter of going though it in my head."

Locke also added tutor to his duties Wednesday, giving Gonzalez how-to instructions on kicking. Gonzalez made two of three field-goal tries during special team work.

"He's a soccer player, so you have to teach him how to be consistent," Locke said. "In soccer you just kind of run up to the ball and kick it."

Mum's the word

Neuheisel said he has "ideas on how we're going to go about" using his quarterbacks against Texas. But, he said, "I don't feel necessary to share everybody except the quarterbacks."

Kevin Prince, who said his sprained right shoulder is improving, had a chunk of time with the first team, including all the reps during the two-minute drill.

Texas Air

Neuheisel expects a formidable Texas crowd for the game.

"Texas fans are as proud as they come," Neuheisel said. "I remember landing one time to play a game in Austin when I was at Colorado and I never saw so many private jets with Longhorn logos on the wings."

Koster is injured

Linebacker Jared Koster sat out practice because of neck problems. He underwent X-rays Wednesday morning, which were negative, and was scheduled to have an MRI exam Monday evening.

Koster said he injured his neck prior to the Houston game and re-injured it in practice Tuesday.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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