Quentin Lake is ready to step out of his father’s shadow at UCLA
Quentin Lake was routinely among the last UCLA players to depart the practice field last season. He would linger for extra work pushing a tackling sled or perfecting the technique that he hoped would allow him to disrupt receivers once he gained a more prominent role.
That moment came early in spring practice last month when Lake lined up at strong safety with a group of starters. There was no fanfare, or even advance notice.
“They really just told me, ‘Quentin, get out there,’” Lake recalled Thursday.
The sophomore who played sparingly last season has maintained a hold on the spot opposite senior safety Adarius Pickett through the first 2½ weeks of practice. Lake has also starred on special teams, racing through the line Thursday as part of consecutive blocked field-goal attempts that also involved cornerback Darnay Holmes getting his hand on another kick.
Lake’s rise has come partially as the result of listening to his father. Few would be better positioned to give advice.
Carnell Lake, an All-American outside linebacker who played for the Bruins from 1985 to 1988, still holds the school record with 45½ tackles for loss and ranks fourth all-time with 25½ sacks. He went on to play in five Pro Bowls during a 12-year NFL career as a safety and cornerback with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens.
The elder Lake returned to UCLA for one season in 2009 as cornerbacks coach before joining the Steelers’ staff, where he remained through the end of last season. He announced in February that he was leaving to be a part of youngest son Austin’s final football season at Irvine University High. (The Steelers hired former UCLA defensive coordinator Tom Bradley to be Carnell Lake’s replacement as defensive backs coach.)
Quentin Lake has known he wanted to play for the Bruins since childhood. Early last year, he posted an elementary school yearbook picture of himself on Twitter with a caption denoting his future plans: “I will have graduated from UCLA and be a professional football player.”
His father has provided the mantra that could help him get there.
“Be the most hard-working, physical player on the field,” Lake said of his father’s suggestions.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Lake said that he has watched game footage of his father playing in college and the NFL and tries to mimic his speed and aggressiveness. Moving into a major role after playing mostly on special teams last season has not been as jarring as Lake feared.
“Being a young guy coming up in that position,” Lake said, “you can kind of get nervous. But I felt like I was confident enough.”
He’s playing some nickel back in addition to safety while replacing the departed Jaleel Wadood and walking a similar path as another Bruin who once had the same four letters stretched across the back of his jersey. But Quentin Lake intends on leaving a legacy distinctly his own.
“I feel like,” he said, “I want to make a name for myself.”
Defensive back Keyon Riley, wearing the yellow jersey of a player limited because of injury, made one of the top plays of practice when he returned an interception for a touchdown. … Receiver Kyle Philips joined the group of players wearing yellow jerseys because of an undisclosed injury. … Offensive lineman Michael Alves and linebacker Lokeni Toailoa were full practice participants after being slowed because of injuries earlier this spring. … Dropped passes were a theme of practice among the wide receivers, tight ends and running backs. … Quarterback Matt Lynch served as the holder on field-goal attempts, a duty performed last season by punter Stefan Flintoft.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch
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