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UCLA FOOTBALL

Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict has UCLA's attention

The highly volatile linebacker is noticed for his speed, strengths, instincts and antics. The Bruins say he tries to provoke his opponents, and they are ready to give him his due, to a point.

November 01, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict is known for getting under the skin of his opponents.
Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict is known for getting under the… (Matt Kartozian / U.S. Presswire )

UCLA plays Arizona State this week, and that comes with one all-important chore — figuring out where Vontaze Burfict is and what he is up to.

The Sun Devils' highly volatile linebacker comes with everything — speed, strength, instincts and a warning label.

"We've got to be disciplined out there, for sure," Bruins quarterback Kevin Prince said. "He tends to definitely do some things to try to provoke the opponent."

Burfict, a junior, has an effect on the field that extends beyond his play at times.

Burfict head-butted Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz last season, and was benched for the first quarter of the next game by Coach Dennis Erickson. He received three major penalties on Stanford's game-winning drive in 2010.

USC quarterback Matt Barkley called Burfict a "dirty player" this season. Barkley was reprimanded by the Pacific 12 Conference and Burfict intercepted a Barkley pass in the Sun Devils' 43-22 victory.

Chaos tends to follow in Burfict's wake.

"You can't let him be the heart and soul," UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "He needs to be just a football player rather than be a dictator of all that goes on out there."

Accomplishing that won't be easy.

"He likes to talk trash and he definitely likes to play physical," Prince said. "We have to be ready to combat that, but not fight back and get penalties."

Running back Johnathan Franklin has a simple strategy.

"We can't let him change our game plan," Franklin said. "We can't worry about Vontaze. We have to worry about what we've got to do."

Locke blocked

Punter Jeff Locke took the day off Tuesday while recovering from being blindsided by California's Spencer Hagan in Saturday's game. Locke suffered a separated right shoulder on the play.

"I hit the ball and was running upfield," Locke said. "I was trying to square up and didn't see him until the last second."

Asked his opinion of the play, Locke said, "It's not for me to decide. That's something for the coach to take a look at. Once I punt the ball, I'm just another guy running down the field."

Walk-on Michael Leamy handled the punts Tuesday.

Locke said, "It has gotten better the last couple days. We didn't want to reaggravate it at all. It was just precautionary."

Locke injured the same shoulder when he was clobbered by an Oregon State player this season.

Locke also holds for field-goal attempts. Quarterback Nick Crissman handled that chore Tuesday.

Line shifts

Guard Wade Yandall remained part of the first team Tuesday. He started in place of Albert Cid, who was suspended for one half because of his part in the on-field brawl against Arizona. Yandall played the whole game.

Guard Chris Ward, meanwhile, did not suit up. He has been out two weeks because of a kneecap injury and seems unlikely to play this week.

Quick hits

Defensive end Iuta Tepa sat out practice because of a back injury. … Wide receiver Ricky Marvray missed practice to attend to a family matter.… UCLA's game at Utah on Nov. 12 will kick off at 3:30 p.m. Pacific and will be televised on Prime Ticket.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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