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UCLA REPORT

Chai Finds His Niche at Guard

August 28, 2004|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

At the start of training camp, sophomore Robert Chai was listed as UCLA's starting weakside guard and backup center.

But once practice began, Chai was without a position. He challenged Mike McCloskey at center, then was moved to guard when senior Eyoseph Efseaff was sidelined because of a groin injury.

"I like playing guard because it's not as tough of a position to play," said Chai, who will split time with Robert Cleary at guard in the Bruins' season opener against Oklahoma State on Sept. 4. "You don't have to worry as much, because you don't have to make line calls like you do at center. When you play guard, you can just go out there and grind and go all out."

Chai played tackle in high school and opened last season at guard before moving to center when McCloskey was injured in the fifth game. Chai's versatility gives line coach and offensive coordinator Tom Cable plenty of options behind his starting line of Ed Blanton, Paul Mociler, Steven Vieira, McCloskey and Cleary.

"It's time to really get that five working together all of the time," Cable said Friday. "I'm going to play [Chai], and the hope is to play them every two series. That will be the plan for the start, but if one of them gets hot, we will let him go."

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Defensive ends Kyle Morgan and Brigham Harwell, who both recently had arthroscopic knee surgeries, participated in selected drills.

"It was encouraging to see them going through some stuff today, and they were moving around pretty good," Coach Karl Dorrell said. "It was reassuring."

Bruce Davis and Justin Hickman probably will start at the defensive ends against Oklahoma State, with C.J. Niusulu at one of the tackle positions. Kevin Brown, the Bruins' other starting tackle, has sat out the last two days because of inflammation in his right knee. Dorrell expects him to be back next week.... The NCAA requested more paperwork regarding senior Tab Perry's eligibility, which UCLA sent in Friday.... Dorrell said Marcus Cassel will start at right cornerback and be backed up by Nnamdi Ohaeri.... Gaston Green, a teammate of Dorrell's at UCLA, attended practice.

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