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UCLA FYI

For better or worse, cameras won't lie

August 31, 2008|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

UCLA gets a national television game to open the Rick Neuheisel era. The rewards can be extravagant. The dangers can be expensive.

The Bruins play 18th-ranked Tennessee Monday, with a chance to impress a number of high-quality recruits who will be attending, and more who could be watching.

An upset could pay dividends. A pasting could put the Bruins in debt.

"We want to be a national recruiter," Neuheisel said. "To have this kind of exposure is terrific. We want to have people across the United States look at this game and think this would be a cool place to play."

The glass-is-significantly-less-full side is, the Bruins could also look like a program in need of major repairs, which could have recruits turning off UCLA along with the TV should the game become a rout.

Neuheisel is prepared for that, as well.

"To go and lay an egg would have initial negative repercussions," Neuheisel said. "You can always point to the fact that, 'Hey, look, they wanted to have UCLA [on national television]. They want UCLA because of the Los Angeles market and all that, and we're not going to lay an egg the next time.' I don't like to talk in those terms, because I prefer to look at it as things will go well."

The Bruins are expected to be cautious on offense, especially with Kevin Craft making his first start at quarterback behind a line that is the team's biggest question mark.

UCLA will play for field position and rely on its defense.

"Tennessee is a great team across the chart that can come at you in waves, that's what you've got to dish out," Neuheisel said. "Hopefully, the conditioning and the price we paid in the off-season will pay off and we can get this game into the fourth quarter with a manageable score."

The opening line

Micah Kia, who suffered a broken left hand nearly two weeks ago, will start at left tackle, Neuheisel said. Scott Glicksberg will be at left guard, Micah Reed at center, Sonny Tevaga at right guard and Nick Ekbatani at right tackle. Tevaga was able to leapfrog Darius Savage, who was penciled in as a starter when training camp began. "We just think Sonny is a bit more consistent," Neuheisel said

As for the beating the offensive line has taken in the media, Ekbatani said, "I can see the outside view, that we're an inexperienced line. What people overlooked is we're working extremely hard. I have never seen a group at UCLA work harder since I've been here. I've said it over and over, we just need to get our feet wet."

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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