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UCLA REPORT

Talent Is Just Around Corner

August 17, 2005|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

Sophomore Rodney Van has been a highlight in training camp with his ability to play against the pass and run. And senior Marcus Cassel has made his presence felt.

But neither cornerback has been able to crack UCLA's starting lineup because of the steady play of sophomores Trey Brown and Michael Norris.

"It's a great competition and that's what makes you good on defense and at a particular position," said defensive coordinator Larry Kerr, who also praised the play of redshirt freshman Byron Velaga.

"We've got some guys really playing well," Kerr said. "They are making each other better and they are really helping our entire defense because they are so active."

Cassel started the first seven games last season before being replaced by Brown, who started the final five games.

Brown played well, finishing with 46 tackles and two interceptions, but wasn't guaranteed a starting spot coming to camp.

"We understand [practice] as a chance to step our game up ... because camp is a long process," Brown said. "The key is maintaining your focus.

"You know the competition is going to be great, but that's going to be all season."

During the off-season, Brown said, the cornerbacks paid special attention to detail in their workouts. After looking back at last season, "We saw so many things we needed to correct in technique," he said.

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Dorrell on unrelated quarterbacks Drew Olson and Ben Olson:

"Ben has come a long way since spring but so has Drew, but under different circumstances. With Ben, he had to progress fast just from the mental capacity. Then, there's Drew who had to deal with serious physical injury and surgery to get back to the position he's in and he's actually looked better than he did last year.

"Both of those guys have responded to the challenge of competing. They're doing a nice job so far in camp."

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Sophomore safety Chris Horton, who returned to practice Monday after missing the first week of camp because of a foot injury, will be out for a while again after undergoing right wrist surgery Tuesday night. Horton dislocated his wrist when he landed on it after redshirt freshman receiver Ryan Graves blocked him on the sideline during a controlled scrimmage.

Running back Derrick Williams, who has been hampered because of a groin injury, has been suspended from camp for violating an undisclosed team rule but will return to the team, according to Dorrell.

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The Bruins will practice twice today and Friday with a free scrimmage Saturday at Drake Stadium at 11 a.m.

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