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UCLA FOOTBALL

Aaron Hester is making an impact at cornerback

Redshirt freshman could fill an important spot opposite Alterraun Verner.

April 05, 2009|Chris Foster

Aaron Hester announced his presence with authority during UCLA passing drills, shouting, "I'm coming after you," at receiver Morrell Presley after an incomplete pass. Hester has the swagger to be cornerback.

He ran step for step with Chris Forcier, who is billed as having 4.43 speed in the 40. Hester has the speed to be a cornerback.

He cut across the middle, leaped, and picked off a pass. Hester has the ability to be a cornerback.

Now comes the tricky part.

"We're going to continue to develop his technique," said Carnell Lake, who coaches defensive backs. "The main thing is, he has the desire to play."

That was evident throughout Saturday's workouts, as Hester was a vocal presence.

Hester, who will be a redshirt freshman in the fall, is ticketed to fill a vital spot on the defense.

The Bruins have senior Alterraun Verner, who has eight career interceptions, returning at one cornerback.

"We know other teams are not going to test Alterraun, so whoever is at the other corner has to be ready for action," Hester said. "I picked up a lot of nuances watching Alterraun last year. The main thing is I have to be consistent."

Hester was that throughout most of Saturday's practice, with a physical style Coach Rick Neuheisel says he hopes will be tamed somewhat.

". . . When he thinks he's in trouble, he grabs and holds," Neuheisel said. "But is he competitive? Yes. Is he fast? Yes. Is he long? Yes. He has all those things you look for in a great corner."

Hester spent last year getting acclimated to the college game. He has added weight and is now 6 feet 1, 200 pounds. He also has the edginess, according to safety Rahim Moore, a longtime friend.

"He don't care about nobody," Moore said. "He's going to stand you up and he's going to win the battle. He's reckless and fast and just loves the game of football. That separates him from a lot of guys."

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Passing grades

Kevin Prince, a redshirt as a freshman last fall, continued to have impressive moments in his effort to land the No. 1 quarterback job. He and incoming freshman Richard Brehaut received most of the work during the first day in pads.

Prince stood out in seven-on-seven drills and had moments in the light-contact scrimmage. He looked off defenders to his left, then went right, finding receiver Terrence Austin deep down the middle.

"He has a little savvy to him," offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. "He's not physically right with his feet right now. But he has an idea what he wants to get done. He's showing us he can handle what's going on."

Prince also has shown the ability to make accurate, deep passes, and Chow said, "One of our goals is to have more explosive plays."

The competition for the job will pick up speed this week. "We'll decide how to divvy up reps when we get back on Monday," Neuheisel said.

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Quick hits

Tailback Christian Ramirez was held out of practice Saturday because of a hamstring injury. Tailback Craig Sheppard left practice with what he called a "turf toe." . . . The Bruins are ahead on recruiting this spring, making about 60 offers. There were about 40 recruits at Saturday's practice, a mix between the 2010 and 2011 recruiting classes. . . . Jeff Locke, who will be the Bruins' punter, is also being tried out as the holder for field goals and extra points. . . . Forcier, a quarterback turned wide receiver, remained unwilling to answer questions about his position change and the possibility that he might transfer.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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