Josh Smith, Morrell Presley suspended
UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel announced the suspensions Tuesday before the start of the Bruins' bye week practices. He didn't specify the exact reason for the suspensions, citing student privacy laws, and refused to comment on reports claiming more players could be suspended after appeals.
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"I'm disappointed in both kids and for both kids," Neuheisel said after practice on the Westwood campus. "Hopefully they'll learn the valuable lesson that can be learned from this type of discipline."
Smith and Presley participated in practice with their teammates Tuesday night. Both players said they agreed with the punishment, but wouldn't divulge specifics of their transgression.
Smith is the Bruins' top kick returner, averaging 27.4 yards on 14 kickoff returns. The junior transfer student from Colorado also caught three passes and rushed for 74 yards in UCLA's first six games.
"I apologized to the guys, let them know I was extremely apologetic," Smith said. "Sometimes you make decisions you're not proud of. I'm always going to remember how the salt tasted in my mouth, and I'm going to try to help other people not to make the mistakes I did."
Presley, whose position is a combination of fullback and tight end, was suspended for a game last season for another undisclosed violation of team rules. He also has caught three passes this season while starting all six games.
"I made a mistake, violated a rule on the team, and I'm paying the price right now," Presley said. "My teammates all understood. We know we have to pick up from here."
UCLA lost 35-7 at California last weekend to drop to 3-3 in Neuheisel's third season. The Bruins can scarcely afford to lose any players on an offense ranked 98th in the Football Bowl Subdivision heading into a game at Autzen Stadium against the powerful Ducks, currently ranked No. 2.
"It's going to be rough without those two guys, but we've got to close ranks and go out there and compete," receiver Taylor Embree said.
The suspensions are the latest setbacks in a series of disciplinary problems for the Bruins over the past two years.
Safety E.J. Woods left the UCLA program in June 2009 while facing multiple charges of battery and sexual battery resulting from a series of incidents in an off-campus apartment.
Offensive lineman Stanley Hasiak later was dismissed from the team for personal reasons, but has since been reinstated.
Three freshmen -- linebacker Josh Shirley, defensive back Shaquille Richardson and receiver Paul Richardson -- were arrested in June on suspicion of theft from a dorm. All three were dismissed from the team, transferring to other schools.
Offensive tackle Mike Harris was suspended for the Bruins' season opener this fall, also for violating team rules. The suspension ended his streak of 18 consecutive starts.
Neuheisel said cornerback Sheldon Price's MRI exam on his right knee revealed only a sprain, and the sophomore is likely to play at Oregon. Freshman cornerback Anthony Jefferson is out for the year with a broken left foot.
The Bruins also don't know who their starting quarterback will be in Eugene. Neuheisel wants to see competition in practice for at least the next week between Kevin Prince, who went 13-for-31 for just 99 yards against Cal, and backup Richard Brehaut.
"I would say it would go into at least early next week," Neuheisel said of the competition.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press