Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers a test for UCLA's tacklers

UCLA's defense faces the nation's 14th-leading rusher Saturday when Oregon State and Jacquizz Rodgers drop by the Rose Bowl.

Rodgers is the latest in a strong group of running backs the Bruins have faced, including Oregon's LaMichael James, Kansas State's Daniel Thomas and California's Shane Vereen.

All exploited the Bruins' weakness against the run.

Rodgers will face a defense that revisited the tackling issues that plagued it earlier in the season when Arizona rolled up 264 yards rushing Saturday.

"That game tape was one of the hardest things I have ever had to watch," UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers said. "We missed big plays, big plays that would have had a significant impact on the game."

Rodgers averages 105.7 yards a game. He had 112 yards against the Bruins last season and 144 in 2008, both Oregon State victories.

"He's strong," said Chuck Bullough, UCLA's defensive coordinator. "You look at him in person, he's got big calves. He's short, but he's muscular."

Said Ayers: "He is able to find those small holes and has lateral quickness to get through them. He's a small back who is hard to find."

The Bruins' tackling woes returned in the past three games. UCLA ranks 108th out of 120 major college teams against the run. Opposing teams have gone over 200 yards five times, all UCLA losses.

Bullough added an extra period of tackling during practice but said, "That's mostly for emphasis, to get it in their minds. They've been taught the proper technique. In the end, when you're out there playing, you have to tackle the guy."

Brehaut maturing

Coach Rick Neuheisel said quarterback Richard Brehaut has taken significant steps forward since taking over as the starter but is still a work in progress.

"You have to do things over and over to make sure he sees all the looks on a particular play, so he can show you he knows it all," Neuheisel said. "He can tell you he does, and nod and nod and nod. But until you get visual proof of such, you have to keep doing it."

Quick hits

Free safety Dalton Hilliard (concussion) will have a baseline test today, but Neuheisel said he is unlikely to play this week. … Tackle Sean Sheller, suspended for the Arizona game, regained his starting spot though Neuheisel said Micah Kia would also play. … Neuheisel also said cornerback Sheldon Price (sprained knee) and wide receiver Nelson Rosario would be ready to play. … Oregon State has won the last two games against the Bruins, but UCLA won the previous five meetings.



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