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COLLEGE FOOTBALL '93 : Suspect Defense UCLA's Concern : Bruins: Most of attention has been focused on battle for No. 1 quarterback position, but ability to stop opponents will be key to the season.

August 26, 1993|JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Terry Donahue is like the man whose house burned down a year ago. He has rebuilt and bought insurance for fire, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and any other calamity he can imagine . . . except flood.

And unless UCLA's defense is shored up, flood coverage will be needed because a deluge of points is threatened.

The greatest emphasis in practice has been on determining which of three quarterbacks will throw passes for UCLA--Wayne Cook, Ryan Fien or Rob Walker. Each has had his moments in the last two weeks but none has sprinted to a lead, with the opening game looming Sept. 4 against California.

The competition is the result of Tommy Maddox's decision after the 1991 season to join the NFL, of Bert Emanuel's decision to move back to Houston and go to Rice, and of a sack a year ago by a team that no longer plays.

Cook was anointed last season, and practice hours were put into his preparation at the expense of others. Then Cook was lost for the season in the second quarter of the opener against Cal State Fullerton.

"It was like losing a whole portfolio of investments down the chute," Donahue says.

After Cook, Walker and Fien played and were hurt, and then John Barnes, a senior transfer from UC Santa Barbara, finished the season as a legend by beating USC, 38-37. The parade of quarterbacks was only partly responsible for a 6-5 record that was miles short of expectations.

This year, things are different.

"We're not preparing three quarterbacks for the Cal game," Donahue said, "we're preparing three quarterbacks for the season. After last year's experience, we just can't get caught like we did. No matter what happens, we will not go through anything as difficult as we did last year, unless the gods are shooting thunder at us."

OFFENSE

* LINE: This is UCLA's pride and joy, with a potential All-American, Vaughn Parker, as its anchor at right tackle. He plays next to Derek Stevens, a senior guard. Starting center is James Christensen. On the left side are guard Craig Novitsky and tackle Jonathan Ogden, a sophomore who recently turned 19 but who long ago turned 6-feet-8 and 315 pounds. He was a freshman All-American last season and will be charged with protecting the quarterback's blind side.

Brian Allen is a blocking tight end, with only 10 catches in two seasons, and Brian Richards, who moved from the defensive line a season ago, is listed as No. 2. Newcomer Troy Aldrich, a transfer from Glendale College, is a good possibility in passing situations.

* RECEIVERS: J.J. Stokes is the heir apparent to Sean LaChapelle as the man most likely to get the ball on third and long. Bryan Adams returns as the other receiver, after a season lost because of an ankle injury, and Mike Nguyen and Kevin Jordan will play.

* RUNNING BACKS: Daron Washington, the top returning back from last season, has established himself as No. 1 at tailback. Ricky Davis backs him up. Derek Ayers is the No. 3 tailback, but freshman Skip Hicks has demonstrated enough ability to threaten for playing time.

James Milliner is the fullback, with freshman Jeff Ruckman his backup, largely because T Ford is academically ineligible.

DEFENSE

"If you look--and I'm not trying to alibi because we haven't played a game yet and I think we will be OK--we've lost a tremendous amount of talent on defense," Donahue says.

"When you take Othello Henderson out of the middle of the pack, well, he was a superior free safety. And then you take a guy like Bruce Walker, who was a 500-pound bench-press guy. And you take Jamir Miller out of there. And you've got Andrew McClave coming back slowly from a shoulder operation this summer. Take Sale Isaia, coming back slowly from his back. And Bobby Gamble and Donnie Edwards have been nicked."

What's left are "11 workers who are committed," says defensive coordinator Bob Field, acknowledging that his charges are not exactly star-studded. But there is talent.

* LINE: Walker, the nose guard last season, is lost for the year because of a university disciplinary ruling after he pleaded no-contest to receiving stolen goods. Isaia was scheduled to replace him, but with neither available, George Kase gets the call and freshman Travis Kirschke pushes him. The Bruins lose about 50 pounds when either is on the field, but both offer speed and quickness. Isaia should be ready to play in the second game, against Nebraska.

Senior Matt Werner returns at right tackle and London Woodfin has won the left tackle job.

* LINEBACKERS: Miller is listed as the No. 3 outside linebacker, called the "stud" backer by UCLA because he is charged with rushing the passer. The No. 3 designation is misleading though, because Miller, who has been slowed by flu, is ineligible for the Cal game because of a UCLA disciplinary ruling. As the sack leader the last two seasons, it's doubtful he will remain No. 3 for the Nebraska game.

Edwards is the other outside linebacker and a returning starter, and Nkosi Littleton and Carrick O'Quinn are senior inside linebackers who started last season.

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