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Search for quarterback continues

Times Staff Writer

Quarterback roulette continued Wednesday for UCLA, with McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Chris Forcier doing the bulk of the work.

Bethel-Thompson, a non-scholarship player, and Forcier, a freshman, handled most of the reps with the first-team offense, while Osaar Rasshan played catch-up.

Rasshan, a sophomore who came to UCLA as a quarterback, moved to receiver this summer. He was moved back to his original position this week because the Bruins are without their top two quarterbacks, Ben Olson and Patrick Cowan, who are out with knee injuries.

“Both [Bethel-Thompson and Forcier] have been in all the quarterback meetings, but they haven’t had reps,” Coach Karl Dorrell said. “We’re trying to see what they can actually do on the field.

“The one that is kind of catching up is Osaar, because he hasn’t been in quarterback meetings up until this time.”

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With Olson expected to be out three to four weeks, Plan A for the Oct. 20 game against California at the Rose Bowl is Cowan, who has missed the last two weeks because of a partially torn medial collateral ligament.

But if he can’t go, the other three are all options. Bethel-Thompson had four passes intercepted in a loss to Notre Dame Saturday, but neither Rasshan nor Forcier, who was expected to redshirt, have played the position at all during games.

Dorrell said the Bruins had a specific plan had Rasshan been needed during the Bruins’ season opener against Stanford, but it wasn’t used.

“We’re trying to design a package for that entire position,” Dorrell said. “We haven’t got to that particular picture. We’re really evaluating and seeing how much our quarterbacks can handle things.”

One way to improve the capability of the offense -- no matter who is at quarterback -- is to run the ball effectively.

That was difficult to do after Olson was knocked out of the 20-6 loss to Notre Dame last Saturday. The Fighting Irish loaded up against the run and the Bruins, already missing injured starter Chris Markey, were without leading rusher Kahlil Bell for part of the second half because of a shoulder injury.

“It was painful,” Bell said. “But it’s better. It’s football, you have to play.”

As for the running game, Bell said: “We always want to run the football, no matter who we play, what the game plan is. We have to take it upon ourselves to move the ball and be physical.”

That would be easier if Markey were healthy. He suffered a “turf toe” injury against Oregon State on Sept. 29 and his status is undetermined. A request to interview Markey was denied.

But whether Bell or Markey share the job or Bell runs solo, one thing is certain:

“The running game is always important, more so now because it can take pressure off our quarterback,” guard Shannon Tevaga said.

The groin-area injury that has sidelined starting defensive end Nikola Dragovic still puzzles doctors. Dragovic underwent an MRI exam Tuesday, with the results pending. He did not practice Wednesday.

“The doctors have not cleared him,” Dorrell said. “They want it to calm down until they figure out what’s going on in that hip. They’re trying to get tests done to give us a better solution to what the issue is.”

Guard Micah Reed practiced with the first-team offense. . . . Defensive tackle Brigham Harwell (knee injury) may return to practice on a limited basis next week, Dorrell said. . . . Defensive tackle Jess Ward did not practice so he could attend to a family matter. . . . Defensive end Chase Moline remains unavailable because of migraine headaches. He did not play against Notre Dame and has not practiced this week.

chris.foster@latimes.com


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