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UCLA FYI

Some good signs for Kevin Craft

Not only has he provided relief at quarterback, he came up with a better way to bring in the plays.

November 09, 2009|Chris Foster

Kevin Craft is leaving a better legacy on the UCLA football program than anyone would have imagined.

The idea this season seemed for Craft to quietly be put out to pasture as a senior, allowing the memory of a harsh 2008 season to fade away.

But at this point, where would the Bruins be without him? UCLA has four victories this season and Craft is directly responsible for two, both coming after starter Kevin Prince was injured.

His latest salvage job was the Bruins' 24-23 victory over Washington. After Prince suffered a concussion, Craft completed 10 of 14 passes for 159 yards. He threw one touchdown pass and directed the game-winning field goal drive.

"You have to give him a great deal of credit for going in and doing the things he has done," Coach Rick Neuheisel said of Craft.

Neuheisel hedges this by saying freshman Richard Brehaut might have developed faster if thrown into the fire, but adds, "That's not a slight against Kevin. It has been remarkable how he has gone in there and helped us win games."

Craft's hand prints -- and hand signals -- are all over the Bruins' season. He has been a mentor to Prince and Brehaut, with the idea of remaining as a graduate assistant being discussed.

Craft is also responsible for the way the Bruins signal plays onto the field, something he and Prince were asked to develop after the San Diego State game.

"The terminology we were using was so long that the receivers were having trouble remembering it," offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. "I sent Kevin and Kevin home that Sunday to come up with a system to signal in the formations."

The two did, with Craft taking the lead. He had studied sign language as his foreign language in high school, and continued to take courses in it at San Diego State. He mixed elements of that with signals that almost mimicked the formation.

"We went through every single formation that Monday night," Craft said. "I would say, 'What about this?' and Kevin would make suggestions."

Soon after, the Bruins had a system. Whether his code could be cracked by opponents doesn't matter, Craft said: "We run 10 plays out of each formation, so it wouldn't help." The receivers still run the plays in from the sideline.

"We use a little bit of the sign language, along with some hand signals that make things easy to remember," Craft said. "It's just easier to do it this way. A lot times when they sent in receivers with the call, things got jumbled."

Prince progresses

Neuheisel was expecting Prince to be ready for Saturday's game at Washington State. He did not have a headache when he got up Sunday morning, only a sore neck from the helmet-to-helmet hit by Washington's Donald Butler.

"The training staff report is he was cleared pretty quickly," Neuheisel said. "He will do the exertion test Tuesday and they think he will be ready. If he's well, he will play."

If Prince is not ready, Craft will play, but Neuheisel said, "I don't think that will be an issue."

Knox runs wild(cat)

Milton Knox gained 35 yards in seven carries, all out the "wildcat" formation.

"You have to be versatile in it to last a long time, and Milton has some background in it," Neuheisel said. "We'll see what we can do with it. He made some plays, no question about it. Milton is an energetic guy. Hopefully we can continue to expand his role."

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chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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