Things were different for UCLA’s football team Saturday.
Defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker’s first practice as interim head coach was dotted with subtle changes cast against a backdrop of vocal exhibitionism from Bruins players.
“It was different in a fun way,” Walker said. “Just getting a chance to change things, not really everything, but to tweak a little bit here and tweak a little bit there.”
Walker held a team meeting before the first practice in preparation to play Brigham Young in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 22. That was followed by an energy-charged practice.
“There was a different vibe, a different energy,” senior Bruce Davis said. “That’s what Coach Walker brings to the table.”
The main difference was Walker’s leaving his defensive players from time to time to observe things on the offensive side.
“I don’t want the offensive guys to look at me as, ‘Oh you’re the interim, but you’re still a defensive guy,’ ” Walker said. “Whatever knowledge I do have, I want to spread it over the whole team.
“Obviously when you’re just dealing with one half of the team it’s a little easier. For me, I want to have that same structure with the whole team. That is something I had some dreams about last night. I’m sure I’ll have more dreams about that.”
Walker said he doesn’t plan a major overhaul of the offensive scheme, leaving much of that to offensive coordinator Jay Norvell, though, “there are some things I’ve seen with BYU’s defense that maybe I can help him with a little bit,” Walker said.
One thing Walker should be able to rely on is complete focus from his players. At least that was the rally cry Saturday.
“We’re ready to go out there and show everybody that this guy should have an opportunity to be a head coach,” Davis said.
Walker will be among those considered for the head coach position. Interviews are excepted to begin early this week. While numerous names have been bandied about, a source familiar with the department said that UCLA officials and the search firm hired to aid in the hiring are still formulating a list of potential candidates.
Karl Dorrell, fired as head coach Monday, gave what was described as a “heartfelt” speech at the Bruins’ team banquet Wednesday night.
“It’s hard to watch him walk away from this program,” Davis said. “The fact that he got up there and did what I think a lot coaches wouldn’t have done says a lot . . . He addressed the Bruin family and it helped with some closure to this team.”
Walker inherited all the Bruins’ injury problems and quarterback woes, and addressed them for the first time as head coach.
Tackle Brian Abraham sat out practice and was wearing a protective boot on his injured right ankle.
“I’d rather not comment on that yet,” Walker said, then smiled and added, “Look at me, I’m sounding like a real head coach now.”
Quarterback Patrick Cowan sat out because of a left knee injury and wide receiver Joe Cowan because of a hamstring injury. Patrick Cowan’s availability against BYU seems uncertain, but Walker said he would hash out the quarterback situation in the week leading up to the game.
Ben Olson and Osaar Rasshan worked with the first team Saturday. Olson is also recovering from an injured left knee.
“It still hurts and I don’t know if it will be completely healed before the season is over,” said Olson, who has some expertise on knees, having sat out eight games because of an injured right knee in 2006.
“That’s what happened last year, I wasn’t 100% until probably a month or two after the season.”
Strong safety Chris Horton has been named first-team All-American by the Sporting News.