Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA's freshman middle linebacker, has a warning for opposing teams.
The Bruins' defense has been trampled over this season, allowing 200 or more yards rushing in six games, but Zumwalt said, "You're not going to get it in the future, that's for sure. As soon as we get a year of college under our belts, college workouts, we're going to be beasts. We've got nothing but big things ahead of us."
There are up sides to the Bruins' defensive front. Zumwalt, defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa and defensive tackle Cassius Marsh all are freshmen.
"All three have shown signs," defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough said. "They are going to make mistakes, but they have shown progress. The biggest thing is they have shown physicality. At that age, when you're going against juniors and seniors, it's like you're facing grown men. They have held their own."
Zumwalt is newest to the trio. He was moved from a reserve role at outside linebacker to starting in the middle two weeks ago after injuries to Patrick Larimore and Steve Sloan.
"To make that switch and still be competent is amazing," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "All three of those guys have made huge strides. You can't single one out. I'll stack this freshman class up against any in the country."
It gives Marsh optimism about the future.
"I think with all the young talent we have starting right now, and the freshmen who are playing, we will probably have one of the best defenses in the nation," Marsh said.
UCLA's most consistent player?
Unfortunately for the Bruins, it is punter Jeff Locke, who returns home Friday when UCLA takes on Arizona State.
Locke played at Glendale (Ariz.) Mountain Ridge High, not far from Arizona State. He even kicked in Sun Devil Stadium.
"My high school played in the state championship game when I was a freshman," Locke said. "I did kickoffs well but missed a 43-yard field goal."
Locke will punt Friday. He ranks fifth nationally in net punting, averaging 45.8 yards a game. He is the Bruins' highest-ranked player in any category.
"Jeff has been a huge asset to our program the last two years," Neuheisel said. "But we'd rather rest him more. We were bragging, not only Jeff, but the whole punt team. Then you look down and see Stanford has punted only 25 times. We're over 50. Eventually we'll get it down to where we rest Jeff more."
At least as a punter.
Locke, a sophomore, will compete with freshman Kip Smith for the place-kicking job in spring.
"We would love Kip to do it, but we've got to make sure he knows it's not going to be easy," Locke said.