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Dorrell Chooses His Starter: Drew Olson

Times Staff Writer

Nearly three weeks after saying that he didn’t want to drag out a quarterback decision, UCLA Coach Karl Dorrell named Drew Olson as starter Saturday morning, one week before the Bruins play their season opener at San Diego State.

“I wanted to put him to the test, and he came out very, very well,” Dorrell said about the senior quarterback. “And I’m also very excited about Ben Olson because of how far he’s come.”

Dorrell’s decision was essentially made when Ben Olson, a left-hander, suffered a bruised throwing hand in practice Tuesday. He has been unable to participate in team drills since.

“If he was healthy, who knows what the situation would be right now, as far as naming a starter,” Dorrell said about the redshirt freshman, who did some light throwing on the sideline during practice.

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After Dorrell informed the quarterbacks of his decision, neither player seemed surprised.

“This wasn’t just given,” said Drew Olson, who has started 26 games and ranks fifth on UCLA’s all-time list with 5,334 yards passing. “It was earned. Every day, we were competing and battling. That’s not easy day in and day out.”

Ben Olson said his main job now was “to prepare myself to be ready whenever I’m called upon.

“Drew’s healthy and he’s ready to go,” he said. “So my attitude is, ‘Hey, let’s go get them.’ I feel like I had a good camp. I improved every day and my knowledge of the offense has gotten better. I’m not worried because I know that I’ll get my opportunity.”

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Dorrell said that he hasn’t ruled out playing both quarterbacks once Ben Olson is physically ready

“We’ll see how that goes,” Dorrell said.

“I’d like to play him [Saturday], but only time will tell if that would be a possibility or not.”

Drew Olson said he had no complaint about the possibility of sharing time.

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“They have to give [Ben Olson] experience,” he said. “I played my first game here as a freshman with a senior quarterback.... Your backup needs experience.”

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Dorrell said if Ben Olson wasn’t able to play against San Diego State, senior David Koral would be the No. 2 quarterback.... Running back Derrick Williams, who had been suspended from camp for breaking team rules, returned to practice. Williams spent much of practice working with the scout team, but after freshman Kahlil Bell suffered an ankle injury, he ended the afternoon working with the third team behind Maurice Drew and Chris Markey.

Walk-on wide receiver Matt Willis, a former sprinter on the track team, has been returning kickoffs with Markey.... Sophomore Chris Joseph, who moved into the starting weakside guard position, continues to have problems with his left leg and did not practice Saturday. Senior Robert Cleary worked with the first unit.

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