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UCLA NOTES

Seidman Reception Is Loud and Clear

September 29, 2002|ROBYN NORWOOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — It wasn't exactly Keyshawn Johnson saying give me the damn ball, but UCLA tight end Mike Seidman let everyone know where he stood.

Coaches, teammates, quarterback Cory Paus, even reporters.

"I need to be a big-play guy," Seidman said.

There wasn't any doubt about his role Saturday against San Diego State after Seidman caught six passes for 134 yards--including a 64-yard touchdown--in the Bruins' 43-7 victory.

So he spouted off a little bit. Everybody was happy enough to let it go.

"I would want the ball too, if I was a big horse like that," Paus said. "I mean, Mike's an unbelievable talent. He does a good job in one-on-one matchups. We try to take advantage of those any time we can."

That's what they did Saturday, and Seidman got rid of the frustration he was feeling after last week's loss to Colorado.

"I hate losing, is the main thing, and then when I can't contribute as much as I would like to when we lose, I do get frustrated," he said. "When we win, that makes me happier than anything.

"You don't want to be the guy being selfish, exactly. I'm not like that. I'm not selfish at all. I mean, if I was selfish, you'd have heard me complaining the last three years that they haven't been throwing the ball a lot. But like I said, I want to win. This is my senior year."

Ever since Seidman came out of Westlake High rated as one of the top 30 players in the nation, everyone expected big things out of the 6-foot-5, 254-pound tight end with the good hands and the open-field running ability.

But before this season, he had caught only 20 passes, and no more than 12 in a season. Despite a lot of talk of going to the tight end more, the Bruins didn't seem to--even this season, Seidman had no more than three catches in a game despite being the clear No. 1 after playing in a rotation in the past.

"He was so highly touted," tight ends coach Gary Bernardi said. "I always praise him for his ... I don't know if the word's 'graciousness' or what, but he was patient."

That's not the same as being quiet, but Seidman managed to voice his complaint without alienating the coaches and the team.

"That's right. He's a polished guy," Bernardi said. "He was easy to talk to. He and I have had many conversations about it, and I've told him over the years, my job was to make him a complete player. I don't want you to leave here just being a guy who can catch passes."

San Diego State decided to play a lot of single coverage on Seidman, and that--along with a couple of play-action plays designed to get the ball to him--opened the doors.

"If they man me up with a free safety, I'm a lot bigger than any free safety," Seidman said. "Then, if I get the ball in the open field, I might ramble a little bit. It's hard for guys to tackle a guy my size."

From the press box, an NFL scout watched.

"He's definitely stepped up his senior season," the scout said, citing team policy he not be identified. "He's intriguing. He's got size, and all the intangibles for the position. But everybody uses tight ends so differently. Some teams want a guy just to be a blocker. He's a guy you want if you use the tight end in your passing offense.

"But this is one game. It's more important what he does against the big teams."

Seidman understands. There's a lot of season left.

"I'm hoping they saw that if they come to me, I can make something happen," he said.

*

Mike Saffer's cough is Ed Blanton's gain.

Saffer, a UCLA senior tackle, will be out three to five weeks because of a broken rib that became excruciating Friday after he coughed. He had informed trainers early in the week that he injured the rib against Colorado last Saturday, but he practiced all week and planned to play.

Blanton, a 6-foot-9, 330-pound redshirt freshman making his first start, filled the void admirably.

"That guy did a great job," guard Eyoseph Efseaff said. "I kept glancing over at him in the huddle to see if he looked OK. He was fine."

However, the loss of Saffer will be felt as the Bruins enter Pacific 10 Conference play.

"We'll miss Mike's leadership," Coach Bob Toledo said. "It's hard to replace a four-year starter with a redshirt freshman. You lose something, even when the redshirt freshman is as big as a house."

*

Saffer is not the only key lineman sidelined with an injury. Defensive tackle Rodney Leisle changed into street clothes at halftime and put a protective boot on his right foot.

He might have developed a stress fracture, although a diagnosis won't be made until today. "It's a bad situation," Leisle said.

*

The Bruins have recovered all eight fumbles this season, including three against San Diego State.

*

Staff writer Steve Henson contributed to this report.

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