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August 31, 1995|STEVE SPRINGER

George Kase figured to be unhappy with the new 4-3 alignment that will serve as the centerpiece of the UCLA defense. After all, in the old 3-4 system, he was the focal point of the action as the nose guard. Now he's one of three defensive tackles and behind Travis Kirschke and Grady Stretz on the depth chart.

"I was apprehensive," said Kase, a senior.

Not anymore.

He is walking around the team's practice site at Spaulding Field these days with a smile that couldn't be bigger if he had just been told he was the top draft choice of the San Francisco 49ers.

That's because Kase now realizes that the spotlight is off him, allowing him the freedom to attack against a single blocker. It's tough enough lining up over the center and serving as a human blocking dummy for an aggressive offensive line when you have the size to take on your opponents. When you stand only 6-2 1/2 and weigh 225 pounds, as does Kase, and are going against 300 pounders, it's really tough.

That's the reason the Bruin coaching staff made the switch. Possessing speed and versatility but lacking bulk, the UCLA defensive line hopes to increase the pressure with the 4-3.

"It's going to take a lot more energy to play in this defense," Kase said. "People will be rolling in and rolling out. I couldn't be more excited."


Although they have their share of question marks, starting with their quarterback, the Bruins won't have the luxury of easing into the season. The first four UCLA opponents (Miami, Brigham Young, Oregon and Washington State) went to bowl games last season and had a combined record of 37-13.

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