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Bruschi Swarms to the Occasion : College football: Defensive end comes up big as leader of vaunted Arizona defense.

October 20, 1994|JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

You can have your technology. Bob Jellison will take common sense and give you a few Tedy Bruschi stories.

"In his senior season, in the first round of the playoffs, we were playing Cordova and were down, 18-14, in the last few minutes," said Jellison, who coached Bruschi at Roseville High, just outside Sacramento. "We go down and score, and we put Tedy at the point of attack on every play."

Bruschi, who has picked up a few stories of his own as the leader of Arizona's Desert Swarm defense, remembers.

"If the quarterback called '47 power' or whatever, and it called for the left tackle to pull, I'd tell him, 'let's switch,' and I would play tackle," Bruschi said. "Then I would play guard, or wherever the play was run."

For 10 plays and 80 yards, he played up and down the line.

"After that, the other coach said, 'I knew what you were doing, but what the hell could I do about it?' " Jellison said.

But the story is not complete.

"Well, when we scored, there were about 30 seconds left, so they had time to come back," Jellison said. "One of our cornerbacks fell asleep on a play, and they completed a long pass and lined up for a field goal.

"Tedy blocked it."

The stories linger. They were often told in 1990 to recruiters who dismissed them as high school lore when they looked at a 6-foot-1 lineman who didn't fit their programs.

Arizona didn't.

"(Wildcat assistant) Mark Lunsford said, 'I can't believe that everybody's not here. You just don't see a guy that plays like this,' " Jellison said. "There were a lot of people to look and they were interested, but they said, 'Well, he's only 6-1, and he's only 240 and. . . .' "

Sarcasm is mixed with disgust when Jellison remembers Bruschi's senior season. Jellison thought America's colleges would beat a path to his door.

They didn't.

"It's the old computer game," Jellison said.

"He was 6 feet 1. Computers tell most of those colleges to look for 6-4, 6-5, 6-6 defensive linemen. That way, if they can get a 6-6, 275-pound guy who runs 4.7 or 4.6 (in the 40-yard dash) and the guy doesn't pan out, they can tell the alumni, 'Well, look, he had all the tools.' If you take a chance on a 6-1 guy and he doesn't pan out, it's harder to explain."

Nobody has to explain Bruschi, Arizona's defensive end and spiritual leader.

He is happy to explain himself. Bruschi likes to talk almost as much as he likes to hit quarterbacks--and he likes to hit quarterbacks.

Bruschi led the Pac-10 in sacks last season with 19 1/2. He played alongside Outland Trophy winner Rob Waldrop, who faced blockers from every direction in his senior season, freeing up Bruschi to roam. Now Bruschi has the reputation and gets the attention, and Chuck Osborne, who replaced Waldrop, leads Arizona with seven sacks. Bruschi has six.

"The first thing you do when you come up to the line is to find out where he is," said UCLA center Mike Flanagan, who has been looking at Bruschi since their high school days. They will meet again Saturday in Tucson.

Though he moves from side to side on the defensive line, Bruschi isn't hard to find.

"He has that look in his eyes that says, 'I'm crazy,' " Flanagan said.

It also says that he's a player on a mission.

"Mark Lunsford, the guy who recruited me here, and Larry Lewis, the guy from Washington State who recruited me, those guys looked beyond the height and weight and saw what I was doing on the field," Bruschi said. "You've got to have people like that in your program. If you just recruit for numbers, a defense like ours is going to come along and we're going to put your numbers in the dirt."

That, Arizona has done.

The Wildcats are eighth in the nation in total defense, fourth in rushing and scoring defense and regard all of those numbers as a sign of a down season.

"We are offended when people score against us," Bruschi said.

They are second in the Pac-10 in all three categories, behind Washington State, which they defeated, 10-7, last Saturday.

Bruschi made six tackles, one of them a sack of Chad Davis, while facing double-team blocking all day long.

It's nothing new.

"I can understand (Waldrop's) situation," Bruschi said. "Guys were focusing on Rob last year, and he took the pressure on like a champ. He realized what he had to do and played his role and let the other guys have their time in the sun. I'm not saying I'm getting less numbers because they're putting more guys on me. I'm not making excuses. I'm saying I want to win, and if it takes my getting fewer numbers for us to win, so be it."

The numbers are not that far down. Bruschi has eight tackles for losses totaling 55 yards, has recovered two fumbles and blocked a Georgia Tech field-goal attempt in the Wildcats' opener. He has 29 1/2 sacks in 31 college games and has tackled opposing players for losses totaling 296 yards.

Bruschi had a sack in 15 consecutive games, the streak being blown by wishbone-running Oregon State.

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