Bruins' Green Won't Want for Work : Donahue Says Star Tailback May Get 30 Carries a Game

Times Staff Writer

If UCLA's Gaston Green, said to be among the early favorites, doesn't win the Heisman Trophy this season, it won't be for a lack of support from his coach.

Terry Donahue, criticized in the past for failing to promote individual stars in the interest of maintaining a team-comes-first concept, plans to give Green ample opportunity to build his statistics.

That could mean giving the ball to the 5-foot 10 1/2-inch, 190-pound senior tailback as many as 30 times a game, Donahue said.

"I'd like to do that every game, and I think he's capable of that," Donahue said of Green, who rushed for a school-record 1,405 yards last season despite missing one game and most of another. "I don't think the nagging injuries that have been with Gaston throughout his career had anything to do with carrying the ball. Gaston twice has been hurt on the practice field.

"Gaston seems to play much better when he carries the ball a lot, to be perfectly honest with you. I think when you have a great back, you have to get him the ball.

"It's like everything in life: If you get him the ball and he gets hurt, people are going to say, 'You shouldn't have given him the ball so much.' And if you don't give him the ball and you don't win, they're going to say, 'Why didn't you give the ball to Gaston?'

"You've just got to do what you really believe, and what I really believe is that's he's a real football player who makes me a better coach, and I ought to give him the ball and let him run. . . .

"We want to make sure he touches the ball a sufficient number of times a game because he seems to do nice things with it when he does."

As for the notion that he's reluctant to push his players for individual honors, Donahue said that's a bad rap.

"We've had Jerry Robinson, a three-time All-American, and we've had Kenny Easley, a three-time All-American," he said. "I don't believe there's another school in the country that's had two three-time All-Americans in the last 10 years.

"And yet, for whatever reasons, people say, 'Well, you don't really push your players.' Well, Marc (Dellins, the school's sports information director) does a good job, but throw the coach a crumb. I'm not walking around saying these guys are lousy.

"I think what happens is that I just believe strongly in the team concept. The team comes first. And the team comes before Gaston. He knows that. And what I mean by that is, no one individual comes before the team."

But for this season, at least, the team clearly revolves around Gaston Green.

"I think he's had ample support and notoriety from the university," Donahue said. "I think the rest . . . really, the ball's in Gaston's hands."

Thirty times a game?

"I didn't promise him that," Donahue said, laughing. "(But) he'll carry it enough. He won't be in the office complaining."

Donahue hasn't decided on a starting quarterback. The competition is between juniors Troy Aikman and Brendan McCracken.

"We would like to name a starter as quickly as possible," Donahue said, "but I don't know if that will happen. I hope it does."

It's possible, Donahue said, that both will be used.

"Ideally, we would like to have a starting quarterback," Donahue said, "but if we don't, I feel confident that we can win with both players, or either player."

Aikman is considered the better passer, whereas McCracken is said to be more adept at running an option offense. "But we can't play with Aikman if he can't run the ball and run the option," Donahue said. "And we can't play with Brendan if he can't throw the ball. They have to be able to do both."

Bruin Notes At this time last season, when asked about the logjam at tailback created by the presence of Gaston Green, Eric Ball and James Primus, Coach Terry Donahue said: "We're not as interested in building a Heisman Trophy winner as we are in building a good football team. They realize they're going to have to give up a little for the betterment of the team, and they're dealing with it." Ball, who rushed for 227 yards and 4 touchdowns in the 1986 Rose Bowl, and Primus, are still in camp. Primus is battling Mel Farr Jr. for the starting fullback job and Ball, whose sophomore season last year was hampered by nagging knee and hamstring injuries, apparently will play a supporting role to Green.

The Bruins return four offensive starters and six defensive starters, not including outside linebacker Eric Smith, who is expected to redshirt after undergoing back surgery next month. . . . Donahue said that David Richards, a 6-5, 305-pound transfer from Southern Methodist University, has made a significant impact on the offensive line. "It's hard not to at 300 pounds," Donahue said. "He's been a real pleasant addition. We were a little short there." Richards started at left tackle during spring practice, but has since been switched to the right side. "After evaluating spring practice, we decided he was more of a natural right tackle," Donahue said.

Donahue foresees a four-team race for the Pac-10 title between USC, UCLA, Washington and defending champion Arizona State. Arizona State, which does not play USC or Stanford, "literally has one foot in the Rose Bowl," he said, whereas USC will be "totally rejuvenated" under new Coach Larry Smith and Washington has the conference's best quarterback (Chris Chandler) and most physical team. The Bruins, he said, are "a little stronger and a little more physical" than they were last season, when they were 8-3-1 and beat Brigham Young University in the Freedom Bowl.

Camp opened Monday and two-a-day drills continue through Aug. 27. After that, the Bruins will practice once a day in preparation for their opener Sept. 5 at the Rose Bowl against San Diego State. Practices are not open to the public.

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