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Backup Tevaga won't make trip

November 14, 2008|Lance Pugmire | Pugmire is a Times staff writer.

Backup right guard Sonny Tevaga was held out of UCLA football practice Thursday and won't be making the trip to Washington for Saturday night's game, as Coach Rick Neuheisel said the sophomore from Compton Dominguez High needs "to reevaluate how important football is in his life."

The 6-foot-3, 320-pound Tevaga started the first two games of the season for the Bruins, and he filled in during Saturday's loss to Oregon State when starting guard Nick Ekbatani was injured. Tevaga was listed at No. 2 on the depth chart before Neuheisel's move.

The coach said his handling of Tevaga was "not discipline" but a response to something in Tevaga's "personal area" that requires the player "to do some soul-searching."

Neuheisel declined to identify any incident in which Tevaga, 20, slipped. The player's older brother, Shannon, was a Bruin from 2004 to 2007.

Road sweet road?

Neuheisel coached Washington in front of raucous crowds while directing the Huskies to a 33-16 record from 1999 to 2002, and with his Bruins heading for Seattle, crowd noise has been pumped in at the practice field this week.

But is it necessary?

"I've been there when it's loud, you never know," Neuheisel said.

Yet, those who've followed the descent of the winless Huskies say the crowds have deteriorated into a late-arriving, prone-to-booing, disinterested mass. Last week's crowd was announced as 57,000, but was more accurately estimated at 30,000, a Seattle reporter said.

Of more relevance could be the forecast for rain.

When Neuheisel was in Washington, he said he'd talk up rainfall as an advantage.

Now, he says, "It doesn't rain hard."

On the line

Stability on the offensive line has its benefits, but as the 3-6 Bruins struggle with their running game, Neuheisel is past the point of traditional thinking.

He'll move senior Micah Reed back to starting center and says more adjustments are possible based on who's performing at the highest level the rest of the season.

Reed was suspended for last week's loss against Oregon State, and replaced by sophomore Jake Dean.

Asked about his hold on the position, Dean said, "Micah's been getting all the reps. I really don't know. I'm sure the coaches could tell you."

And Neuheisel did, saying, "Jake's been beat up. He's not as strong as Micah."

As the Bruins try to boost a sagging rushing average of 77.8 yards a game and an offense that ranks eighth in the Pacific 10 Conference, Neuheisel said those results demand an alternative strategy.

"We would not be changing the offensive line if we thought staying the course was the right thing to do," he said. "Part of improvement is creating competition."

Times staff writer David Wharton contributed to this report.


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