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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / DAILY REPORT : UCLA : Walker's Strength Up, Fortunes Down

August 20, 1994|JIM HODGES

Quarterback Rob Walker is stronger, throwing the ball better than ever but the probability of his playing has greatly diminished.

Walker, a junior who has started six games for UCLA, is listed as third on the depth chart, behind starter Wayne Cook and Ryan Fien, returning from a redshirt season.

"I spent a lot of time on a weight program and worked to use my legs instead of just throwing with my arm," Walker said. "I think that's been my problem all along, using too much of my arm in throwing the ball."

His detractors have pointed to his lack of arm strength.

This time a year ago, he was competing for the starting job with Cook and Fien, based on five starts as a freshman when Cook was injured. When Fien was injured, Walker became second string, throwing two touchdown passes in a 40-27 victory over Washington State when Cook was injured, then starting and struggling the next week in a 9-3 loss to Arizona State while playing with a knee that later required surgery because of cartilage damage.

This season, Walker's role was defined from the first day of practice.

He handles it, knowing there is little he can do about it.

"What I have to do now is to pick up as much mentally in practice as I can," he said. "I know I won't get the repetitions that Wayne and Ryan get, but I have to be ready. I know what can happen around here. I know what happened two years ago with John Barnes."

Two seasons ago, after Cook, Walker and Fien were injured, Barnes became a one-game Bruin legend, leading them to a 38-37 victory over USC.

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Barnes, who had often talked of a desire to try professional football, got that chance--in a way. He recently returned to the United States after a season playing in Italy.

"We were 4-7, but we made the playoffs," Barnes said of his Turin team. "It was a lot of fun there. There was only one American on a team, and the crowds were small. But you had plenty of coaches. As soon as a fan saw you play and learned a little about the game, he would become a coach in the stands."

Barnes recently took a job selling medical supplies in Los Angeles.

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With the top three tailbacks--Sharmon Shah, Derek Ayers and Skip Hicks--injured, a new name was added to the mix, by necessity. Freshman Shaun Williams, who has stood out as a safety in early drills, moved over to offense for a few plays Friday.

Williams played both ways at Crespi High, rushing for 1,835 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior, and also making 100 tackles and three interceptions.

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