UCLA tight end Kevin McDermott gets a closer look

UCLA picked up more than a couple of victories from Tennessee the past two seasons. The Bruins also took home a key player.

Kevin McDermott, whom UCLA plucked from Nashville two years ago, is looking more and more like a player the Bruins will need to play some at tight end.

Cory Harkey is UCLA’s only player at that position who is on scholarship, and transfer Joseph Fauria is recovering from a groin problem. That has left McDermott, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound sophomore, getting considerable attention during practice.

McDermott’s size and speed are average, but he has sure hands and his tenacity is apparent.

“He’s just a kid from Tennessee who had a little wanderlust and wanted to come out and see California, and he has become a very valuable kid,” Coach Rick Neuheisel said. “With Joe Fauria being down, I think Kevin is going to be a Johnny-on-the-spot guy for us.”

As to how much McDermott will play, Neuheisel said, “You have to imagine that there will be some chances for him. He’s earned them, no question.”

McDermott was looking for a place to walk on after his senior season as a tight end and long snapper at Nashville Ensworth High in 2007. He sent out tapes and a number of schools were interested in him as a long snapper. But Norm Chow, UCLA’s offensive coordinator, saw potential as a tight end.

“Norm invited us out here,” said McDermott, who came to California with his mom and dad. “At that point, I was looking to walk on anywhere. I came out here for the first three days of spring football, and they offered me preferred walk-on status.” (Not a scholarship, but a place on the team.)

McDermott probably will be the Bruins’ long snapper next season, after preseason All-American Christian Yount’s eligibility expires.

“There is no doubt in my mind that I am 100% sure about my ability to play tight end,” McDermott said. “I know what I’m doing. When I got out here I wanted to prove to myself and my teammates that I could get the job done.”

Baca appeal denied

The NCAA has denied Jeff Baca’s appeal to regain his academic eligibility, meaning the junior who was a projected starter on the offensive line will have to sit out the season. … Quarterback Kevin Prince, still suffering from a strained back muscle, threw fewer than five passes Tuesday and mostly handed the ball off during practice.