Injuries leave UCLA thin in backfield

LOS ANGELES — The UCLA running game continues to be a rotating door of backs as the injuries have mounted and the depth chart has been thinned.

Jordon James, one of the leading rushers in the country when he went down with an ankle injury at Utah, took a few snaps against Colorado two weeks ago and is predicted to be back in Friday night’s game against Washington at the Rose Bowl.

But Damien Thigpen had barely returned from his knee injury when he injured his ankle as well and he will be a “game-time decision.” Continuing with that theme, reserve all-purpose back Steven Manfro is unavailable because of an ankle injury.

Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone will take anyone at this point.

“We’re looking for the next guy on defense to come play running back,” Mazzone said. “Jordon, I know he is working hard every day to get back out there. He’s a tough kid, he’s doing everything he can and everything he’s supposed to do.

“When he feels ready, I’m sure he’ll be back out there.”

Paul Perkins seems to have the starting job locked down for the moment and Malcolm Jones is available as well but has played sparingly so far this season.

UCLA coach Jim Mora insists that Myles Jack is a linebacker and gave no indication as to whether or not he would see offensive snaps on Friday. With the results that Jack has produced at linebacker and the second-best offensive team in the Pac-12 coming into town, it’s difficult to blame Mora for wanting his star linebacker at his natural defensive position.

“The guy is an unbelievable linebacker,” Mazzone said. “Right now, our focus is just Washington, what we can put together to beat those guys.”

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said Jack doesn’t fit into their defensive game plan. Speaking on the weekly Pac-12 coaches conference call, Sarkisian, who recruited Jack heavily out of high school, is not shocked by Jack’s dual-threat ways.

“We have to be cognizant of where Myles is. He’s an excellent player, whether it’s on offense, defense or special teams,” Sarkisian said. “He’s blocked a punt; I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him catching kicks or punts. He has all those talents to him. It’s a matter of us doing our job and executing our job.”

The Price is right
Washington quarterback Keith Price will attempt to lead the Huskies to their first win at the Rose Bowl since 1995 and it could be the defining moment of the local Compton product’s career.

Price came to Spokane in 2009 as the Trinity League Co-Player of the year after throwing for 2,260 yards and 24 touchdowns in his senior season at St. John Bosco. He came out of high school ranked as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the area but there was little interest from local programs.

Price chose Washington and spent a year on the scout team and a year backing up Jake Locker before taking the offensive reigns.

“Just like they have a player from Washington here, we’ve got quite a few good football players from L.A. that are on our team,” Sarkisian said. “Kids make the choices, they make them in the best interests of what they think is best for them and their future and their family, and you put your roster together and go play.”

Since then, Price has set numerous Washington records in passing efficiency, touchdown passes and completions. He’s close to becoming the Huskies’ all-time leader in career passing yards and he’s transformed from a heavy-running quarterback to a refined passer.

“Nobody works harder than Keith,” Sarkisian said. “Nobody prepares more, mentally and physically, on our roster. And he demands the same of the guys around him, whether you’re a true freshman wide receiver or a senior wide receiver, he expects the same.”

It will likely be the final time Price plays in front of a hometown crowd as a Husky.

Injury report
Although it’s seemed like there’s been a major injury nearly every week this season, finally the Bruins get a week where nearly everyone is practicing. Although left guard Simon Goines’ knee is still wrapped, no changes were made on the offensive line as Scott Quessenberry remains the starting guard.

Another left guard, Conor McDermott, is out for the season after having surgery to repair his shoulder. McDermott played only a few snaps at Stanford before his shoulder dislocated twice in the game. The Los Angeles Times was the first to report the procedure.