UCLA first-year defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker is not into miracles. He understands that the Bruins are not going to transform from one of the NCAA's worst defensive units into the Pittsburgh Steelers overnight.
"There's a certain identity that we want on defense and we're going to do everything in our power to make sure that we put our players in position to succeed," said Walker, who spent most of his coaching career working in the NFL under such coaches as Gregg Williams, Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll.
To Walker, it doesn't matter that the Bruins ranked next-to-last against the run last season.
"I just want these guys to believe that they can do it and I think that comes from the coaches," Walker said. "Everybody tells them how [bad] they are. I've had coaches who are my friends tell me that I was crazy to take this job. We have to let these guys know that we care about them. I don't care what people think. We'll know soon enough if we are good enough."
On Saturday, UCLA ended it's Junior Day practice in front of high school recruits with a 40-play scrimmage, and the Bruins' defense worked without cornerback Rodney Van and linemen Kevin Brown, Brigham Harwell, Justin Hickman, Chase Moline and Nikola Dragovic, who were all sidelined with injuries.
Matched against quarterback Ben Olson and the Bruins' first-team offense, the No. 1 defense gave up a long touchdown drive early but responded with two series of three plays and out.
"We have a new philosophy now and the [coaching] changes have given us new life," starting junior safety Dennis Keyes said. "Guys around here are excited about the opportunity to show a new coach what they can do. Before, it was like the coaches seemed to always have their own idea of what you can do."
Coach Karl Dorrell was impressed with the character of his injury-depleted defense. "It was good to see our first team start to shut them down a little bit toward the latter part of the scrimmage," he said.