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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / DAILY REPORT : UCLA

Future Is Here for Stephens

September 23, 1997|JIM HODGES

From a week without a game came extra time for freshmen to impress UCLA coaches with a view of the future.

The future is now for Jason Stephens.

After not playing in the first three games, Stephens, from Redlands High, was impressive enough to be included on the UCLA depth chart at free safety and stands to get playing time if Shaun Williams isn't ready to go this week against Arizona.

Perhaps, even if he is.

"We're going to bring him out of retirement," Coach Bob Toledo said Monday. "He is really doing some nice things. He intercepted a pass last week. He's a hitter. Again, he's a freshman and he makes mistakes, and that's the scary part about it. But when you don't have many scholarships, you've got to play people. They've got scholarships, so they've got to play."

Toledo would still prefer to red-shirt Stephens, but the need may be greater now. Williams is the starting free safety, but he has missed the last two games because of an ankle injury. Glenn Thompkins has started both of those games but has a sprained foot, and size and speed limitations.

Thompkins is 5 feet 9, 171 pounds. Stephens is 6-2, 181.

The Bruins already have one freshman starter in the secondary, Marques Anderson at cornerback. He intercepted a pass against Texas, which picked on him early in the game in pass patterns.

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Arizona Coach Dick Tomey is hearing that the Wildcats have returned to the days of the Desert Swarm defense, and he figures that the assessment is a rush to judgment.

"I think people are ready to proclaim that we're back to playing great defense again, and I think we've played well against the first three teams we've played--in spots--but we gave up a couple of big plays against Ohio State that made a huge difference in the game," he said.

"So I think we're going to have to get rid of those big plays if we're going to think of ourselves as a good defense."

Ohio State beat the Wildcats, 28-20.

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