Wednesday Practice Report

UCLA prepares for Cal on Saturday, and tries to get back some key personnel from injury. Head Coach Karl Dorrell gets us up to date on the team after practice Wednesday...

With starting defensive end Justin Hickman not taking reps with the defense because of a knee straing, and then back-up Bruce Davis also sitting out some due to a slight groin injury, freshman defensive end Brigham Harwell took reps with the first-team defense.

Harwell injured his knee in fall camp, then had arthroscopic surgery, before returning the second week of the season. In that game, against Illinois, Harwell was impressive, but since hasn't had much playing time. Apparently his injury has flared up a few times in the last few weeks, limiting his playing time. But he reportedly is particularly better this week.

Head Coach Karl Dorrell commented after practice:

"We had a good practice, a good day of preparation. We're still trying to get our guys that have minor injuries back to health. It's taken a little bit of a while for those guys to get back. The practice was good. We're excited about this opportunity. It's going to be a great opportunity to go up and play a ranked team. We'll see what we can do. A lot of guys are from the Bay Area, so they're excited about going home. We've had good success on the road so far this year and we're hoping to keep that consistent from the beginning."

Is it safe to say that outside of USC this will be the best offense you'll face all year?

"I could not say that. I know ASU has done a nice job, too. They've had some very good success so far this year. We've only played two teams in the Pac-10. There are a lot of other teams that are pretty good. This is a conference that always has good offenses, guys that can move the football. They'll probably be the best offense we'll face to this point. But we still have five games after this."

How is Justin Hickman?

"Hickman is sore today. He has a sprained knee. We just wanted him to do some straight-ahead running in a brace, and he felt pretty good about that. He'll do a little bit more practicing tomorrow. He had some swelling in the knee from yesterday. He came out and ran on it and felt pretty good. We'll see what he can do tomorrow, to make a determination on the game."

Did they do an x-rays or MRIs? "No."

So you're hopeful he can play?

"Very hopeful. He'll be there on Saturday."

Are you hopeful that Justin London can come back and be the player he was, or you want him to be?

"He's far from that still. He's not 100%. But he's good enough to help us, with him not being 100%. He's going to provide some great leadership for us. He's ready to get back in there playing. He has an injury that I don't know if he'll ever be 100%. He has one of those things that takes a long time to heal. The best thing you can do is stay off of it. And you can't really do that during the season. He'll give his best out there, and we'll watch and see what he can do. And we'll spell him when we need to."

USC kind of adopted a bend-but-don't-break defense against Cal. What do you think is the best way to attempt to stop Cal from moving the ball?

"I think that is our defense right now. We bend and don't break. We've had some problems stopping the run. For the most part our defense has played well in third down and in keeping the touchdown ratio low. So we're bending quite a bit right now. We're hoping to do some better things in terms of stopping the run game, at least not have them run so much against us. You're not going to stop Cal's offense. With their quarterback, and with their good skills, and a good running back, there's not point in saying you're going to stop them. You just need to slow them down and to not give them too many opportunities to score."

In general, it seems like you're getting beat up even lately with injuries... "We are getting beat up some, but we're getting some back healthy. We're getting some guys back for the game. We're not at full strength. We're getting trade-offs. One guy gets hurt, and one guys comes back. That's just the state of how things are going so far this year. But we've been finding a way to be successful. We'll just keep playing, and playing hard, and playing better. We'll get those young guys some more experience and hopefully keep winning."

How is Bruce Davis?

"He's fine. He practiced today and is good to go."

How happy are you with your special teams?

"Special teams have been very good so far this year. They had their best game last week. We had seven special team game ball winners last week. I'm very pleased with their progress. And we're going to need another great special teams effort this week. I'm definitely pleased. Justin Medlock has been playing very well. He hasn't missed any field goals. And I'll kill you if he does this week."

How valuable is it having someone as reliable as him?

"He's very valuable. He works hard at it. And he puts a lot of pressure on himself to be good. He has a great work ethic. It's good he's playing very well for us. Chris Kluwe seems to be getting in a rhythm now. For the last couple of games he's had some good distances on his punts. And we've had good coverage. It's kicking in at the right time. We're in the meat of our schedule and we're going to need the best special teams play we can get the next few weeks."

With Drew Olson having such a big game last week, did you see anything change with him?

"He's focusing more. That's what I noticed more in practice. He's always a pretty happy-go-lucky kid. But he's really trying to have more of a business approach the last couple of weeks. It was fun to see him have the kind of game he had last week. There was starting to get that speculation out there, ‘Oh, what's wrong with Drew.' I didn't think anything was wrong. He then just came and had a great performance. We're hoping that will be the trend for him as we keep going."

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