Three hundred and twenty five pounds of Brett Hundley’s blind-side protection came crashing to the grass just four plays into a live goal-line scrimmage Thursday morning. Simon Goines slipped off his helmet almost immediately upon hitting the ground, and required the help of two staff members to leave the field.
The projected starting left tackle put little weight on his right leg as he limped toward the trainer’s tent. Despite the brief anxiety on the field surrounding Goines’ condition, coach Jim Mora would later dismiss the issue, a hyperextended knee, as a minor injury that would not require an MRI.
The full-contact tempo in which Goines, a sophomore, was injured has been largely absent in this San Bernardino fall camp. Mora suggested that conducting many live scrimmages greatly increases the risk of losing more players for a UCLA team which has already seen seven cases of head injuries during camp and two potential defensive starters’ seasons wiped out by medical circumstances.
“I don’t want to put us in situations where there’s 22 (Bruins) going after each other. If you had a scrimmage against another team … you’d have 11 (Bruins) on the field at one time, so your chances of someone getting injured are cut in half,” Mora said.
Defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, is a senior redshirting this season with a hip injury, while redshirt junior safety Dietrich Riley had to take a medical retirement this summer.
Conor McDermott stepped in to replace Goines’ position at first. The redshirt freshman held his own against star outside linebacker Anthony Barr, who was kept at bay by McDermott during the next drop back. A few plays later, McDermott successfully warded off freshman outside linebacker Deon Hollins after McDermott was moved to the right side of the line.
McDermott, a high school tight end-turned lineman, used a grayshirt and redshirt year to bulk up for his current role and make the transition from pass-catcher to pass-protector.
A Stable Situation at Running Back
Mora has yet to give an inclination as to who will spearhead UCLA’s ground game in the stead of departed Bruin rushing leader Johnathan Franklin. The coach did say that his staff likes five unnamed running backs, who will all see the field.
Redshirt freshman Paul Perkins and redshirt junior Jordon James figure to be counted among those favored running backs: The two alternated goal-line carries in the brief series of scrimmage plays ended by Goines’ injury. James cashed in on his opportunities by finding the end zone twice, while Perkins came away without any scores.
Neither running back believed that his goal-line touches implied much about positioning on the depth chart. Each back also did not see the rarity of full-collision plays during camp as a detriment to their feel for the game.
“For running backs, it’s pretty much live every day. You have to protect yourself,” James said.
James and Perkins expressed belief that demonstrating the ability to also ensure the welfare of Hundley, among the most sacked quarterbacks in FBS Division-I, will be crucial in earning the starting gig.
“It’s kind of hard because, coming from high school, you don’t pass block too much. … It’s key up here in this offense,” Perkins said.