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Guerrero to get outside help in coach search

Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- UCLA’s football team finds itself in the exact situation it was just before Karl Dorrell took over five years ago . . . in Las Vegas with an interim coach.

This is not the on-the-field progress Athletic Director Dan Guerrero was seeking, which is why Dorrell was fired and why defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker is in the interim head coach’s seat.

The search for Dorrell’s replacement is expected to pick up speed this weekend, as Guerrero said he would have a search firm in place today.

Guerrero also said that Walker would be given an interview. Walker was also expected to interview for the Washington State coaching job.

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The last time the Bruins were in search of a coach, they played in the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl, when the interim coach was Ed Kezirian, a former assistant coach who is assistant director of academic services. This time, Guerrero turned the team over to a top assistant.

Walker’s mandate is to keep the program from tearing at the seams, shore up the recruiting front and, oh yeah, beat Brigham Young in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 22.

The latter may prove to be the most difficult challenge. True, the Bruins outlasted the Cougars in the second week of the season, clawing out a 27-17 win at the Rose Bowl. Brigham Young (10-2) has improved steadily since then. UCLA (6-6) has not.

Securing a search firm that specializes in college sports is expected to be quickly followed by interviews with potential candidates. Guerrero would not comment on whether a coach would be hired before the Bruins played in the Las Vegas Bowl.

“A search firm will certainly understand your particular university and the kind of things that may be important to you,” Guerrero said Thursday. “They’ll come in with a potential list of candidates. And, of course, we have candidates in mind as well.”

Walker is among those. Besides having had two successful seasons as the Bruins’ defensive coordinator, Walker has also been the key figure in recruiting, particularly in the Los Angeles area.

“I’m just going to focus on the work,” Walker said. “I can’t control what happens after this game. It’s totally up to Dan and the powers that be. All I can do is do a good job and prepare this football team. The main concern for the staff and myself is that we put a good product on the field. Whatever happens after that, that’s going to be up to them.”

Still, Bruins players have added Walker’s future to their motivation list.

“It’s an opportunity for us to show his ability,” senior cornerback Rodney Van said. “In two years he has turned the whole defense around. That’s the same thing he can do if he is the head coach.”

A handful of coaches have expressed interest in the Bruins’ coaching job, and widespread speculation has put various names into the mix, but former NFL coach Steve Mariucci is said to be one of the coaches under consideration by UCLA.

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Quarterback Patrick Cowan is doubtful for practice this week after an MRI revealed swelling in his left knee. . . . Defensive end Bruce Davis and cornerback Trey Brown were named second-team All-Americans by the Walter Camp Foundation.

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chris.foster@latimes.com


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