2002 Football Outlook
July 19, 2002
In 2001, UCLA won its first six games, including non-conference victories at then #25 Alabama and over #21 Ohio State and Pac-10 wins over #19 Oregon State and #10 Washington before hitting a challenging final month. Overall, the Bruins finished 7-4, including a 52-42 win over Arizona State in the season finale.
UCLA returns 11 starters from last season - six on offense and five on defense, plus both its punter and kicker - to form the nucleus of the 2002 team. On offense, the Bruins welcome back quarterback Cory Paus; wide receiver Tab Perry, who led the team in receiving yards; tackles Mike Saffer, an All-America candidate, and Bryce Bohlander, who will also contend for post-season honors; guard Eyoseph Efseaff, who earned Freshman All-America acclaim; and guards Steven Vieira and Shane Lehmann, who together started every game at right guard. On defense, the returnees include tackle Rodney Leisle, who earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors while starting every game; end Dave Ball, who started all 11 games; outside linebacker Brandon Chillar; two-time All-Pac-10 first-team cornerback Ricky Manning; and first-team Freshman All-American Matt Ware, who will play at either corner, where he started every game in 2001, or safety. Punter Nate Fikse, a first-team All-Pac-10 selection, and place kicker Chris Griffith both return for their senior seasons.
Other key returnees include wide receivers Craig Bragg, who led the team with 29 receptions, and Ryan Smith; tight end Mike Seidman; tailbacks Akil Harris and Manuel White, who ranked second and third, respectively, in rushing a year ago; defensive linemen Rusty Williams, Sean Phillips, Steve Morgan and Mat Ball; linebacker Marcus Reese, cornerbacks Joe Hunter and Keith Short and safeties Ben Emanuel II and Kevin Brant. Key losses include tailback DeShaun Foster, center Troy Danoff, wide receiver Brian Poli-Dixon, tight end Bryan Fletcher, long-snapper Jeff Grau, defensive linemen Kenyon Coleman, Ken Kocher and Anthony Fletcher, linebackers Robert Thomas and Ryan Nece and safeties Marcus Anderson and Jason Stephens.
Several players with little or no experience could also earn significant playing time, including wide receiver Junior Taylor, tight end Keith Carter, tailbacks Tyler Ebell, Wendell Mathis and Jason Harrison, fullback Pat Norton, offensive linemen Collin Barker, Ed Blanton, Robert Cleary, Mike McCloskey and Matt Mosebar, defensive tackle Ryan Boschetti, linebackers Spencer Havner and Patrick Pierre-Louis, safety Jibril Raymo and cornerbacks Matt Clark and Marcus Cassel.
'I was pleased with the progress we made during Spring practice,' said head coach Bob Toledo. 'We lost a lot of quality performers from last year's team, many having been multi-year starters. This Spring gave the coaching staff a chance to evaluate a number of players at a number of different positions. With 22 newcomers set to join us in the Fall, I expect the competition at several positions will be extremely intense for both reserve and starting roles.
'We have talented young players who will need to be ready to help us out right now, even if it is in a backup role at first. Offensively, I expect that the battles for playing time at tailback will be highly competitive as we have two talented veterans and several redshirt freshmen who are coming on fast. And, although we return four starters on the offensive line, we need our redshirt freshmen to step their game up and show us they are ready to contribute. The fullback position is one of several positions on the team that could be in the hands of a new starter.
'Defensively, we return a number of key performers from last year's team, which ranked No. 1 in the Pac-10 in total defense. Ricky Manning, Jr. and Rodney Leisle are two of the best players in the nation at their positions, and Marcus Reese and Matt Ware are outstanding in their own right. I also feel we have enough young talent to once again play the type of aggressive, effective defense we played in 2001,' said Toledo.
UCLA will again face a challenging schedule, playing 12 regular-season games for the first time in school history. It features non-conference home games against Colorado State and Big 12 champion Colorado and road games at Oklahoma State and San Diego State. In Pac-10 play, the Bruins will travel to Oregon State, California, Washington and Arizona and host Oregon, Stanford, Washington State and USC at the Rose Bowl. Overall, UCLA will face seven schools that played in bowl games, including six at the Rose Bowl.
Six starters, including four from the offensive line, form the nucleus of what figures to be another productive, high-scoring offense. The Bruins have a senior quarterback, but the success of this unit may well depend upon several juniors and sophomores who now have a chance to play key roles.
