Arizona and UCLA have a few things in common this spring, namely that both are coming off of disappointing seasons and are hoping for a big spring camp to propel them to greater things this fall.
Unfortunately, another thing both now also have in common are injuries to players expected to be key contributors in 2011. It's the same old story for the snake-bitten Bruins, who in 2010 saw multiple offensive lineman go down to injury and tackle Jeff Baca miss the season with an academic problem. Now Baca's season is in jeopardy again, but this time for a fractured ankle suffered during an 11-on-11 drill Thursday.
Baca has already undergone surgery, but according to the L.A. Times Bruin officials do not know if he'll be able to return in time for fall camp. It's a huge blow both individually for Baca -- who started 13 games in 2009 but likely needed as much practice time as he could get to knock off the rust of missing last season -- and for a Bruin line that's struggled to find healthy bodies for what seems like the entirety of Rick Neuheisel's Los Angeles tenure.
If there's any consolation for UCLA, it's that they're not the only members of the new Pac-12 South dealing with an injury problem. Following the departure of Nic Grigsby, Arizona power running back Greg Nwoko was expected to take a much larger share of the rushing load after carrying 57 times for 270 yards a year ago.
But that may not happen after Nwoko suffered a serious knee injury last weekend:
"He was just making a cut, trying to elude a tackler," said Arizona coach Mike Stoops. "Just a freak injury."
Stoops said the preliminary diagnosis is a torn ACL.
"We'll see how that progresses, but it looks like it will be a long-term deal with him," Stoops said. "This looks like a seven-month total injury for him. I would imagine we would get him back at some point during the season, but I would imagine it would be the latter end."
Nwoko has already used his redshirt season, removing that as an option. He's not the only personnel issue for the Wildcats, either, as two reserve linebackers have left the team, Stoops announced, giving the Wildcats only five scholarship players on the unit.
None of this means that either the Wildcats or Bruins can't bounce back this fall. But it's not the way either Stoops or Neuheisel would have wanted to start such a critical spring, either.