UCLA’s Aaron Hester suspended for first half of Utah game
Aaron Hester crumpled to the ground midway through practice Wednesday after hurting his left ankle, but the UCLA cornerback’s injury won’t be the reason he doesn’t play in the first half against Utah.
After practice ended, cornerback Randall Carroll inadvertently told reporters inquiring about increased playing time after Hester’s injury that Hester would be suspended for part of Saturday’s game.
“He wasn’t going to get to play the first half, so I think it’s going to stay the same,” Carroll said of his playing time.
The Pac-12 Conference reprimanded Hester earlier this week for critical comments he had made about officiating after the Bruins’ victory over Arizona State, though the conference didn’t publicly announce a suspension.
Hester walked off the practice field on crutches Wednesday, though UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said afterward that he expected Hester to be able to play against Utah.
Just not in the first half, apparently.
Hester’s absence means Carroll could go from backup receiver to starting cornerback in only a week. Carroll made his debut on defense last weekend against Arizona State in passing situations and on several blitzes.
Carroll said he had been attending extra meetings before and after practice to accelerate his transition. The former California prep sprint champion said his speed was even more of an asset on defense than it had been on the other side of the ball.
“My technique isn’t as sound as it should be because I haven’t been playing here all year,” Carroll said, “so my makeup speed is helping me a lot.”
The running man
Running back John White has keyed Utah’s midseason resurgence by running for at least 100 yards in victories over Pittsburgh, Oregon State and Arizona.
UCLA linebacker Sean Westgate said what makes the 5-foot-8, 186-pound White so effective is his slippery nature.
“He can hit the smallest holes and he gets half a man,” Westgate said of the former Los Angeles Harbor College standout who has 1,024 yards rushing this season. “It’s never a full blow; you get kind of glancing blows on him, so you have to wrap.”
Stopping the run has been something the Bruins have struggled to do, giving up 200 or more yards in five games and at least 150 yards in two others.
“It’s just missed assignments and early on [in the season] playing with a bunch of young guys that want the big hit, so they come in with the shoulder rather than wrapping up,” Westgate said. “I’ve been guilty of that myself, and I’m not a young guy.”
Neuheisel said safety Dietrich Riley’s neck injury did not appear to be career-threatening but could “potentially” end his season. Riley was hurt against California on Oct. 29. … Quarterback Richard Brehaut, who hasn’t played since Oct. 8 because of a broken leg, stayed after practice to throw passes. “We’re going to get the oil can out and see if we can’t get him un-rusty,” Neuheisel said.
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