Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The son of the greatest receiver to ever play the game appears poised to get his shot this Saturday.
UCLA redshirt freshman wideout Jerry Rice Jr. has practiced with the Bruin first-string throughout this week's preparations for Saturday's visit from Cal and could earn his first career start against the Bears.
"He will be available, and with Jerry, he knows all the positions and can can play them equally well,'' embattled head coach Rick Neuheisel said.
This is not to say that Neuheisel would like to be relying on a walk-on receiver without a single career reception to his name. But after four different Bruin wideouts were suspended by the Pac-12 for their role in the halftime brawl between UCLA and Arizona last Thursday, he may not have much choice.
In addition to Rice's potential promotion, Neuheisel is considering burning the redshirt of freshman Devin Lucien, and running back-turned-fullback Jordon James is now set to play his third position of the season by moonlighting at receiver this week.
"Jordon has played outside, at times, and we will have to use him in personnel groupings that only have two wide receivers,'' Neuheisel said. "It is a precarious situation."
That situation would be dramatically helped if Rice can flash even a little bit of his father's old magic.
"Every time I get a chance, I try to make a play, that's the way I was raised," Rice said before the 2011 season. "I'm out there competing, all of us receivers here at UCLA are pushing each other and we're getting better as a group. Anything can happen in this game, so I'm always ready to play. My goal is to keep my head up and keep grinding. My time will come if I keep working hard."
"He's a player on this team, a guy I wouldn't hesitate putting in the game," Neuheisl said at the time. "Jerry Rice Jr.'s opportunity will come, I'm pretty confident about that. When it comes, I think he'll respond."
If he does, the apparently short-handed and overmatched Bruins might not be as short-handed and overmatched as widely believed.
DYE OUT FOR YEAR: A boost from Rice would be good news for a UCLA team that can use every bit of good news it can get. Tuesday's other UCLA development was, more typically, not encouraging. Starting safety Tony Dye, out since Week 3 with a neck injury, was ruled out for the season and will likely apply for a medical redshirt. Fellow safety Alex Mascarenas is also struggling to return from an early-season concussion and his status is uncertain for the Cal game, leaving the Bruins thin at the position.