Jeff Baca: "This is My Dream"

The true freshman offensive lineman, Jeff Baca, came to UCLA hoping he'd play as a true freshman, but admits he was surprised that he actually has, and, in fact, won the starting left tackle position, even after experiencing a knee injury in fall camp...

Jeff Baca, the freshman offensive lineman, talked to us at practice this week.

Did you think before the season that you would play as a freshman?

Not really. I was basically planning on redshirting, because that's what coaches told me toward the end of camp, right before I got hurt. They told me I was going to redshirt and I was fine with that. But then I came back from my injury, and coach gave me a shot and I took advantage of my opportunity."

What was your first start like?

It was awesome. Second to none. There's nothing else better than that --- starting your first college football game as a true freshman."

Are you surprised because it's so rare for offensive lineman to play right away?

"I am. I am surprised. Then again, if the coaches feel that I am the best guy at that position, they're going to play the best guy. It's not like they're going to play games, and that's the philosophy, you just go around and whoever is playing the best that week is the starter."

Are you mentally prepared?

Mentally, coming out of Mission Viejo High School, it's a big-time program, and I was football-smart. I felt like I was smarter than the average player just because of my coaches in high school. Coming in here, I have a little jump on guys because I ran the same offense in high school. All these guys, they had a whole different offense last year."

When you were recruited did you think about immediate playing time?

Yeah. I came in here and I wanted to play right away. This is like my dream. This is why I did two-a-day workouts in the summer. This is why I work my ass off; I wanted to play as a true freshman."

Do you feel like you're a better pass or run blocker?

I'm not sure. Coming in I thought I was a better pass blocker. But I'm probably about even now, or maybe a little better at pass blocking."

What's been the hardest adjustment?

Speed of the game, definitely. The defensive linemen are bigger, faster and stronger, and the same goes for the linebackers. They're grown men, they're 21 or 22 years old. I'm still 18. Even though I'm big, and maybe as strong, it's a different kind of strength. You also have that mindset that they're already better than you because they're older, that type of thing."

Is it weird for the team to be so heavily favored against Washington State, even though you've lost three straight?

Actually, I didn't even know about that. And I honestly didn't think about that. Is it that big? Well, honestly, the coaches haven't talked about that at all. And as a player I haven't thought about that at all. We just want to go in and get 300 yards rushing, that's our goal. We came close last week. But we want 300. We want a steady number every week from now on, and, of course, good pass protection for Kevin Craft."

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