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UCLA FYI

Craft appears to have starter job

August 14, 2008|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

Kevin Craft is looking more and more like UCLA's next starting quarterback. While it is not a done deal, the indications point to Craft, who has directed the first-team offense almost exclusively the last three practices.

Craft and Chris Forcier have been competing for the job since Ben Olson re-broke a bone in his right foot. While all the returns (and interceptions) have yet to be counted, the campaign seems tilted in Craft's direction.

"He is making progress, so is Chris," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. When asked whether Craft has a better grasp of the offense, Neuheisel said "probably, that's fair."

Offensive coordinator Norm Chow said that Craft is further along than Forcier.

"Any time a guy is able to get the amount of reps that is necessary, there is improvement," Chow said. "He still has a long way to go. . . . Being a quarterback is not all about physical skills, it's about understanding what you need to do."

Craft, though, still takes steps backward. He threw two interceptions during 11-on-11 drills and also fumbled a snap.

Neuheisel said those are "big marks off. I've been honest with our team. I think we have a great bunch of guys and we've got a lot of talented guys. But we're not going to win games because of our talent. We're going to win games because of our play."

Craft's knowledge of the offense gives him a leg up, a fact that was evident by the number of times Forcier was scolded by Neuheisel and Chow during practice Wednesday.

Neuheisel said Craft has done "a nice job" with decision making, but "sometimes he's there way too quick. Sometimes he's there late. But he's where he should be. I still want him to remain calm. There's a sense sometimes like he's almost hyperventilating."

That inner peace will come, Craft said. He experienced the same thing at San Diego State, where he started five games under first-year Coach Chuck Long in 2006.

"When they made the coaching change, I didn't play nearly as well in spring as I could play," Craft said. "It was the same when I came here last spring. I wasn't even myself. I have an idea and I want to get to it faster than it's developing."

Neuheisel said there is no timetable to make a decision on naming a starter.

Role playing

Running back Chane Moline's versatility as a blocker, runner and receiver could land him a big role in Chow's offense.

"He's a real solid guy," Chow said. "He understands pass protection. He's an up and down runner. He understands how to get north and south running."

Moline, a junior, has gained 297 yards in two seasons while being used mostly as a short-yardage back.

"I'm playing a little tailback, a little fullback, I guess you can call me a hybrid," Moline said.

Injuries, etc.

Guard Scott Glicksberg sat out the end of practice after suffering a shoulder injury. Nate Chandler, who is moving from tight end to right tackle, sat out practice with turf toe. Chandler is the fourth right tackle lost to injuries since last spring, joining Aleksey Lanis (knee), Sean Sheller (knee) and Mike Harris (ankle).

Tailback Kahlil Bell missed practice because of a hip flexor, Neuheisel said. Quarterback Osaar Rasshan sat out with a sore knee. Linebacker Mike Schmitt left practice with an ankle injury. Wide receiver Taylor Embree suffered a shoulder injury during practice.

Defensive end Jeff Miller has been moved to tight end.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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