On the injury front, the team is "pretty clean right now," in the words of Head Coach Karl Dorrell. There are some minor bumps and bruises, but only reserve cornerback Jebiaus Brown will not make the trip due to a concussion.
Going into the season there were some starting positions that were up for grabs, but defensive tackle was one that appeared to be set. Two days before the opening game at Colorado, the starting position left undetermined is that of defensive tackle. Dorrell said that the decision to start Ryan Boschetti or Asi Faoa could very well come as late as game time on Saturday.
Justin Medlock struggled at the beginning of practice Wednesday, but then the coaches re-set the period for him, told him to re-focus and he made every field goal he attempted. Dorrell said, "It's focus. He missed some kicks early on, then we re-started the period and he made them all. I told him he needs to focus. He's a very good kicker. It's just his first time out and he's a freshman. But he's as good a kicker there is in terms of his leg and skills. He just needs game experience."
When asked what the range that Dorrell would use Medlock, the head coach said, "I don't like him outside of 50. He thinks he can get up to 60 and 62. But I think around 50 is where I'm comfortable with it."
With practices mostly closed to the media, it's impossible to determine how well the quarterbacks have done in their preparation during game week. Dorrell did say though, that they've had a good week. "They've done a nice job. They feel more comfortable with our package for this game plan. I was encouraged the last couple of practices. Matt Moore looks pretty sharp. I'm hoping he can carry through on Saturday."
Moore did extra passing work after practice, throwing to Craig Bragg.
Another interesting aspect of the game for Dorrell will be his transition to being a field coach, having spent the last eight years in the coaches' booth as wide receiver coach for the Broncos. "It's interesting to me," he said. "I think the biggest deal is I have to pay attention to every phase of the game instead of just offense. That'd be my biggest focus, particularly in this game."
Dorrell has awarded scholarships to walk-on players: Senior offensive lineman Tyson Clayton, senior linebacker Nick Carey, and junior linebacker Ben Lorier. Lorier is a junior, and he has been granted a scholarship for the remainder of his two years at UCLA. Dorrell said, "They've earned it. They've done everything we've asked. Our rule is, if they make the two-deep, they should get a scholarship."
Comments from senior defensive tackle Rodney Leisle...
On whether there's a degree of payback for the Colorado game:
"Not really. I'm not too worried about last year. I'm worried about this year. I think we need to focus on what we have to do this year, not last year. I remember we lost, and that's all I need to know. Our defense is solid this year and everybody is fitting in well, and I think it will work for us."
On really focusing for his senior year:
"I've been focused every year. I just have to go out there and do my assignment. Everybody has an assignment in this defense. I just have to fit my gap and do what I'm supposed to do and that will open areas up for me to make plays."
On Colorado's running backs:
"I've watched film on them. They're shifty and cut back a lot. We just need to contain them."
On how this game will set a tone for the season:
"I think we have expectations we're trying to exceed. We're going to out there and play hard-nosed defense. We have a new standard here at UCLA. And our defense is going to set it this game."