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UCLA FOOTBALL FYI

UCLA's Akeem Ayers fits in at more than one spot on defense

Ayers, who has shuffled between linebacker and defensive end the last two weeks, will have his work cut out for him against Texas.

September 22, 2010|By Chris Foster

Finding UCLA's Akeem Ayers places where he can be effective has been part of the Bruins' defensive plan this season.

Ayers has been shuffled between linebacker and defensive end the last two weeks. It was effective against Houston on Saturday, as Ayers intercepted a pass and had five solo tackles, two for a loss.

"We've been moving a lot of guys around," defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough said. "The thing about Akeem is he has special abilities. He's strong enough to play defensive end and quick enough to play linebacker."

Whether that will be successful against a Texas offense that is bigger, and better, than Houston's will be seen Saturday night in Austin.

The Bruins played a boutique defense against pass-happy Houston with five defensive backs on the field nearly every play. UCLA probably will play more of a base defense against the balanced Longhorns, who have an offensive line that averages 308 pounds.

"Playing both end and linebacker puts me in a position where I can make plays all over the field," Ayers said.

With Ayers at defensive end, freshman Jordan Zumwalt saw time at strong-side linebacker.

"We're just trying to find mismatches," Bullough said. "Whatever we find, we're going to exploit."

Coleman returns

Running back Derrick Coleman, the Bruins' starter the first two games, returned to a full practice Wednesday after sitting out last week because of a concussion. Coach Rick Neuheisel said Coleman would be available Saturday.

Johnathan Franklin, though, is expected to start. Franklin had 158 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns in the 31-13 victory over Houston.

Going home

UCLA center Ryan Taylor, a Denison, Texas, native, grew up a Texas fan, spending Saturdays watching the Longhorns. Now Taylor is going home to play against them.

He's learning that preparing to play the No. 7 Longhorns is only slightly more difficult than scrounging tickets for friends and relatives. Taylor has been working his teammates. As of Wednesday afternoon he was up to 25 tickets.

"I owe a couple guys USC tickets and a couple guys California tickets," Taylor said. "Most of the guys are very nice about it."

Taylor was not recruited by Texas. His brother, Jordan, was and Ryan would accompany him on trips to Austin.

"I never really wanted to play there. I just liked the campus and followed the team," Ryan Taylor said.

Quick hits

Tackle Micah Kia (ankle) continued to be limited in practice, and Mike Harris continued to work with the team. Neuheisel said it would be a game-time decision. … Wide receiver Taylor Embree, who was held out for most of practice Tuesday because of a hip flexor injury, was back in practice. … All three Texas running backs, Fozzy Whittaker (shoulder stinger), Tre' Newton (hip injury) and Cody Johnson (ankle), are dinged up. … UCLA has lost 14 consecutive road games against ranked teams. The Bruins' last win in such a game was in 2001, when they routed No. 19 Oregon State, 38-7.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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