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Dragovic says he’s not the weak link

Times Staff Writer

There are two versions of the idea of teams testing UCLA defensive end Nikola Dragovic this season.

The long one and the short one.

“They will be sorry,” defensive end Bruce Davis said. “He’s such a great player. He’s so explosive. But the thing about him, the most lethal thing about him, is he’s hungry. He’s going to be a nightmare off the edge and I totally expect him to have double-digit sacks. It’s going to get harder for teams to deal with us through the season.”

And the short version?

“I say,” Dragovic said, pausing for dramatic effect, “try.”

The idea will be tempting. Davis is certain to have plenty of company this season, as teams look to neutralize him. He had 12.5 sacks last season and is considered among the top defensive ends in college football. With Brigham Harwell and Kevin Brown also back at defensive tackles, Dragovic seems the guy to test.

Dragovic, a senior, is the only “newcomer” to the Bruins’ starting defense, though he was a starting defensive end in 2005 before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the fourth game.

He played sparingly in all 13 games last season, then reclaimed his job in the spring. Now he’ll get tested.

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“I would love for them to try because, how should I say this, I would stake my claim in a way,” Dragovic said.

And the unabridged explanation?

“He hasn’t really played in two years,” Davis said. “He went from being a starter to getting hurt and sitting out a year, then kind of doing some spot duty. You look in his eyes, you can tell he’s coming. You can tell he’s going to be trouble for whoever has to block him.”

Davis is preparing for the extra attention he could see this season.

“With the year I had last year, you got to expect that,” Davis said. “It would be silly for a team to leave me one-on-one with anybody, it doesn’t matter who it is out there, it just wouldn’t be smart.”

Davis has been tapping resources to prepare. He keeps in contact with former Bruins defensive end Justin Hickman, who went through the same experience last season, and also gets tips from his father, Bruce Davis, a former NFL offensive lineman.

“I’m on the phone with Justin Hickman on a weekly basis, if not daily basis sometimes,” Davis said. “I have a wealth of knowledge. I have him. I have my dad, who played offensive line for 12 years in the NFL. I have all these people here that I can go to.”

Wide receiver Osaar Rasshan will be cleared to resume a full practice today, Coach Karl Dorrell said. Rasshan has been limited in practice because of a concussion suffered in the team’s scrimmage Aug. 18. . . . Dorrell said that tailback Christian Ramirez and fullback Fred Holmes, who both were moved from defense last week, have progressed in their new positions to the point where both could play against Stanford on Saturday. . . . Freshman tailback Raymond Carter underwent surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. “There were some other things, but they were insignificant other than the ACL,” Dorrell said.

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chris.foster@latimes.com


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