UCLA has four scholarship players in the program at the position, but only one has appeared in a game. Coach Toledo is not expected to name the starter until a week before the opening game against Colorado State on September 7.
Fifth-year senior CORY PAUS (6-2, 217) returns for his fourth year as a starter. However, he will have to continue to demonstrate a high level of consistency during Fall Practice, as he builds on his efforts during the Spring, in order to re-establish himself.
Paus, who showed outstanding progress in 2000, was up and down throughout the 2001 season. A summer injury to his right thumb affected his ability to make certain throws and he also experienced off-the-field problems that became a distraction for both him and the team. On the year, he completed 101 of 194 yards (52.1) for 1,740 yards but just eight touchdowns to go along with an equal number of interceptions. He threw for over 200 yards four times but also completed less than 40 percent of his passes on three occasions.
Redshirt freshman JOHN SCIARRA (6-2, 201) made definite strides during Spring Practice in his quest to become game ready. Sciarra passed for over 2,600 yards and 21 touchdowns while leading his team to the CIF-SS Division III semifinals in 2000. He is the son of former Bruin quarterback John Sciarra, who led UCLA to the 1976 Rose Bowl championship.
A pair of highly-touted freshmen signal callers will join the team this Fall, looking to make the adjustment from the prep ranks to college as quickly as possible. MATT MOORE (6-4, 180) and DREW OLSON (6-2, 188) will each be given a long, hard look in the early stages of camp.
Moore, a SuperPrep All-American from Hart High School in Newhall, CA, led his team to a 13-0 record and the CIF-Southern Section Division III title as a senior. In what was his only year as the starting quarterback, he threw for over 3,300 yards and 33 touchdowns. He also ran for 415 yards and seven more scores. In his junior season, Moore had earned all-CIF honors at the safety position.
Olson, a PrepStar All-America from Piedmont, CA High School, threw for over 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior after totaling over 2,300 yards and 29 scores in his junior season.
'This position will be one of particular interest,' said Toledo. 'We hope and expect that Cory will return to the form he showed during his sophomore season. His solid performance this Spring was a good starting point in that regard.
'We were pleased with the progress we saw John make during Spring Practice and feel good about the position entering the off-season. The two incoming freshmen will also come ready to compete in Fall camp. Obviously, we are hopeful that we can take advantage of Cory's experience and bring the youngsters along at a more comfortable pace. However, like any other position, we will play the man who gives us the best chance to win football games.'
During the last three games of the 2001 season, UCLA received a preview of life after DeShaun Foster. This season, a talented group of veterans and youngsters will battle to replace one of the best tailbacks in school history.
Fourth-year junior AKIL HARRIS (6-0, 215) is the top candidate to take over the starting position. In 2001, he was the team's No. 2 rusher with 375 yards and his average of 4.9 yards per attempt ranked second only to Foster among backs. He started two of the final three games and recorded a career-high 138 yards against Arizona State and 79 versus Oregon, scoring a touchdown in each contest. He also ranked second (tied) on the squad with his three rushing touchdowns.
Redshirt sophomore Manuel White recorded a career-high 85 yards and two scores against Arizona State in 2001.
Redshirt sophomore MANUEL WHITE, JR. (6-3, 243) is a big, strong back with speed who also catches the ball well out of the backfield. On the season, he ranked third in rushing with 290 yards and second (tied) with three rushing touchdowns. He recorded a career-high 85 yards and two scores against Arizona State and had 44 yards at Kansas. As a senior at Valencia (CA) High School (1999), he earned All-America recognition while rushing for over 2,500 yards and 38 touchdowns. During his career, he rushed for 6,745 yards, No. 4 in California state history at the time, and scored 78 touchdowns. White will also see duty at fullback.
A trio of redshirt freshmen tailbacks -- all prep All-Americans -- each impressed the coaching staff during Spring Practice and demonstrated the ability to earn playing time this season. WENDELL MATHIS (6-0, 193) enjoyed a fine senior year at Merced (CA) High in 2000, rushing for 2,027 yards and 21 touchdowns. He put on an impressive performance in the Spring game, running for a 61-yard score. JASON HARRISON (5-9, 200) rushed for 1,787 yards and 23 touchdowns in 10 games at Gunderson High in San Jose, CA in 2000. TYLER EBELL (5-9, 170) enjoyed a spectacular senior season at Ventura (CA) High. In 2000, he set national single-season prep records for rushing yards (4,495) and touchdowns (64). He also holds California state career records for rushing yards (7,385) and touchdowns (111). All possess outstanding speed and quickness.
