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Inside College Football | UCLA REPORT

Leisle Upset by Reaction to Penalty

October 02, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

The NCAA penalty seemed harsh enough for Rodney Leisle, whose retaliatory punch to the stomach of a San Diego State player Saturday night resulted in an immediate ejection and a suspension for the first half of this Saturday's game against Washington.

But UCLA's top defensive lineman felt further ostracized this week when Bruin Coach Karl Dorrell said Leisle's behavior "is not representative of what we want in the program," and indicated he may impose further sanctions against Leisle.

"I know it looks bad for the program, and I can understand why he says that kind of stuff because I shouldn't have done it," Leisle said. "But it just seems like no one is sticking up for me.... I just think someone should have my back, you know?

"I know my parents stick up for me, and that's all that matters. I don't know. Maybe I'm just over-exaggerating or whatever. But that's how I feel."

If Leisle is ejected again for fighting, he would be suspended for the rest of the season, so the senior has no intention of making the same mistake again. But in the heat of the moment, in the final minutes of a hard-fought, 20-10 win over San Diego State, Leisle let his emotions get the best of him.

"It was stupid, but it gets to a point where it gets blown out of proportion," Leisle said. "It's a mistake everyone makes, and I'm not going to do it again. I'm going to learn from it. It looked bad for the team, but I'm not going to sit there and let someone sock me in the stomach, either."

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Defensive coordinator Larry Kerr and Dorrell said Tuesday they had no plans to use 6-foot-3, 225-pound cornerback Matt Ware exclusively against Reggie Williams, Washington's 6-4, 225-pound receiver, but the threat of Williams lining up all game against 5-9, 174-pound cornerback Matt Clark apparently altered UCLA's strategy.

Ware, the right cornerback, took about 30% of the snaps in Wednesday's practice from the left side in anticipation of covering Williams, the Husky All-American.

"I'll be matched on [Williams] a couple of times, but Matt Ware will be on him most of the time, and I'll be on [Husky receiver] Charles Frederick," Clark said. "We'll be switching off in man-to-man situations. Wherever Reggie is, Matt [Ware] will be."

UCLA has played mostly zone defense and cover two, a combination of man-to-man and zone, "but we're going to play a lot more man-to-man against Washington," Clark said. Ware said it took a while to get acclimated to the left side Wednesday, but he says he will be able to make the adjustment.

"Playing cornerback is all eyes -- your eyes are designed to see a certain way, using peripheral vision to see the quarterback and receiver -- and switching sides is like learning how to walk again," Ware said. "It's not that hard to get used to, but the first couple times I felt like I just got off the boat."

*

After he and his father met with Dorrell on Monday morning, tailback Tyler Ebell, a 996-yard rusher in 2002 who has been limited to 126 yards on 38 carries this season, said he was satisfied with Dorrell's vow to give him more carries. But the sophomore would not comment on speculation that he is considering a transfer.

"Now that I know where I stand, I feel better," Ebell said. "I sense the opportunities will be there because of what's going on in practice."

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