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Inside College Football | UCLA REPORT

Brant Might Be Starting at Safety

October 09, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

Strong safety Jarrad Page's status for Saturday's game at Arizona was downgraded from doubtful to highly unlikely Wednesday, dealing a potentially significant blow to the UCLA secondary but providing an opportunity for senior Kevin Brant to make the second start of his Bruin career.

Page, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound sophomore who has a sprained right shoulder, ranks fifth on the team with 24 tackles and returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown against Washington last Saturday.

In addition to physically replacing Page, who has superior speed and hitting ability, Brant will assume Page's responsibilities for making calls and last-second defensive adjustments just before the snap.

"He's a real heady player, a smart player, a senior," said Gary DeLoach, UCLA's defensive backs coach. "I'm not going to put a true freshman back there, that's for sure. I have all the confidence in the world in him."

Brant, the son of ABC college football broadcaster Tim Brant, has been a career backup -- his only start was at Oregon State in 2001 -- but he has been practicing with the first team this week and feels ready for the challenge.

"There's a little more preparation involved ... but whether you're first, second or third string, you go to the same practices and meetings," Brant said. "After five years, you have a good idea of what an offense is trying to do to a defense."

Page, who was hurt in the fourth quarter Saturday, is still very sore and won't practice this week. Coach Karl Dorrell said Page may not make the trip to Arizona; a decision will be made today.

"Any time you lose a starter, it's tough," Dorrell said. "Hopefully the backup can play just as well as the starter. Jarrad is one of our best safeties, our signal-caller. His non-availability will hurt us, because he's been a catalyst for us on defense."

But Dorrell trusts Brant.

"He knows our defense, the calls, the adjustments," Dorrell said. "He knows the system, how to make the right checks, to be in the right spots. We think we'll be OK."

*

Free safety Ben Emanuel, who is recovering from a mild concussion suffered in the Washington game, practiced Wednesday but did not participate in contact drills. Emanuel, who ranks second on the team with 39 tackles, is expected to start Saturday, but nickel back Nnamdi Ohaeri probably will see significant time at free safety.... Dorrell said he "may design a series" in Saturday's game for backup quarterback Matt Moore, who is recovering from a knee injury sustained in the season opener at Colorado, but if the Bruins build a big halftime lead over Arizona, Moore probably will see plenty of time in the second half.

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