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UCLA REPORT

Stiff Challenge Awaits Defense

September 02, 2002|Steve Henson

The mobility of Colorado State quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt will pose an early test for the UCLA defense Saturday, especially for middle linebacker Marcus Reese and free safety Matt Ware.

Both Bruins are experienced, but primarily at other positions. Reese played mostly weakside linebacker as a frequently used reserve, and Ware was a freshman All-American cornerback.

Furthermore, Reese's availability is in doubt because he has a concussion. Veteran reserve Dennis Link and freshman Justin London will fill in if Reese can't play.

Whoever is in the middle will have to tackle bruising Ram tailback Cecil Sapp in addition to helping contain Van Pelt. Sapp rushed for 80 yards in Colorado State's upset of No. 7 Colorado and 178 in a season-opening victory over Virginia.

Van Pelt, a senior from Santa Barbara San Marcos High, ran for the winning score against Colorado.

Phil Snow, UCLA's defensive coordinator, plans to use a nickel package more often than last season, when he usually left linebackers Robert Thomas, Brandon Chillar and Ryan Nece in the game on passing downs.

But a lack of depth at linebacker, combined with the development of reserve defensive backs Matt Clark and Jibril Raymo, has made him reconsider.

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UCLA did not practice over the weekend to help players recover from the minor bumps and bruises of training camp. They had meetings Saturday morning and took Sunday off.

The Bruins, who do not begin fall classes until Sept. 23, practice today at 3:45 p.m. All practices are closed to the public, a policy Coach Bob Toledo implemented last season.

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Several Bruins are on the preseason watch lists for major awards.

Ware and Ricky Manning Jr. are on the watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, annually given to the nation's best defensive back.

Defensive tackle Rodney Leisle and offensive tackle Mike Saffer are on the watch list for the Outland Trophy, given to the nation's top lineman.

Punter Nate Fikse is on the list for the Ray Guy Award.

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