Jordan Zumwalt is all alone in the middle for UCLA

UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt spent extra time last week hanging out in assistant coach Clark Lea's office, preparing for an increased role.

Now Zumwalt, who is the only remaining middle linebacker, might as well get a cot.

Steven Sloan is "unlikely" to play against Oregon State this week, according to Coach Rick Neuheisel, because of a hamstring injury. A team source said Sloan could be out "a few weeks."

"Jordan was cramming last week like he was having a final exam and hadn't attended the class until then," said Lea, who coaches UCLA linebackers. "From here, we've got to build on that foundation."

There is no other choice. Starter Patrick Larimore is already out, having suffered a dislocated shoulder against Oregon. Now Sloan is hurt.

"I'm it right now," Zumwalt said. "There is no one left behind me. I have to step up and make the right plays."

Zumwalt is an aggressive player, showing that with six tackles against Arizona. That included a sack on a third down late in the game, "that gave us a chance to win the game," Neuheisel said.

Where Zumwalt will need to get up to speed is running the defense, though linebackers Sean Westgate and Akeem Ayers will help out.

"Those guys know the defense like the back of their hands," Zumwalt said. Besides, he said, "it is always best to know what you're doing. But once the ball is snapped, if you don't know what you're doing, play fast and cover yourself."

Hester back

Cornerback Aaron Hester spent a week out of the starting lineup, then returned Saturday against Arizona.

Hester's performance was mixed against Arizona. He was called for pass interference in the end zone, but also intercepted a pass, also in the end zone, preventing Arizona from scoring a game-clinching touchdown.

"They said they had a plan for me. They benched me," Hester said. "So last week I came out with all the passion and intensity in the world. I got a hold of my starting job again and I have to hold it the rest of my career."


Neuheisel said that he expected wide receiver Nelson Rosario (high ankle sprain) and cornerback Sheldon Price (sprained knee) to play. Rosario practiced Tuesday, and Price went through about half the drills.

Quarterback Kevin Prince, who had surgery on his right knee Oct. 23, dropped by practice.

"I have to be on crutches another five weeks," Prince said. "After that I can start doing some workouts. They expect me to be ready for spring ball. I think if everything goes well, I should be throwing the football sometime in January

Offensive lineman Jeff Baca was released from the hospital last week, but not before undergoing minor surgery on his left knee to clean out a staph infection. Baca is unlikely to return to practice this season.

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