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UCLA FYI

Bell is still questionable

September 18, 2008|David Wharton | Times Staff Writer

With UCLA needing to jump-start a sluggish running game, all eyes have focused on tailback Kahlil Bell and his sore ankle.

Bell looked relatively sound during Wednesday's practice and said he was ready to play against Arizona on Saturday, but that doesn't mean he will.

"It really will be on me," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "I haven't made up my mind as to whether or not I'm going to let him, just because it's a long year and this is only Week 3."

Bell said he understood his coach's concern. The senior has some experience dealing with injury after suffering a torn ACL last season.

"It's tough," he said. "I want to be back, but at the same time I've got to be smart."

Neuheisel says he will watch Bell for the next few days and make a decision by game time. If Bell cannot play, a healthy Derrick Coleman could pick up some of the slack.

The freshman, who ran out of a Wing-T offense in high school, has improved his grasp of the Bruins' offense and continued to impress coaches this week.

"It's my first year and it's a totally different setting," Coleman said. "But I've gotten better."

Nice note

In the wake of last weekend's disheartening performance, Neuheisel received words of encouragement from an unexpected source.

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden sent him a letter with a simple message: There will be peaks and there will be valleys.

"I just didn't realize," Neuheisel said, "that they'd happen in the first two weeks."

The football coach says he is having the note framed to hang in his office.

"It's a great memento," he said. "Not everybody gets a letter from John Wooden."

New face

Freshman Jeff Baca continued to take snaps at left tackle with the starting unit.

"After the game last Saturday, we need to give some kids an opportunity," offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. "Let the guys compete."

Micah Kia was expected to hold onto his starting spot for this weekend's game, but Baca has shown coaches enough that he will continue to push for the job.

Quick hits

Freshman defensive end Datone Jones is likely to play against Arizona, giving the Bruins added speed from the outside. . . . Tailback Raymond Carter is expected to play. Receiver Nelson Rosario also looked healthier. . . . Neuheisel characterized freshman tailback Aundre Dean as "mid-range between probable and doubtful. I would love to see him do a little bit more." . . . Guard Nick Ekbatani, serving as backup center, worked on shotgun snaps.

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david.wharton@latimes.com

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