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UCLA football: tackle Nik Abele forced to retire

May 7, 2010 |  4:53 pm
UCLA’s offensive line got a lot thinner, as tackle Nik Abele is retiring because of continuing problems with his neck.

Fabforum Abele, who was a redshirt as a freshman last fall, sat out most spring practice with numbness in his neck, traced to a nerve problem. He had similar problems while at Irvine High.

The loss of Abele leaves the Bruins particular light at tackle. The Bruins have only four tackles on scholarship until freshmen arrive in the fall, Mike Harris, Micah Kia, Brett Downey and Sean Sheller.

Harris started all 13 games last season. Kia missed last season after suffering a severe knee injury. He sat out spring practice, but is expected to be ready by August. Downey was a walk-on until this spring. Sheller has spent two years recovering from a severe knee injury. Xavier Su’-Filo, who started all 13 games as a freshman last fall, left to go on a two-year Mormon mission.

UCLA has three offensive linemen in its 2010 recruiting class. Wade Yandall enrolled early, but worked out at guard all spring. Chris Ward is believed capable of playing immediately, but was a guard at Santa Ana Mater Dei. Kody Innes was a tackle at Scottsdale Saguaro High.

Abele will remain on scholarship. It will not count against UCLA’s team limit, as he is out due to medical reasons.

“Nik is devastated that he can no longer play football, but his long-term future is more important,” UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said in a statement. “Nik is a great young man and we want him to remain involved with our program, both on and off the field, and continue to go to school to earn his degree.”

--Chris Foster