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Two Close to Return on Defense

September 08, 2004|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

UCLA's much-maligned defense, which struggled against Oklahoma State to open the season, received some good news when middle linebacker Justin London and lineman Eyoseph Efseaff proved healthy enough to participate in limited drills in practice Tuesday.

London, who started 12 games last season as a sophomore and finished second on the team with 98 tackles, had not practiced in uniform since suffering a high ankle injury Aug. 19. London, who was replaced by transfer Danny Nelson against the Cowboys, said he expects to play Saturday at Illinois.

"I'm about 75% to 80% right now and that's enough for me to play through the pain," said London, who calls defensive signals and is also one of the Bruins' most vocal leaders. "It was just hard for me to watch, because I've never missed a game in my entire career due to injury. We have a lot of young guys on the line who need veterans behind them."

One veteran close to joining the defensive line mix is Efseaff, a 6-foot-3, 314-pound senior, who has been sidelined since early in training camp because of a groin injury. Efseaff, who started 36 of 37 games as an offensive guard the previous three seasons, said he hopes to make a contribution soon.

UCLA defensive line coach Don Johnson said that Efseaff's size should help.

"He looks great going through drills, but we have to get him in there for some full-speed contact," he said. "We're excited about having another big body into the mix."


Strong safety Jarrad Page did not practice Tuesday and is questionable for Saturday because of a bruised heel he suffered against Oklahoma State.... UCLA defeated Illinois, 6-3, last year at the Rose Bowl. The Fighting Illini will be without starting guard Bryan Koch, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in a victory over Florida A&M on Saturday. Koch will be replaced by redshirt freshman Martin O'Donnell.

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