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UCLA football preview: the linebackers

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Reggie Carter came back for his senior year after a brief flirtation with turning pro. Kyle Bosworth has returned after missing most of last season with a knee injury.

They alone give UCLA solid linebackers. But the player who may catch eyes this season is the other guy: Akeem Ayers, who started three games last season.

“Akeem’s problem wasn’t his play, it was that he didn’t always know where he was supposed to be,” Carter said. “That’s changed. I don’t have to tell him where to be as much. He knows what he is supposed to do and doesn’t second-guess himself.”

Ayers’ raw ability was obvious. Chasing Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli down from behind last season made that clear. He also has the size (6 feet 4, 252 pounds) to battle offensive linemen.

He makes the unit a formidable trio. Carter is considered one of the Pacific 10 Conference’s best and assumed leadership of the defense a year ago. He led the team in tackles, including 20 against Brigham Young. Of course, there were plenty of tackling opportunities in that game, as the Cougars had the ball all day in the 59-0 victory.

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“It was a rough season,” Carter said. “I was there. I remember.”

Bosworth started seven games as a junior in 2007 but injured his knee in the second game last season.

It’s after those three that the questions begin. Steve Sloan started nine games after Bosworth was injured, and Sean Westgate has been impressive, though at 5-11, 205 he is undersized.

“Athletically and mentally, Sean knows the defense,” Carter said. “It’s just his size.”

The unknowns are junior Mike Schmitt and redshirt freshmen Donovan Carter and Patrick Larimore. One will need to step up.

But if the three starters can stay healthy, the Bruins will have no problems at linebackers.

“We have better athletes than we have had in the past,” Carter said.

-- Chris Foster

Saturday: quarterbacks

Sunday: running backs

Monday: wide receivers

Tuesday: tight ends

Wednesday: offensive line

Thursday: defensive line

Saturday: defensive backs


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