With starting cornerback Aaron Hester out with a cracked fibula, Courtney Viney took over in the San Diego State game and continued to work with the No. 1 defense Wednesday.
His lack of size at 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds could be an issue, but cornerbacks coach Carnell Lake said if it is, it is a secondary one.
Here is Lake on Viney and the progress of freshman Sheldon Price, the true freshman who is got his feet wet in the SDSU game and who Lake is preparing to be part of the two-deep at the position with Hester out.
How are you preparing Viney for playing against Tennessee?
‘'The biggest part about playing, especially corner, is that you have to be mentally in the game. You have to know what you're supposed to do. You have to have a good idea of what your opponent is trying to do against you. You have to be in tune with the game at all times. You have to be on. He's going to be on a big stage on Saturday and that's the biggest thing I could tell him - focus in, study, do your homework because this preparation is really the game. Once you get in the game it should just be instinctive and so far he's tuning in.''
Do you worry more about that than any physical limitations?
‘'I do. You know, every player has limitations. There are only a few players, even at the elite level, who have it all. You have to work with what you have. And it's my job to get him prepared and show him where his limitations are and show him how to use the talents that he does have.''
Are you still able to do as much, or everything, with Viney as you would with Hester?
‘'Yeah, I can. Obviously, they both have different skill sets. It's just a matter of changing gears for me in working with another guy and getting him prepared. A lot of things, they prepare the same with. I don't really teach them much that is different, it's just that I might have to emphasize certain things that I wouldn't with the other guy.''
But coverage-wise, you're not limited in any way?
‘'Not at all.''
How is Sheldon Price progressing?
‘'He's coming along well. Sheldon has got tools, too. He's sharp in the classroom and he's coming along better than I thought … ahead of schedule. He got a little taste in the San Diego State game, which is good going into the Tennessee game because we may need him.''
You would anticipate him playing at least a little, wouldn't you?
‘'Well, you know, I told him, ‘Be prepared … you never know.' He probably didn't think he was going to get into the San Diego State game and it happened.''
You mentioned the classroom work...
‘'He's sharp. You know, at a certain point you can be in a classroom forever, but you have to get on the field. It's kind of like live bullets shooting at you – it's a little different than seeing it on the Xs and Os … you have to experience it.''
How did he react to the speed of the game against San Diego State?
‘'I think everybody has their moments and I shared that with him after the game. We came back to UCLA and had our first meeting after the game and I said, ‘You know, everybody has it. Me included. It's just a matter of how you handle it.' That's why I preach to them, you train like you're in the game, so you won't have so much of a learning curve once the game starts.''
Viney, when askeed if he feels limited by his size, said:
‘'Being a smaller player you definitely get tested. It's something that I've had to deal with all my life. I know I love this game and that's just something I have to face for the rest of my years here and if I'm blessed to play at the next level. Basically I just use my quickness to my advantage. That's pretty much it, being on top of the receiver at all times, being able to play the ball when it comes.''
Is Viney Ready for Tennessee?
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