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UCLA REPORT

Leisle Has Latest Significant Injury

October 28, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

A bye week would look good right now to UCLA, which seems to suffer at least one significant injury a game. But there are no breaks in the Bruin schedule, so the team will hobble onward, to Stanford on Saturday.

Defensive tackle Rodney Leisle has been diagnosed with a high sprain of his left ankle, an injury suffered in the first half Saturday night against Arizona State. He is out indefinitely.

A high sprain is more severe than a regular sprain, as UCLA cornerback Matt Ware can attest -- the junior has sat out two games because of a high sprain of his left ankle, which is still in a protective boot, and he is doubtful for Stanford.

The bigger the player -- Leisle is 6 feet 3, 289 pounds -- the longer it takes for an ankle to return to full strength after such a sprain, so Leisle, whose ankle is also in a protective boot, could be out for several weeks.

Senior Keith Short, whom Coach Karl Dorrell chose as defensive player of the week for his performance against Arizona State, will probably start his third consecutive game for Ware, UCLA's top pass defender. Sophomore C.J. Niusulu and senior Asi Faoa will fill in for Leisle, a senior who is one of the Bruins' top run-stoppers.

Replacing running back Manuel White, the versatile junior who sustained a fractured right shoulder blade Saturday and is out for the season, will be more difficult.

White is UCLA's leading rusher with 379 yards and three touchdowns in 96 carries. He's also the Bruins' best pass-catching back, with 10 receptions for 101 yards, and the team's best blocking back. Because White shifts between tailback and fullback, losing him is like losing two players.

"It's a significant blow for us," Dorrell said. "He's a dual-role player who gives us a lot of versatility. Other guys on our team can't do things like him. There's no one who can play both tailback and fullback."

Tyler Ebell will start at tailback against Stanford, and freshman Maurice Drew, who rushed for 176 yards in 18 carries and scored the game-winning touchdown on an 83-yard run against Arizona State, will play a lot. Seldom-used Akil Harris moves up to third on the tailback depth chart.

Pat Norton and J.D. Groves will split time at fullback, but while both are solid blockers and Norton has good hands, neither is the big-play threat that White is.

*

UCLA has given up only three touchdowns in the second half of its last five games and has shut out three of its last four opponents in the second half.... Kevin Brown, who replaced Paul Mociler in the lineup Saturday, became the first UCLA true freshman to start at offensive guard since 1981, when Duval Love started one game.

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