UCLA Coach Jim Mora released a depth chart on Saturday. Aside from a few positions,… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
UCLA freshman defensive end Ellis McCarthy saw opportunity as he watched from the sidelines rehabilitating his left knee the past three weeks.
"I knew if I kept working hard to get out on the field, I could actually play this year," McCarthy said. "I came here planning to play."
He got on the field Saturday and should play this year. When that will be remains the question.
The Bruins weren't in pads and McCarthy did only a handful of reps at left defensive end. But it did cause a stir among defensive players, who were cheering him on, and left offensive players a bit in awe.
"That's a big dude," offensive lineman Jeff Baca said. "I don't know if I have ever seen one bigger in real life."
McCarthy, who is 6 feet 5 and 330 pounds, was ranked the second-best defensive tackle by Scout.com as a senior at Monrovia High. But arthroscopic knee surgery in August forced him to miss training camp.
The Bruins are deep along the defensive line, but a healthy McCarthy could demand playing time. While it would seem unlikely that McCarthy would by ready for Thursday's game at Rice, no one is ruling it out.
"He's a big, powerful guy, with great explosion," Coach Jim Mora said. "He has picked up the defense well. There is a chance, if he progresses this week, that he could see some time."
Besides getting back in shape, McCarthy will have to adjust to the move from defensive tackle to defensive end.
"He still has a lot of work to do with his technique, but he really had his head in the playbook while he was out," defensive line coach Angus McClure said.
McCarthy said that he gets "winded after about 10 plays," when he is in full pads. But, he said, "the knee is close to 100%."
UCLA released its "official" but "tentative" depth chart Saturday.
What does it mean?
"It's just names on a piece of paper," Mora said.
Mora said quarterback Brett Hundley and running back Johnathan Franklin were starting. The secondary, with cornerbacks Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price and safeties Andrew Abbott and Tevin McDonald, is locked up.
After that, Mora said "none of it" was set in stone.
The offensive line remains a question, beyond Xavier Su'a-Filo and Jake Brendel. Mora said the line was in "a positive state of flux" with the return of Baca, Greg Capella and Alberto Cid from concussions.
Baca, a senior, could cause reshuffling along the line. He can play tackle or guard.
This was the first concussion he has suffered, but it was bad enough to require virtual house arrest.
"All I could do was rest," Baca said. "I love to read, but I wasn't even allowed to do that. Until I was symptom-free for 24 hours, I wasn't allowed to do anything."
The Bruins will be in full pads Sunday, giving Baca a chance to go through contact drills.
"We'll see how he handles things," Mora said. "His technique needs to be sound. He needs to be comfortable in the new system. I think with his experience he could be comfortable in the system a lot quicker than a guy who had never played."
Baca has started 33 games during his career, 14 at guard and 19 at tackle.
Wide receiver Javon Williams was held out of practice because of an NCAA clearinghouse issue. He is expected to be allowed to play once the NCAA receives one transcript. … Tight end Ian Taubler left practice with a injured right ankle. … Linebacker Aaron Porter missed practice because of an illness.