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Defense relishes expectations

Times Staff Writer

Defensive end Bruce Davis wasn’t strutting or taunting, merely illuminating what UCLA is guar-ran-teed to do well this season.

“We want to create a buzz about our defense,” Davis said. “There is something in the air. We went from being the fourth-worst in the country to 35th in one year. We know the system, and we’re confident in our abilities. We expect to have another good year.”

That seems required for the Bruins to live up to expectations. Already laden with lofty preseason predictions, it will be up to the UCLA defense to be the same force it was at the end of last season -- minus the Emerald Bowl flop -- while the offense cuts its teeth.

UCLA seems capable of being that rock, as long Florida State’s Bobby Bowden is nowhere in sight. They have 10 starters back from a unit that held USC to nine points and went from being 113th in total defense to 35th.

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Yet whispering in the Bruins’ ears is the same guy who began guiding the defense a year ago.

“We’re not resting on the fact that the same guys are back,” second-year defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said. “At the end of the day, we need to execute. That’s what we will judge our defensive guys on, the production. We make them accountable, even the guys who were here last year.”

That stump speech would seem to warn against complacency. The Bruins did finish second in the Pacific 10 Conference in total defense and gave up less than 20 points per game -- a statistic even more impressive because the 44-27 bowl disaster against Florida State is included.

Yet, opponents now have 13 game films on how that defense attacks under Walker, and a Seminoles-gone-wild video from the Emerald Bowl.

That has brought changes, as Walker has tweaked his defensive philosophy to create more confusion and better use his players’ skills.

“I knew after spring ball that it was going to a long summer for me,” Walker said. “I am trying to get us to another level, so I kind of hung around the guys all summer. I talked to them, spent time with them, showed them it was important to me by being around all summer.”

Guard Shannon Tevaga returned to practice Tuesday after sitting out three days because of a wrist injury. Yet, he found his job already filled, at least temporarily. P.J. Irvin continued to work with the first unit, while Tevaga sweated it out with the second team.

“We got a pecking order,” offensive line coach Bob Connelly said. “If you don’t practice, you don’t play. If you’re not practicing, you’re not getting better. P.J. has done a good job with that first unit, and he deserved the right to be a starter right now.”

Tevaga said his right wrist was not yet healed but said, “the flexibility is getting better.”

Chris Horton (hamstring) went through all the contact drills for the first time, and defensive tackle Kevin Brown (bruise, upper right leg) and center Micah Reed (ankle) returned to practice.

Wide receiver Osaar Rasshan was pulled from practice because of “dizziness,” Coach Karl Dorrell said.

Dorrell, though, bristled at the mention of the word “concussion.”

“Osaar kind of got hit a little bit, got dizzy, and we pulled him out of some stuff,” Dorrell said. “We’re going to try to make sure his symptoms go away.”

The Bruins are still waiting to hear from the NCAA clearinghouse on the status of freshman tackle Brian Price.

“All the information is in, we’re just trying to get him certified,” Dorrell said.

chris.foster@latimes.com


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