Todd Howard on the Defensive Line

Defensive line coach Todd Howard talked about the state of his D-line, the development of junior tackle Brian Price, who is looking to fill the other DT starting slot, and the young defensive ends...

Brian Price made the all-Pac-10 team a year ago, and defensive line coach Coach Todd Howard has higher expectations for the Bruins' tackle in 2009.

A leaner look, even more quickness and more consistency with his technique, are steps that they are working on this spring to make Price a more complete and dominating player than he was a year ago when he led the Bruins with 14½ tackles for loss.

But Price has not been the only UCLA defensive lineman that has been making progress – or plays - at the start of spring practices.

During a team period on Monday, defensive end Datone Jones got his paws on guard Nick Ekbatani and just buried him, threw him over backward and sent him tumbling into a play that went nowhere. It was a pretty impressive play by Jones, and Howard said that the sophomore end has had an impressive few days of spring practices.

Here are some comments from Coach Howard:

It seems like Brian Price has really leaned up quite a bit...

"Yeah, he has. He looks really good. He had a really good off-season. He's working really hard and we're counting on him to step his game up a little bit more. He was all Pac-10 first team last year and on a personal level you'd like to see him go for an All-American team."

On the 'eyeball' test, how dramatic is the change in him?

"He just looks better. He looks tighter."

How does that translate on the field?

"He makes plays. He poses problems for teams trying to block him. He's disruptive and, like I said, we're counting on him to do big things this year. He's quicker. He's more explosive. He's understanding the game better. But he still has some things he can work on. He's not a finished product yet."

What do you have him working on?

"His stance is something that we really want to concentrate on and for him to get better at. Playing with the proper pad level, because if he aspires to play on Sundays, he's not going to be bigger and quicker than everybody that he goes against, so you want to have your technique and your fundamentals down."

I guess when you're able to do some of the things he does without nailing his technique every time...

"Exactly. He can win with his pad level up high. But we're trying to concentrate on his fundamentals and really being consistent with it."

Who do you see lining up next to him?

"Jerzy Sierwierski. Jerzy right now is running with the first team and he's probably one of the best athletes on the defensive line. He brings a finesse game, has some finesse ability about him, and is a great athlete. Then at end, there's Korey Bosworth, who is playing well right now and having a good camp. I think he's a guy who should be able to reach double figures in the sack department. And then we'll see about Datone and Damien Holmes. They're young, but they're playing pretty good right now." How is Datone coming along? "He's coming along fine. He wants it. He and Damien compete. They both really want it and the sky is the limit for both of those guys. I think right now, he's ahead of where you think a freshman would be playing. His football IQ and ability to understand what you're teaching them, both him and Damien are ahead of the guys, probably ahead of Boz and those other guys when they first started playing it. They're pretty instinctive about playing the position. They've got really good football IQs, just got a feel for it."

Holmes will get some time inside?

"Holmes is playing both tight side and open side. He's surprised me because he's quicker than what I thought he was. He's very quick to it. The fact that he weighs 255, 260, and moves like he moves, in a pinch he could play inside."

The depth inside seems to be a concern...

"Well, we've got Jess Ward, who I consider a starter. He didn't practice today because he has the bad wheel. Then you've got David Carter. He's a big body in there and David has some ability. He played end last year and now we've moved him inside. He logged some playing time last year so we've got to count on him this season, too."

Can he hold up inside?

"He's 275, 280 pounds. By the time it's all said and done with, he can hold up inside. He better. He's going to have to."

Is the walk-on, Justin Mann, close at all?

"Justin works hard. He lacks a little upper body strength. He's probably a year or so away, but he works awfully hard."


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