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Breazell Receives Big Benefit by Staying Healthy

Times Staff Writer

UCLA’s receivers have had a tough time staying healthy during training camp. Senior Joe Cowan was the first to go down because of a knee injury; he was followed by sophomore Gavin Ketchum (quadriceps) and junior Marcus Everett (hamstring).

And then there’s senior Junior Taylor, who sat out nearly all of last season because of knee surgery and has worn a heavy brace and red jersey -- to indicate no contact -- most of camp.

Those setbacks have worked to the advantage of junior Brandon Breazell, who despite his 156-pound build has been a constant among Bruins receivers.

“I’m hurt too,” said Breazell, who had X-rays taken on his right hip after Tuesday’s practice at Spaulding Field. “But I know that I have to fight through this. I’ve been dealing with this every day and it’s just starting to feel a little better now.”

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D.J. McCarthy, UCLA’s receivers coach, has been impressed with Breazell’s ability to stay focused and compete despite pain. With Cowan, Ketchum, Everett and Taylor sidelined for Saturday’s scrimmage, Breazell had a big day with five catches for 40 yards.

“He’s a tough guy. He’s stronger than what you think,” McCarthy said. “He has that thin build and wiry strength.

“Brandon is the type of player who is willing to mix it up and play hurt. And he’s ready to do what he has to do in order to stay on the field, in terms of getting to the training room and taking care of his body. He knows that he has to play.”

Breazell lacks blazing speed but has great hands and runs solid routes. He caught 24 passes for 297 yards and four touchdowns. His six touchdowns overall ranked third on the team and he averaged 43.5 yards on two kickoff returns.

This year, Breazell is looking to have a bigger impact.

“They haven’t told me my role, but I kind of know that I’m going to be important,” Breazell said. “With Marcedes Lewis and Maurice Drew gone, we don’t have those main guys anymore. That’s where me and the receivers step in.

“We have a lot of talented guys who can catch the ball, but I would love to be the go-to guy for us. That’s what keeps me going hard every day.”

With his injured players slowly on the mend -- Ketchum and Everett did more team work Tuesday -- McCarthy said UCLA’s receivers have improved as a unit. Seniors Matt Willis and Andrew Baumgartner have progressed throughout camp and sophomores Jamil Turner and Ryan Graves have had their moments.

“I tell the guys every day, you’re going to be hurt; you’re playing football,” said McCarthy, who also has been getting production in practice from freshmen Terrence Austin and Dominique Johnson along with junior Bobby Whithorne. “There’s a difference between being hurt and being injured. We’re starting to learn that. And that’s what [Breazell] is learning now.”

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UCLA’s defensive line was back at full strength Tuesday when junior Kevin Brown returned off the injured list. Brown, who sprained his right ankle last week and sat out Saturday’s scrimmage, said he knew the sprain was not as bad as last year when a left ankle injury forced him to become a redshirt.

“I know people thought the worst when they saw me in a boot and on crutches,” Brown said. “They did that as a precaution. But I felt pretty good today. I was able to run around and do some things. But I still have to get back to where I was after four days in a boot.”

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Coach Karl Dorrell said the next update on Cowan’s injured knee will be Friday and that it’s unlikely he will be ready for UCLA’s season opener against Utah on Sept. 2.... Sophomore tight end Ryan Moya, who had been sidelined because of a hamstring injury, also recently returned to practice.

Players who did not practice or went through a limited workout included running back Derrick Williams (hamstring), linebacker John Hale (hamstring), defensive backs Michael Norris (knee) and Matthew Slater (shoulder), and tight end J.J. Hair (ankle). UCLA will work out at the Rose Bowl on Thursday.


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