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Freshmen in line to play more on defense for Bruins

Cassius Marsh, who was in for 10 plays last week, will get playing time against Stanford. Another first-year player, Seali'i Epenesa, may also get on the field.

September 09, 2010|By Chris Foster

After UCLA's defense was trounced for 313 yards rushing by Kansas State last Saturday, Coach Rick Neuheisel said that more rest was needed for those up front.

That could mean more time for freshmen Cassius Marsh and Seali'i Epenesa.

Marsh made a limited college debut against Kansas State, while Epenesa made the trip but didn't play. In a perfect world, Bruins coaches would prefer to redshirt Seali'i, and would probably have liked to hold out Marsh. But UCLA football hasn't been perfect since 1954.

Marsh will get to play some more against Stanford on Saturday, and Epenesa may be called on as well.

"Epenesa has a big body [6 feet 2, 320 pounds] that nobody can move. That will always be his advantage," defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough said. But, he added, "We can't put the guy in the game if he doesn't know what he's doing."

UCLA, under Neuheisel, has given freshmen a chance to play, even start. Free safety Rahim Moore started as a freshman in 2008. Offensive tackle Xavier Su'a-filo started last season.

Against Kansas State, Marsh was in for 10 plays. Neuheisel said that he would not want to burn Epenesa's year if he were to get in for only "three or four plays" per game.

"You put a guy in there if you have trust in them," Bullough said. "If you put a rookie in there and he's a bust, and maybe you lose the game because it, he can get overwhelmed."

Cornerback Sheldon Price appeared overwhelmed much of last season as a starter, a role he was forced into after Aaron Hester was injured. But Su'a-filo, now on a Mormon mission, played well.

To earn the trust, Bullough said a freshman "has to show it in practice. We practice, watch the films, and if he is making every call and every check, if he knows what he's doing, we feel comfortable using him. If he's busting all the time, then you can't play him."

Of Epenesa, Bullough said, "We're still looking at him."

Quick hits

Quarterback Kevin Prince, who has been bothered by a sore right shoulder, was sharper in practice Thursday, though he was held out of the two-minute drills. … Reserve quarterback Nick Crissman will undergo an MRI exam Friday. He has been unable to practice because of pain in his right (throwing) shoulder. He had a torn labrum repaired in the same shoulder in 2008. … Neuheisel said wide receiver Josh Smith may return punts this week.

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