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Jeff Locke showing he can do it all for the Bruins

UCLA FOOTBALL

Strong punter made two long field goals against Texas, and his kickoffs are impressive as well.

September 22, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA punter Jeff Locke has performed well since taking over the Bruins' kicking duties from the injured Kip Smith.
UCLA punter Jeff Locke has performed well since taking over the Bruins'… (Thomas Campbell / U.S. Presswire )

Jeff Locke, best known as UCLA's punter, improved his NFL stock with his two field goals against Texas last Saturday.

Locke, subbing for the injured Kip Smith, made kicks of 49 and 51 yards. He is already considered one of the top punters in the nation and handles kickoff chores for the Bruins.

"Obviously, he showed he is diverse," Coach Rick Neuheisel said, which should resonate with NFL scouts.

"As you're trying to secure roster spots, he would be very valuable, especially on a 45-man roster," Neuheisel added. "If you can take one kicker as opposed to three, you have an opportunity to get two more special teams guys."

Locke ranked fourth nationally, averaging 45.8 yards a punt last season. Most of those kicks came with NFL-quality hang time.

He has shown a strong leg on kickoffs, consistently dropping he ball between the five-yard line and goal line near a sideline.

As a junior, Locke could declare for the NFL draft after this season, though he said that is not on his mind at this time.

Locke has no illusions that he could be a triple-threat as a pro, though. "When was the last time someone did all three in the NFL?" he asked.

Frank Corral, another UCLA player, did all three chores with the Rams in 1980 and 1981. Being versatile has advantages, however.

"Look at the San Diego Chargers." Locke said. "Nate Kaeding got hurt and [punter] Mike Scifres stepped in. Being able to handle the backup role would be good."

Locke will continue to show off that skill. Smith, who has a hip injury, was unable to kick this week.

"I don't really look at this as how it will help me in the NFL," Locke said. "I'm just going to go out and do things to the best of my abilities."

Dye questionable

Free safety Tony Dye's availability for Saturday's game at Oregon State is "50-50," Neuheisel said. He sat out practice this week because of stingers.

Neuheisel said it was a "nerve issue."

"The trainers want it to calm down because there is some lingering," Neuheisel said. "I've been told it could clear up at any time. We'll keep our fingers crossed that he'll be ready to go."

UCLA has depth at safety, with Dalton Hilliard, Tevin McDonald and Alex Mascarenas in the wings. But losing Dye, a team captain, would be a blow.

Dye, who has started 28 consecutive games, is the team's second-leading tackler. He led the team in tackles last season.

Quick hits

Asked whether freshman quarterback Brett Hundley is ready to go into a game, Neuheisel responded, "He's readier." Neuheisel added, "I don't want him to go out there until he's completely ready. Like anything you're learning, to go out there and not have it all is not prudent." … Cornerback Andrew Abbott, out with a concussion, will not be available for Saturday's game. … Tight end Raymond Nelson returned to practice Thursday. He missed two days while attending to a family matter.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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