This weekend is about the future

Wharton is a Times staff writer.

The UCLA football team spent this week focusing on basics such as blocking and tackling, but the weekend is reserved for something even more important.

The future.

Coaches will give the players today and Saturday off, using that time to visit recruits who could bring needed reinforcement next fall.

“Big weekend for us,” Coach Rick Neuheisel said. “We’ll be out in earnest all day tomorrow and junior college recruiting on Saturday.”

Junior college transfers could be of immediate help, but it remains to be seen how much leeway the university will allow in terms of admissions.

Defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker will be in the San Francisco Bay Area. Offensive coordinator Norm Chow will travel a little farther, flying to his native Hawaii.


Coaches aren’t allowed to discuss recruits, but has reported that UCLA has oral commitments from running back Dalton Hilliard and receiver Roby Toma of Punahou High in Honolulu.

Punahou is the alma mater of Chow and presidential candidate Barack Obama. More to the point, it is the current home of highly sought linebacker Manti Te’o, who has drawn interest from other programs, including USC.

The Bruins reportedly have an oral commitment from offensive lineman Stanley Hasiak of Kapolei High. With UCLA ranked last in rushing in the Pac-10, Chow said: “We’re focusing on the offensive line, no question.”

First look

Thursday’s practice gave the Bruins a taste of their game plan for Oregon State on Nov. 8.

“It was kind of experimental, whether we want to use it or not,” Neuheisel said. “We felt like we had the luxury of trying some stuff.”

More serious preparation for the Beavers will begin Tuesday.

Health matters

Tailback Kahlil Bell says he isn’t too good with percentages, but when it comes to estimating his health over the last few weeks he knows the number isn’t even close to 100.

The senior hurt his ankle in the season opener, then re-injured it against Oregon. In the two games since then, he has rushed 17 times for 33 yards.

Bell watched practice from the sideline this week.

“It just wasn’t getting any better,” he said of his ankle. “So it’s good to get some rest on it.”

Among the other walking wounded, tackle Jeff Baca was in shoulder pads and a helmet on Thursday, though his work was limited. Freshman receiver Nelson Rosario showed up with a protective boot on his right foot.

“Nelson’s the only guy we’re concerned about,” Neuheisel said. “But the trainers believe he’ll be back by Tuesday so I’ve got my fingers crossed.”