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UCLA kickers still trying to find their way

Kip Smith and Joe Roberts show slight improvement Monday, but Smith still is focusing on following through as Roberts tells himself to 'slow down.'

August 15, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA quarterback Richard Brehaut during practice Saturday at Spaulding Field.
UCLA quarterback Richard Brehaut during practice Saturday at Spaulding… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Kip Smith said he stands on the sidelines thinking, "follow through, follow through." Joe Roberts waits his turn with a different chant going through his head, "slow down, slow down."

This is where the UCLA kicking game is. After four seasons of the automatic Kai Forbath, the Bruins have two guys who are hearing voices — their own.

"A couple days ago, I was putting too much pressure on myself, thinking, 'I've got to make them all,' " Smith said. "I finally realized I've got to relax. I can't be focusing on every single kick every single night."

Things were better Monday. Smith made two of three kicks and Roberts was three for three.

"I've been going a little too fast to the ball," said Roberts, a walk-on. "My first step has been good. My second step, I'm just rushing to the ball."

Coach Rick Neuheisel has let his frustration be known. On Saturday, he chewed out Smith after consecutive bad kickoffs. On Monday, a couple of poor kickoffs by Roberts had Neuheisel barking, "Do I have to go find a junior college kicker to do this?"

"I got down a little bit my redshirt year behind Kai, who's someone who doesn't miss," Smith said. "It's hard to get confidence back after that, but I have to.

"I used to kick hard in high school. I had form. I had to change a little bit, follow through a little more. I'm feeling more comfortable with it."

Meanwhile, Neuheisel waits.

"We're exploring every option," Neuheisel said, adding that the two kickers have a "golden opportunity" but that "expectations are going to be large. You have to have shoulders big enough to handle that. I think both kids do."

One option would be punter Jeff Locke, who also kicks off. Locke, though, said, "It would be tough," to do all the kicking.

"So many kickoffs, so many field goals, so many punts, it just wears down your leg," Locke said. "You would be the jack of all trades and the master of none."

Quarterback watch

Richard Brehaut completed three of four passes for 37 yards and two touchdowns during a mini-scrimmage at the end of practice.

Quarterback Kevin Prince missed on three attempts, which Neuheisel called "uncharacteristic."

"Kevin made some good reads; the ball was just sailing on him," Neuheisel said.

Quick hits

Shaquelle Evans continues to be the Bruins' best receiver, catching both of Brehaut's touchdown passes. … Linebacker Patrick Larimore (hip flexor injury) and defensive tackle Cassius Marsh (groin injury) both sat out practice. … Linebacker Jordan Zumwalt (concussion) has to be free of symptoms the next two days before he can return to practice. … F-back Anthony Barr was back at practice after sitting out two days because of a hamstring injury.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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