There are a couple of hefty questions about the UCLA defense that could get answered this weekend — defensive tackles David Carter and Justin Edison are the nearly 600 pounds worth of elephant in the room when the Bruins face Kansas State on Saturday.
A year ago, the Bruins handled the Kansas State running game, holding the Wildcats to 69 yards as a team and limiting running back Daniel Thomas to 54 yards. Kansas State averaged 180 rushing yards per game for the season, and Thomas rushed for 1,265 yards.
But that was with Brian Price and Jerzy Siewierski as the defensive tackles. Price was an NFL prospect and was drafted in the second round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Siewierski was considered one of the best all-around athletes on the team.
Carter and Edison try to fill those cleats.
"I think the defensive front, with how hard we've worked, is ready to take it onto the field," said Carter, a 6-foot-5, 301-pound senior. "We're going to be more than ready."
Carter played in 13 games last season, all off the bench. He became the most experienced defensive lineman on the field for UCLA after defensive end Datone Jones suffered a broken foot.
Edison, a 6-4, 290-pound junior, appeared in six games, but saw very little game time on the defensive line.
"I had this expectation somewhere down the line and waited my turn," Edison said. "We have had some great defensive tackles here, Brigham Harwell, Brian, Jerzy. I learned from all those guys."
What he learned most was to be himself, not Price.
"We all have different strengths and stuff," Edison said. "I can't go out and try to be an All-American. I just got to go play."
The Wildcats are expected to run early and often, using Thomas to test the Bruins' defensive front seven.
"I'm anxious to see what these young guys do," defensive line coach Todd Howard said. "They have worked awfully hard and they have ability. The only thing we don't have is experience."
Prince looks good
UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince, who suffered a torn muscle in his back Aug. 10, was able to increase his workload Tuesday.
"It felt a little better than it did yesterday, and yesterday was the best it felt in three weeks," Prince said.
Prince said the tightness in his back was less noticeable than on Monday. His main concern was accuracy, but he said, "I've been with some of these guys three years, so it will come back real quick."
Prince's increased time allowed Coach Rick Neuheisel to do some tap-dancing to keep Kansas State coaches guessing who will be UCLA's quarterback Saturday. Neuheisel said it will be a "game-time decision."
Asked whether Prince's health was the issue in making a decision, Neuheisel said, "We'll see if there are any lingering effects from today. There were none from yesterday. That's a positive sign. If we get that same result [Wednesday], we got to feel like he's out of the woods."
Evans coming west?
Former Inglewood High School wide receiver Shaquelle Evans, who was granted his release by Notre Dame, has contacted UCLA, according to a source close to Evans who was not authorized to speak. The Bruins are thought to be Evans' first choice.