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UCLA's Dalton Hilliard says 'bring it' in linebacker role

Hilliard is moved from the secondary to help shore up the position. He says his speed will help counter spread offenses, but he would like to add a little weight for safety reasons.

August 21, 2012|By Chris Foster, Los Angeles Times
  • Dalton Hilliard has been moved from the secondary to the linebacker position.
Dalton Hilliard has been moved from the secondary to the linebacker position. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

UCLA's Dalton Hilliard has a pretty compelling reason for putting on weight in the near future.

"I would like to add another 10 to 15 pounds for my health and safety," Hilliard said.

A shift to linebacker from the secondary will get one thinking in those terms.

Hilliard, a safety the last three seasons, has spent the last week at linebacker. "I have all my linebacker scrapes and cuts and bruises," he said. "I love it. To get to experience the linebacker's point of view is fun."

But this is more than fun and games. Coaches came to Hilliard last week to see whether he would help them shore up the position. Hilliard is 5 feet 11 and said he weighs 205 pounds, but he brings speed to the position.

If Hilliard can handle the physical part of playing closer to scrimmage, it would give the Bruins a counter to the spread offenses they will face this season.

"I try to be quick," Hilliard said. "I have pretty good explosion. I will be able to juke the lineman and get into certain gaps."

Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone wasted little time in testing Hilliard.

"I heard Coach Mazzone say from the sideline, 'We're running it at Hilliard every time,' " Hilliard said. "I told him, 'bring it.' It's not a one-man team. You come at me, you got 10 other guys coming at you."

Freshman is cornered

Other personnel tinkering had freshman Fabian Moreau moving from offense — he was a receiver and running back — to cornerback.

For a guy who has never played the position, Moreau seemed to take to it quickly. He intercepted three passes his first two days on defense.

"I like playing corner," Moreau said. "I think I have a future there."

The Bruins have two senior cornerbacks in Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price, with junior Brandon Sermons in reserve. After that, there are freshmen Ishmael Adams, Marcus Rios and Moreau.

"We not only have two seniors, but two good-sized, experienced seniors," Coach Jim Mora said. "I'm not too worried about the starters at that position. Still, I have depth concerns."

Moreau has been taking a crash course. "Aaron and Sheldon have been helping me with my foot work," he said. And lending advice.

"The first thing I told him was to be ready to run all day," Price said.

The Bruins have other options at cornerback too. Andrew Abbott and Anthony Jefferson have moved from cornerback to safety this season.

Mora offered this basic advice to Moreau and the other freshmen: "Keep the ball in front of you and tackle the guy if he catches it."

Quick hits

Linebacker Nate Iese left practice with a hand injury. … Offensive lineman Colby Cyburt missed practice to see a back specialist.

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