Defensive Coaches Analyze Roster

Bruin Report Online gets an exclusive look at UCLA's defensive future with the defensive coaches going over their depth chart with us, talking about each scholarship defensive player in the program who isn't a starter. Who will be the future of UCLA's defense?

 Reggie Carter is a senior. Jerzy Siewierski is a senior. Kyle and Korey Bosworth are seniors. Alterraun Verner is a senior. Brian Price is a junior, but he could decide at the end of the season to take an early leave and enter the NFL Draft.

As they head into the 2009 season, the Bruins' veteran defense is well-positioned for success. Carter, the middle linebacker, said the goal is to have the top-ranked defense in the Pac-10 and given the experience and playmakers on that first defense that certainly is a possibility.

But how about the depth - this season and into the future?

Defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough and the defensive position coaches went over some of the younger players in the program, where they stand this season and into the future.

Here are some excerpts.

Tim Hundley

On the freshman safeties – Dalton Hilliard, Stan McKay and Alex Mascarenas:

‘'Well right now, Dalton Hilliard, as he continues to grow, will have an opportunity to play. He's going to be on some special teams, he'll get his feet wet in those situations and then as he grows he'll get a chance to play from scrimmage. He needs to keep getting better. Obviously, he had a knee injury that kept him out of the first week of practice – that was disappointing. But now he's starting to pick things up and he's a bright enough kid to get it done.

‘'He's probably the only freshman right now that we think is capable of playing. Now, we have to get a couple of other guys ready in case we get somebody hurt. Stan McKay is working hard and (Alex) Mascarenas is paying attention and trying to ale care of the little things, the details of the game. He's another guy that is very bright, a very knowledgeable football guy. He's a football player. They've got to be ready if we need them.''

On the separation between Hilliard and McKay or Mascarenas at this point:

‘'Right now it's just football awareness - your ability to decipher plays and see things on the move. When a lot of bullets start flying, how do you respond? And Dalton Hilliard responds the best of our freshmen.''

On moving forward:

‘'They all have a chance to play, they do. They're good football players who need more than just two weeks of preparation.''

Chuck Bullough

On the No. 2 linebackers, Sean Westgate, Patrick Larimore, Donovan Carter:

‘'Westgate has played before so we're confident with him. Larimore is the guy who hasn't played. He's progressed, and (Donovan Carter) has progressed. All three of those guys have progressed. Now, whether they're ready to start, that's another story. But they've progressed, so we believe they should be ready to go next year.''

On Westgate:  

‘'Westgate has moxie. He's a tough guy. He competes. He's obviously undersized, but he makes up for it with effort.''

On freshman Isaiah Bowens making the transition to linebacker from defensive end, and the mental and physical challenges:

‘'It's both, because it's a lot different than playing d-end. At linebacker, you're standing up, you've got pass and run coverages. It's a whole different thing when you step up off the ball.''

On Bowens' future as a Will or a Sam linebacker:

‘'We'll have to see. We're going to put the three best linebackers out there. I've never been into the Sam, Mike, Will thing. I'm putting the three best out there. Whoever is the three best, we'll find a way to get you in there, whether you're a Sam, a Will, whatever it is. The three best is going to play, kind of like what we had to do with Reggie (Carter) last year. When Box got hurt, we had to move Reggie, move Sloan in, because they were their three best at that time.''

On Todd Golper and a long-range projection:

‘'Golper, he's another guy. He's just not ready yet. But he's a smart kid and, with rookies, they're just trying to find their way right now. You never really know right now because they're swimming so much because they have all this new defense. Now if they get a year later and they've absorbed it all and can just go out and play instead of thinking, you might have a whole different player. That happens. It's hard to really evaluate freshmen. In a month, he's had a whole system jammed in his head. Now is he thinking too much? Next year at this time does he know it all and now he's just playing? Those things you've just got to wait and see.''

Carnell Lake**

On freshman corners, Marlon Pollard, Brandon Sermons and Sheldon Price:

‘'I've got a good group. I think Pollard, Brandon and Sheldon Price are what you want when you're looking for guys to coach – they pay attention, you don't have to make a thousand corrections for them to get it right, and they've got talent.

‘'It's yet to be determined if we want to use that talent or not, or if we need to. But so far they're coming along real well.''

On his comfort level, having to play one or more of them this season:

‘'Well, I think a couple of them probably need a little more work, and in a pinch I probably could use one or two of them. But I'm not going to throw them out to the wolves if I don't have to. Fortunately, it's not like the NFL where they throw you out there and you sink or swim. I've got time to develop them, and I'm happy about that. With the talent I do have, I don't think it's a real pressure situation right now.''

On the strengths and weaknesses of the three at this point?

‘'Pollard is a real smart kid. He does well in the classroom with what we're trying to teach, he has great quickness and great awareness. I think those things will come in handy. Brandon is a very physical player. He was a safety in high school, but we're looking at him as a corner right now. So far, he's shown that he will compete, it's just a matter of learning a new position. And with Sheldon Price, he looks like he's had some good training in high school. He's tall, fast and probably with a little more muscle he'll be a good one.''

Todd Howard

On Keenan Graham and Iuta Tepa:

‘'Right now, Graham is injured so he's not practicing and stuff, and Tepa is the fourth defensive end. He's coming along, slowly but surely. But the high school game to the college game is a different game, a lot more stuff to know and learn.

On Tepa:

‘'He's aggressive. He has some natural pass rushing ability and once the game slows down for him, I think he's going to speed up. Right now, the wheels are turning, he's trying to recognize, he's trying to do the things right, and his play is slowed down. He needs to get back up to where he's playing full speed and the game has slowed down for him.''

On Tepa and his measureables, strength wise:

‘'As a freshman he came in benching over 300 pounds and I think if he gains like he should every year, he should be where he needs to be strength wise. The freshmen coming in, obviously he's not going to be as strong as some of the guy who have been here for two ro three years, But he's being taught how to play with leverage and the techniques and he should do fine. You look at a guy like Bruce Davis, who wasn't a weight-room guy, but he was a two-time All-American.''

On Graham maintaining his weight while out with a broken jaw:

‘'He's doing protein shakes and things like that and his weight is holding, so … I think if he can keep it up what he's doing right now and lose a minimum amount, he'll catch it up and be fine.''

On how much the injury will this set him back:

‘'He's a smart guy. We knew he was smart coming in. He's in meetings and he's attentive. It's just that he's not getting the actual physical reps. He is getting the mental reps and listening to what's being taught and said in the meeting room.''

**The interview with Carnell Lake was done before Saturday's game, and previous to Aaron Hester's injury.

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