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UCLA FOOTBALL FYI

First-timers aim to remain calm in opener

The Bruins will have at least 10 players making their college debut against San Diego State on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

September 04, 2009|Chris Foster

Tailback Johnathan Franklin will try to remember, "Football is football."

Cornerback Aaron Hester will remind himself, "It's a football game."

Quarterback Kevin Prince knows, "I'll be nervous, but that's football."

Yup, it's football. But for those three, and a host of others, UCLA's season opener will be the first time they have played in a college game. The Bruins will have at least 10 players making their debut against San Diego State on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

"It's definitely something I've been keeping in the back of my mind," said Hester, who will start at cornerback. "But it's a football game and I have played in plenty of football games before. It's just a different level."

Hester may not get the full experience, as the Aztecs were 2-10 last season. But it leaves the Bruins with some margin for errors, whether by true freshmen or redshirt freshmen.

Franklin, a redshirt last season, is expected to start and can figure on at least 10 carries. He has been working on his mental preparation this week.

"Be calm, block out the fans and all that's going on and do my job," Franklin said. "I just have to play football and let it be a natural thing."

Coach Rick Neuheisel has a simple message for the first-timers:

"It's got to be fun," Neuheisel said. "It can't be nervous time. You've got to try to create it to be fun."

And if there are mistakes?

"Move on and fix them and go," he said.

That may be welcome news to Prince, who is playing in his first game in two years.

Neuheisel jumped quarterback Kevin Craft on the sidelines following a poor play on several occasions last season. Neuheisel said he would self-monitor his reactionary ways.

"It is fair to say the relations between myself and the quarterback have been well documented," Neuheisel said. "What I don't think has been well documented, or at least maybe hasn't been television approved, is the conversation that happens after the initial conversation, where I'll go back and settle down and explain exactly where he needs to be with the ball."

Still, Neuheisel admits, "you guys can't say anything my mother hasn't already said to me in respect to being nicer and gentler and calmer with my quarterback."

Prince shrugs at the suggestion that a public chastising could come his way Saturday.

"He gets after me a little more, being a quarterback himself," Prince said. "He demands perfection, and if it's not absolutely perfect he's going to get after you. At the same time, when you make plays you get the same type of support."

It's on

Pasadena city and firefighting officials said Thursday that it was OK for Saturday's game to be played at the Rose Bowl. The game was in doubt earlier this week because of fires in the area.

UCLA will offer complimentary tickets to Southern California firefighters and their immediate families for Saturday's game as well as for Kansas State on Sept. 19.

Firefighters need to show their identification at the UCLA ticket office before the games or at the Rose Bowl ticket office on game day.

Quick hits

Guard Eddie Williams, who was briefly hospitalized for dehydration on Tuesday, worked out with the first team offense Thursday and is expected to play. . . . Kai Forbath will kick field goals and extra points, but his sore right leg leaves him unavailable for kickoff duty. Punter Jeff Locke will handle the kickoffs.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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