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UCLA FYI

Quarterbacks, line under microscope

August 16, 2008|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

There will be plenty to scrutinize when UCLA's football team scrimmages today at Drake Stadium.

Will the inexperienced offensive line be able to offer protection, and will it add to the Bruins' already lengthy causality list? Is Kevin Craft the answer at quarterback? Will Rick Neuheisel continue his "relentlessly optimistic" mantra?

Neuheisel, the first-year coach, said he would run "60 to 80 plays" in the scrimmage and, 16 days before the Sept. 1 opener against Tennessee, all eyes will be on the offense.

Craft, the leading candidate at quarterback, can more or less secure the job with a quality performance.

"We all want each other to be good, but we're all pushing," Craft said of the quarterback competition. "You've just got to go in and do what you know how to do. It's not a make-or-break situation."

The bar, though, seems to be set a bit low.

"The procedures, that will be the main focus," Craft said. "Making sure you have all the right guys in there, breaking the huddle at the right time, getting in and out."

The Bruins come in already banged up. Linebacker Reggie Carter (concussion), running back Derrick Coleman (knee), linebacker Josh Edwards (foot), wide receiver Taylor Embree (shoulder), wide receiver Gavin Ketchum (shoulder), tackle Mike Harris (ankle), safety Glenn Love (concussion), tight end Logan Paulsen (concussion), defensive back E.J. Woods (concussion) and linebacker Mike Schmitt (ankle) are all out of the scrimmage.

Five Bruins have suffered concussions during training camp: Carter, Paulsen, Love, Woods and defensive tackle Brian Price.

Cover charge

The Bruins are replacing three starters in the secondary, with only cornerback Alterraun Verner returning.

"When you lose three starters, and when you don't have the quality depth, it's a concern," defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said. "We have to put our heads together and find a way to protect those guys and find a way to put them in a position where we don't expose them."

Walker is comfortable with his starting unit, once strong safety Bret Lockett returns from a one-game suspension.

Lockett and free safety Aaron Ware were understudies to Chris Horton and Dennis Keyes last season, but Ware spent most of the season on special teams. Michael Norris, meanwhile, is replacing Trey Brown, UCLA's best coverage corner last season.

"We're a little inexperienced, but I think we're pretty good ballhawks," Verner said. "We might even be better at that than we were last year. What we need to be better at is stopping the run, because that's where Keyes and Horton made their money."

Depth, though, is Walker's concern. Rahim Moore, an incoming freshman, will start in place of Lockett against Tennessee. Courtney Viney, a redshirt freshman, is the primary backup cornerback.

"The first group, that's an aboveaverage Pac-10 secondary," Walker said. "But we can't get hurt, you've got to stay healthy. Then we can develop these younger guys."

Frankly speaking

Assistant coach Frank Gansz Jr. used a live microphone to run special teams drills Friday, with his voice piped -- loudly -- over the speakers at Spaulding Field.

At one point, the punt unit was slow to get on the field, moving Gansz to drill sergeant-like sarcasm.

"I'll ask [Tennessee Coach Phil] Fulmer to allow us this much time to line up on Sept. 1," Gansz said.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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