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UCLA might have best NFL prospect in L.A.

Defensive tackle Brian Price could be the first Bruin selected in the NFL draft ahead of a USC player since 2002.

March 29, 2010|Sam Farmer

Any NFL scout assessing the football talent at Los Angeles' two major universities would do well to follow the advice he has given to countless players over the years:

Keep your head on a swivel.

Because when it comes to pro-day workouts, L.A. is again a two-school town. UCLA is no longer entirely in the shadow of USC, which has staged some of the country's most popular pro days, attracting droves of NFL scouts, coaches, general managers and even team owners.

The Bruins' pro day is Tuesday and USC's is Wednesday. Players will be measured, timed and put through various drills in front of dozens of evaluators from probably every team in the league.

"They're still a work in progress," an NFL personnel executive said of UCLA. "If you look at their tape, they do have some guys with talent. When you compare them to USC, the gap is starting to close."

The Bruins, whose pro day has been an afterthought in recent years, now might have the best prospect of the two schools, although USC still has a larger collection of future pros. There's an outside possibility that UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price could be selected before USC's three first-round candidates in next month's draft: offensive tackle Charles Brown, safety Taylor Mays and defensive end Everson Griffen.

The last time a UCLA player was selected before one from USC was 2002, the spring after Pete Carroll's first season, when Bruins linebacker Robert Thomas was taken 31st by the St. Louis Rams, and the Trojans were blanked until Seattle took defensive back Kris Richard in the third round.

"Having talked to a bunch of kids who have been recruited by both schools, everything [at USC] is about, ‘Hey, this is where the best come,' and that kind of stuff," UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "Well, it's time for the best to decide where they want to go. . .

"So for us to have a guy like Brian, who chose us over SC, and still is going to reach that culmination of a first-round pick, that's a huge deal. And hopefully the sign of many more to come."

Price, of Crenshaw High, is widely projected to be drafted late in the first round or early in the second. He could be the first UCLA defensive lineman selected in the opening round since Manu Tuiasosopu in 1979.

Price is thought to be in the second tier of defensive tackles, behind the two elite ones: Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy. Selected the defensive player of the year in the Pacific 10 Conference, Price led the Bruins with 23 1/2 tackles for a loss and seven sacks.

Twenty-four teams interviewed Price at the scouting combine in February, each giving him some type of memento — a hat, a T-shirt, a tote bag.

"When I left Indianapolis, I had like four extra bags filled with clothes," he said. "I've just been giving them away."

Come late April, only one team will matter to Price, and the same goes for his UCLA counterparts headed for the next level. Among them are cornerback Alterraun Verner, projected to go around the middle of the seven-round draft, and a host of late-round/free-agent prospects, including linebackers Kyle and Korey Bosworth and Reggie Carter; tight ends Ryan Moya and Logan Paulsen and receiver Terrence Austin.

Among the USC players scouts are evaluating are tight end Anthony McCoy; receiver Damian Williams; running backs Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson; offensive linemen Jeff Byers, Alex Parsons and Nick Howell; safeties Josh Pinkard and Will Harris; linebacker Luthur Brown and cornerback Kevin Thomas.

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