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UCLA FYI

Hester sounds ready to play

November 19, 2009|Chris Foster

UCLA defensive back Aaron Hester locked down wide receiver Nelson Rosario in practice Wednesday, then let the world know.

"Oh no, no sir, I'm all over that," Hester screamed.

Standing on the sidelines, tailback Damien Thigpen chuckled and said, "He thinks he's Deion Sanders."

There may be no better way to judge whether Hester is ready to play than to hear him at practice. His season has been one of disappointment, first a fractured fibula in the season opener and the waiting for a chance upon his return.

But Hester appeared fit and ready in practice.

"I feel just like I felt in training camp, exactly the same" said Hester, a redshirt freshman. "No pain. My confidence is back. I'm just out here trying to make some plays."

Freshman Sheldon Price continues to hold down the cornerback spot that Hester won last spring. But Hester is getting more and more reps.

"We think Aaron is on the come," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "Hopefully, we can get him in the game a little bit this week."

Neuheisel said that Hester was "part of the plan" against Washington State last week, but the Cougars didn't use the packages that would have brought Hester into the game.

Hester has been waiting for the chance. He reinjured his leg against Oregon State. Neuheisel said Monday that he wanted to see Hester get his confidence back.

It was clearly back Wednesday.

"Actually, my confidence has never left," Hester said. "Whoever lines up across from me, I have a chance of winning that battle. I'm getting a chance to show [confidence]. I was the original starter, so I haven't forgotten how to play football.

"I'm trying to compete, but right now there are only two games left. . . . The competition doesn't really doesn't seem like one because nobody is rotating out of that spot [on the first team]. But whenever my number is called, I'm going in and giving it my all."

Dean to start

Jake Dean is expected to start at guard against Arizona State on Saturday, replacing Darius Savage, who started against Washington State. The change is because of Dean's better mobility against a quick Sun Devils defensive front.

Ryan Taylor, who injured his right foot against Washington, said he will begin running in practice today, but he is not expected to be available for the game.

Quick hits

UCLA held Arizona State to 122 yards last season but lost, 34-9, when the Sun Devils returned three interceptions and one fumble for touchdowns at Tempe. "It was a hard film to watch this week," Neuheisel said. . . . Fullback Jayson Allmond and receiver Morrell Presley missed practice to do extra studying for classes, Neuheisel said.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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