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Freshmen might fill key positions

UCLA FYI

August 21, 2008|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

A decision about which UCLA freshman football players might get the first chances for game time was a topic during coaches meetings Wednesday afternoon.

There doesn't seem many areas where freshmen are ruled out.

Asked where rookies might find positions, Coach Rick Neuheisel said, "Receiver, maybe running back, tight end, defensive end, defensive back, possibly linebacker."

That would leave out only quarterback and offensive line.

Rahim Moore is the only freshman with a job. He will start at strong safety against Tennessee in the opener while Bret Lockett serves a one-game suspension. And Moore will probably remain in the rotation after that.

At tailback, there is Kahlil Bell, provided he remains healthy -- he is coming off knee surgery -- with Raymond Carter and Chane Moline behind him. But the Bruins could use two freshmen from the quartet of Andre Dean, Johnathan Franklin, Milton Knox and Derrick Coleman.

Coleman is out two to three weeks following arthroscopic surgery on his knee. Knox has been slowed in practice by minor injuries.

"There will be a couple freshmen who are going to have to come in and at this point we haven't quite decided which two it will be," running backs coach Wayne Moses said. "The injury situation itself could sort things out. We're ready to start work for Tennessee, and if you're hurt . . . ?"

Franklin, whose speed and cutting ability have been impressive, said, "As far as me competing, I feel I have done all I can. It's not just running with the ball, you have to get the blocking down and protect and catch passes. You have to show you're an all-around running back and not a limited one."

Meanwhile, other freshmen have been moving up the depth chart. Defensive end Datone Jones is getting time with the second team. Cory Harkey is getting more time at tight end.

Westgate swings

Freshman Sean Westgate was given a quick look at safety early in camp, but has been moved back to linebacker, where he has started to catch some eyes.

Westgate, who is 5 feet 11, 205 pounds, has worked with the second team this week, and was used with the first team the last two days with starter Kyle Bosworth out with a minor ankle injury.

"He's a small linebacker, but he's smart and quick and fast and tough," defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said.

Hold that line

Practice opened with a Jay-Z song, "Show Me What You Got," which opens with the line, "This is a state of emergency . . . "

The Bruins offensive line could take that to heart. The situation is such that Jess Ward, a defensive tackle who has been recovering from knee surgery, was cleared to practice Wednesday and immediately placed on the second unit at right guard.

Tackle Micah Kia was at practice but did not participate because of a broken left hand. Neuheisel said Kia would be ready for the opener, but said, "How effectively he can play, we'll have to wait and see. Pain will be an issue, but more importantly, can he grab and use his hand?"

Attention campers

The Bruins' broke training camp Wednesday morning, canceling a scheduled afternoon practice. . . . An MRI exam revealed freshman offensive lineman Jeff Baca has a "small" injury to his medial collateral ligament. He should be back in a couple of weeks, Neuheisel said.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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