Defensive tackle seems a little thin
UCLA went through the chore of plugging holes on its defense Tuesday, and hoping more gaps didn’t open.
The defensive tackle spot has been whittled down to the point where freshman defensive tackle Brian Price may get a large chunk of playing time against Washington State this week.
Brigham Harwell is still trying to return from a knee injury. Jess Ward is out at least two weeks after suffering a partially torn ligament in his right knee against California. Chase Moline is probably out for the season because of neck and back injuries. Jerzy Siewierski practiced little Tuesday because of a left shoulder injury.
That left Price, who was ruled eligible by the NCAA Clearinghouse in mid-September, logging plenty of time with the first-team defense.
“He has to show us he can do it,” defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said. “The only way we can find out is reps in the game. He’s been around us long enough to where it’s time. I always tease him, ‘Hey, you come in here well advertised.’ Now we’re about to find out.”
Price’s playing time has increased in recent weeks, mostly in passing situations.
“It’s pretty easy once you learn the defense,” Price said. “The first couple weeks, I had to learn all the technique. But I had a lot of the guys helping me out. Then in the game, everything happens so natural.”
Still, Price said, “The first couple games everything was so much faster. In high school, I used to catch the dude from behind, but everybody is fast here, I couldn’t do that. I’ve had to adjust.”
Defensive tackles David Carter, who was third on the depth chart when the season began, and Jeff Miller, who was not on the three-deep chart when the season began, also worked with the first team.
Siewierski could still play Saturday against Washington State, depending on how his shoulder responds, Coach Karl Dorrell said. The defensive line lost another player in practice, as defensive end Tom Blake left with what was called a contusion.
The Bruins probably will be without middle linebacker Christian Taylor (concussion) this week, but that may not be as bad as it sounds.
Taylor calls the team’s defensive signals and is a fierce competitor. But the fact Washington State uses spread formations may help the Bruins.
“We match up to the personnel the offense has,” Dorrell said. “We may not be playing much base defense.”
Starting quarterback Patrick Cowan hobbled down steps on his sore right knee to talk with the media Tuesday after being held out of much of practice. Cowan, though, said his injured right knee wasn’t any worse and that he was suffering from “fatigue.”
“I guess not having practiced for two months caught up with me,” said Cowan, who has missed time with a torn hamstring and torn ligament in his knee.
Still, Cowan said, “as much as I’d like to think I wasn’t really injured, I still am and I have to keep up with the rehabilitation.”
Wide receiver Marcus Everett continues a slow recovery from what is now being called a high ankle sprain, which could jeopardize his availability the remainder of the season. . . . Tailback Chris Markey (turf toe) went through a full practice Tuesday and said he was feeling better.
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