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UCLA REPORT

Everyone Was Eager to Tackle This Issue

August 20, 2005|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

In UCLA's 31-20 season-opening loss to Oklahoma State a year ago, the Bruins' tackling was atrocious and the Cowboys rushed for more than 400 yards.

"We've always emphasized tackling, but in camp this year we've installed a tackling circuit at the beginning of every practice," defensive coordinator Larry Kerr said Friday. "Each defensive coach takes on a different fundamental of tackling. He works with a group and then we switch."

In today's scrimmage, UCLA's defenders will get a chance to show what they've learned.

"The coaches have talked to us every day about playing good defense, and that starts with tackling," junior safety Eric McNeal said. "We've been doing these drills every day and it's starting to pay off."

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Redshirt freshman quarterback Ben Olson on today's scrimmage, which will start at 11 a.m. at Drake Stadium:

"We scrimmage all the time, so this should not be that much different for me. I'm just trying to improve my game all around. I want to take things that are my weaknesses right now and make them a strength."

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Senior center Mike McCloskey, sidelined over the last week because of a shoulder sprain, practiced Friday and will play today. Freshman running back Kahlil Bell did not practice because of a concussion. Sophomore wide receiver Matthew Slater will not play because of a lower leg injury.

Junior defensive end Nikola Dragovic has been working with the No. 1 unit, ahead of senior Kyle Morgan and sophomore William Snead.... Sophomore Chris Horton, sidelined indefinitely after Tuesday's wrist surgery, will miss the season opener at San Diego State on Sept. 3, Coach Karl Dorrell said. Senior linebacker Wesley Walker, who had knee surgery the first week of camp, will also probably miss the opener.

Redshirt freshman cornerback Byron Velega has been used as the starting nickel back.... Freshman wide receiver Gavin Ketchum returned to practice after almost a week recovering from a shoulder injury but was kept out of contact drills.... The scheduled 100-plus-play scrimmage is free to the public.

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