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COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Will the Bruins' Price be right?

UCLA's star defensive tackle might play his final game for the school in the EagleBank Bowl on Tuesday, then make himself available for the NFL draft.

December 28, 2009|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price celebrates a fumble recovery against Arizona State during a 23-13 victory last month.
UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price celebrates a fumble recovery against… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price has been a headache for opposing coaches and players the last two seasons.

Relief might be in sight. Indications are the junior will play his final game for the Bruins against Temple in the EagleBank Bowl at Washington and then make himself available for the NFL draft in April.

Price hasn't made any official announcements, but his play speaks volumes. He has 22 1/2 tackles for a loss -- third-most nationally -- and was voted the Pacific 10 defensive player of the year despite playing for an eighth-place team.

He has 38 tackles, seven sacks and a forced fumble, and, at 6 feet 2, 300 pounds, has the prototypical body to play on Sundays.

Those close to him say Price is ready. That ranges from his coaches . . .

"He does a lot of things the NFL is looking for," said UCLA defensive line coach Todd Howard. "He can get off the ball as well as anyone I have seen."

. . . to opposing coaches . . .

"Christmas was not fun worrying about him," Temple Coach Al Golden said.

. . . to those who stand behind him . . .

"He probably has the coldest first couple steps that I have ever seen for a defensive lineman," linebacker Reggie Carter said. "I keep telling him, 'You can't be that good; are they that bad or is it that easy?' "

Many scouts rank Price third among defensive tackles in college football, behind Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy, and figure he could be selected anywhere from the 10th to the 30th pick if he decides to turn pro.

An NFL scouting director, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the biggest concern is Price's consistency.

"He is a guy who can dominate about 10 plays a game," he said. "He has good lower-body strength, power and initial quickness. He will take plays off. When he wants to, he can be very disruptive. After the first three or four steps, he is not very fast and does not change direction well.

"If he gets to a point where he can build up his stamina and play with consistent effort, he should be a good pro."

His father saw the potential early. A former defensive linemen at UC Santa Barbara, Frank Price became an assistant coach at Crenshaw High and got his son involved as a ball boy. Brian never lost his nose for the football.

"We tried him on the offensive line, but he kept tackling guys," Frank Price said.

So Dad gave Brian a little defensive tryout at home.

"I wanted him to get in a stance, take one step and hit me," Frank Price said. "He knocked me five steps backward. I was mad and told him, 'Don't take more than one step. He said, 'Dad, I didn't.' I decided we'd learn the rest in practice."

There were other lessons to be learned. Frank recalls a freshman thinking about a leap to the NFL before he stepped on a college football field.

"He was saying, 'Three and out, three and out,' " Frank Price said. "I said, 'Man, you may say three and out, but you don't know what's going to happen.' I didn't want those things in his mind. I wanted to keep him grounded."

Losing two brothers to separate shooting incidents also had an effect.

"He was holding a football when I told him his brother was never coming back," Frank Price said. "He held it so tight that his tears ran down onto the football."

Price said those emotions were short-lived.

"I couldn't let my sisters see that. I had to be strong."

Now his strength could take him to the next level.

"There are kids who wanted to be lawyers or doctors," Price said. "I have always wanted to play in the NFL."

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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