UCLA center Kai Maiava was slouching on crutches during the entirety of Monday’s spring football practice and coaches said it is likely he will stay that way for the remaining three practices and this Saturday’s Spring Game at the Rose Bowl.

Maiava, a redshirt sophomore, sustained a high ankle sprain in Friday’s scrimmage when he was trying to push the pile in the red zone and someone fell awkwardly on the ankle.

But both Maiava and his coaches fully expect him to be ready to go in the fall and continue competing for the starting job he seemingly had locked up before the injury.

“Obviously I would have liked him to practice these last four days but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it,” offensive line coach Bob Palcic said.

Maiava’s sprain comes after the offensive line made strides during the scrimmage opening up holes for the running game, but struggled with the rest of the offense to protect the quarterback.

On Friday, quarterback Kevin Prince was dealing with pressure in the back field the entire afternoon and threw two pivotal interceptions as the offense was about to score.

Yet despite the pass protection struggles, players and coaches said they see marked improvement from last season when the offensive line was constantly being shuffled.

“I think the only thing that is different is we have the unity we kind of lacked last year,” Maiava said. “It was new coaches, new everything, and just having the same coaches consecutive years just helps us out a lot and makes us better.”

Offensive lineman Nick Ekbatani, one of the leaders of the unit, also said that everyone has worked hard in the offseason to become more physically imposing. But he also gave credit to the defensive line for helping the offensive line progress.

“Going up against a really talented defense … I personally feel like I have progressed the most I have in my entire life going up against Brian Price everyday,” Ekbatani said.

“RADICAL CHANGES”: While coach Rick Neuheisel was pleased again with the defensive performance during Monday’s practice, he echoed what has been a recurring theme for this Bruin team: The offense needs more intensity.

“Our offensive football team has got to take the onus now to match (the defense’s) intensity,” Neuheisel said. “They can say all they want to say but we have to play harder as an offense. It has to happen for us to be the kind of football team we want to be.”

The defense was clearly the superior unit in Friday’s scrimmage while the offense continued to make small mistakes. During practice last week, offensive coordinator Norm Chow kept the offense on the field after practice to do up-downs as punishment for their mistakes. Neuheisel saw some of the same problems on Monday.

“I just think we need guys to step up,” Neuheisel said. “They got some of the best coaches in the land. It’s time now to grow up. There are far too many just plain dropped balls out there, missed assignments, fumbled snaps. It’s too lax.

“We’ve got to make some radical changes.”