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Derrick Coleman is pounding out tough yards for UCLA

The Bruins running back is adept at running to daylight rather than seeking the limelight.

September 15, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA running back Derrick Coleman grinds out a gain against San Jose State last weekend at the Rose Bowl.
UCLA running back Derrick Coleman grinds out a gain against San Jose State… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Texas linebacker Keenan Robinson remembers last season's game against UCLA this way: "They took what we gave them."

The Longhorns gave a lot. UCLA rumbled for 264 yards rushing in a 34-12 rout at Austin.

Johnathan Franklin led the way with 118 yards rushing and Derrick Coleman ran for 94, including a 29-yard touchdown.

"My role is to go out and get tough yards and be physical," Coleman said. "That's what I did and that's what I'm about to do again."

Not so fast, Robinson said.

"We weren't efficient in some of our gaps and some of our schemes, so that gave them a chance to make some big plays in the running game," he said. "This year I feel like we'll be able to be more precise."

That will be decided Saturday at the Rose Bowl. But there is no doubt Coleman plays his role to the hilt.

Against San Jose State last week, Coleman ground the Spartans into submission. He had 135 yards rushing, all in the second half, in a 27-17 victory. His 24-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter put the game out of reach.

"The safety was the one making tackles on our run game, so we said, 'Hey, Coleman, you've got to make that guy miss you,' and he did," said Jim Mastro, UCLA's run game coordinator.

Coleman has filled that niche without regret. He began the 2010 season as the starting running back before suffering a neck injury against Stanford in the Bruins' second game.

Franklin took charge after that. He finished last season with 1,127 yards rushing and he has 209 yards this season.

But Coleman, who weighs 240 pounds, is a mallet-in-waiting.

Against San Jose State, "Johnathan was wearing them out, we felt it was time to pound them a little bit," Mastro said.

Coleman, a senior, relishes the role and has no ego to bruise. He has played extensively on special teams since he was a freshman.

"When you have two or three guys who can play, if a guy seems tired, you make a switch," Mastro said. "When you have only one guy, you're hesitant about making that switch."

It helps that Coleman runs to daylight rather than seeking the limelight. He credits former assistant coach Frank Gansz Jr. with instilling the be-ready philosophy.

"He taught us to focus on the play you're doing right now," Coleman said. "Do your assignment, whether it's special teams or getting tough yards."

Quick hits

Kicker Kip Smith, who has a hip flexor injury, did not practice and remains a game-time decision. Jeff Locke will handle field goals if Smith sits out. … Tyler Gonzalez, the UCLA soccer team manager getting a tryout as a kicker, made two of three field-goal attempts Thursday. … Greg Capella will start at guard over Albert Cid.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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