UCLA junior Kevin Brown has already made his mark as a starter on both offense and defense for the Bruins.
In 2003, he became UCLA's first freshman to start at offensive guard since Duval Love did so in 1981, and in 2004, he was a first-unit defensive tackle who led the Bruins in sacks.
But after sitting out last season because of a left ankle injury that required surgery, Brown found himself playing with the second unit in UCLA's 31-10 victory over Utah last week.
"It's not important for me to start, not at all," said Brown, who was a preseason candidate for the Bednarik Award as the nation's top defender and the Lombardi Award for top lineman. "With this defense, I know that I'm playing. Last week, I had 18 plays in the game, which is as much as everyone else. So, it really doesn't matter. I'm not concerned about notoriety."
Playing behind Brigham Harwell and Kenneth Lombard -- who started at the tackle positions in UCLA's 4-3 defense against Utah -- Brown still made an impact with three tackles, including two for losses.
"I played OK," said Brown, a former standout at Long Beach Poly High. "I was nervous in the beginning because I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know if I had it still or not."
Brown's ability to get into Utah's backfield stood out last week and as a result, he teamed with Lombard, working with the first team in practice most of the week.
But whether he's a starter or a reserve, Brown said he'll be ready to show what he can do against Rice on Saturday.
"Last week, my pad level wasn't too great, but I'm working on that," he said. "The big thing for me was my ankle. It feels good. It still gets sore from time to time, but once I got into the game, my adrenaline just took over. Now, I know that I'll be fine."
UCLA quarterback Ben Olson, commenting on throwing to tight ends Logan Paulsen and Ryan Moya, who combined for six catches for 106 yards and one touchdown against Utah: "I try to throw to the open guy. If it's the tight end and that's what [a defense is] giving us, then that's what I'm going to do. A lot of teams tend to not really key on the tight end as much."
Coach Karl Dorrell, on UCLA's lack of national recognition: "We still have a lot to prove. We're not ranked yet and we're trying to get ourselves to be in position to do that so there is a lot of motivation for this team to keep playing hard each week."
Last year, UCLA was unranked in the preseason and needed to win its first three games -- which included a nationally televised win over Oklahoma -- before breaking into the Associated Press Top 25 at No. 20. The Bruins reached their highest ranking when they were No. 7 with an 8-0 record.
The Bruins will continue to use starting tailback Chris Markey on punt returns, but Dorrell said he also wants to get a look at junior wide receiver Marcus Everett and freshman wide receiver Terrence Austin returning punts against Rice.... Senior linebacker Eric McNeal, who sat out last week's game because of an incomplete grade, has been cleared and will play Saturday. Redshirt freshman safety Aaron Ware, who suffered a concussion against Utah, participated in non-contact drills Thursday and might also play against Rice.