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UCLA REPORT

Linemen Will Get Workout

August 31, 2004|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

At first glance, Saturday's matchup between UCLA's defensive line and Oklahoma State's offensive front five looks to be a mismatch.

The Cowboys return four offensive linemen who started at least six games last season. The Bruins do not return any starters from last season and their most experienced lineman, C.J. Niusulu, had an MRI exam on his left knee after Monday's practice.

Then there's the issue of size. Oklahoma State will start three linemen who weigh over 300 pounds. UCLA's heaviest defensive lineman is tackle Kevin Brown, who is 285.

"People can say whatever, but we haven't played a game yet," said Brown, who returned to practice Monday after sitting out a few days to rest a right knee injury. "We could be the worst D-line in the country or the best D-line in the country.... No one knows until we line it up for real."

The only thing that can be counted on from the Bruin defensive front is that many linemen will get a chance to play. With Niusulu's status uncertain, UCLA will try to defend Oklahoma State with a defensive front by committee.

Justin Hickman and Bruce Davis are expected to start at ends, but they will split time with redshirt freshmen William Snead and Nikola Dragovic along with Kyle Morgan and Brigham Harwell, two players coming off arthroscopic knee surgeries.

Inside, the Bruins are even thinner. If Niusulu can't play, true freshman Kenneth Lombard, sophomore Robert Garcia or redshirt freshman Noah Sutherland would probably start next to Brown.

"This early in the season, you're trying to play as many as you can," defensive line coach Don Johnson said. "You do it to get them ready for Pac-10 play and for later in the year.

"But right now, I'm not sure who is going to start nor what the rotation is going to be. We'll decide that Wednesday night.... We like to give the kids a direct time frame so they can start getting themselves mentally ready."

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Coach Karl Dorrell on Niusulu's injury: "It might be more than what it is, I guess. They're going to make sure and see if we can find out what it could be. But from the examination it looks like there might be some damage.

"It's not a major issue, but it's something they want to get an MRI on and get that evaluated as soon as possible.

"I don't think it's ligament-wise. I think it's something that's smaller, more arthroscopically than anything."

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UCLA is still waiting to hear from the NCAA regarding the status of senior wide receiver Tab Perry. Perry's eligibility is still in question, but the Bruins expect him to be cleared to play before Saturday.... Junior Nnamdi Ohaeri, who was dropped to third-string cornerback, practiced as a running back Monday.... Linebacker Tim Warfield is still having problems with his knee injury and is questionable for Saturday.... Freshman defensive back Rodney Van suffered a sprained ankle and did not finish practice.

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