The fullback position will be manned by White and a couple of relatively inexperienced performers. Third-year sophomore PAT NORTON (6-1, 240) appeared in five games on offense and has displayed the potential to be a fine blocker and a physical ball carrier. RAY CASSADAY (6-0, 235), another third-year sophomore, moved from linebacker last season and gained valuable experience at the position during Spring drills. True freshman J.D. GROVES (6-2, 232) arrives in the Fall with an impressive list of credentials after an outstanding career as a fullback and linebacker at Keizer, OR NcNary High School.
'Obviously, we lost some talented and experienced performers in DeShaun Foster, Ed Ieremia-Stansbury and Matt Stanley,' said Toledo, who has produced a 1,000-yard rusher in four of his six seasons as head coach. 'However, Spring Practice proved that the young men we have in the program will give us the ability to continue to run the ball effectively. Akil is an exciting, slashing runner who has impressed us. Manuel possesses an intriguing combination of speed and strength, making him hard to defend. Wendell, Jason and Tyler all have tremendous upside, and it will be fun to coach these youngsters. At fullback, both Pat and Ray will get opportunites to produce. We are excited to get a first look at J.D.'
The Bruins will be without Brian Poli-Dixon, who made 139 receptions during his career to rank in UCLA's career Top Five. However, a couple of the returnees from last season have demonstrated the ability to became breakout performers.
Tab Perry led all UCLA receivers with 416 receiving yards and a 19.8 yards per catch average.
Junior TAB PERRY (6-3, 220) quickly established himself as a big-play performer last year, making a 53-yard touchdown reception against Alabama in the opener and scoring on a 49-yarder at Kansas the following week. On the year, he led the Bruins with 416 receiving yards and his average of 19.8 yards per reception was the highest among the wide receivers. He also ranked third on the squad with 21 catches, despite not making a reception in the Bruins' final three games. He fractured four ribs and suffered a partially collapsed lung at Washington State that caused him to miss the next two games and see limited action in the season finale against Arizona State.
Redshirt sophomore CRAIG BRAGG (6-1, 193) possesses the speed and skill to become an outstanding receiver. Last season, he improved every week and made 13 receptions in the final two games to finish as the Bruins' top receiver with 29 catches (408 yards). In the finale against Arizona State, he made seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns. He is also a valuable weapon on kick returns and scored twice on reverses last season.
Fourth-year junior RYAN SMITH (6-3, 200) has matured into a dependable possession receiver. A year ago, he ranked fourth on the squad with 18 catches for 272 yards and scored UCLA's only touchdown in the 13-6 win over Ohio State. At Stanford, he led the Bruins with six receptions for 91 yards.Senior JON DUBRAVAC (6-4, 217) returns to the team after redshirting in 2001 because of back problems. Dubravac ranked fourth on the team in 2000 with 14 catches and scored one touchdown.
GARRETT LEPISTO (6-1, 197), a fourth-year junior, will also compete for playing time. This determined walk-on made a contribution in the receiver rotation late last year after moving from the secondary. He also served as the holder on all place kicks a year ago and will again handle those duties. Redshirt freshman JACQUES LAZARUS (6-1, 182), who possesses good athletic ability, will also bid for playing time. He accounted for 2,500 yards of offense as a senior at Pacific Palisades (CA) High in 2000. Senior RUSSELL THOMAS (6-2, 189), a non-scholarship player in his fourth year with the team, will also add depth.
True freshman JUNIOR TAYLOR (6-2, 193) enrolled at UCLA in January of 2002 and will challenge for a spot in the receiver rotation after a solid showing in Spring Practice. A prep All-American from Mesa (AZ) High, this talented speedster was rated as one of the top receivers in the nation as a senior. He made 49 receptions for 689 yards and seven touchdowns in 2000.
Arriving in the Fall is true freshman IDRIS MOSS (5-11, 170). Moss, a PrepStar All-American, is a versatile athlete who played cornerback, receiver, quarterback and safety at Rialto, CA Eisenhower High School.
'I believe we have a very capable group of receivers,' said Toledo. 'Tab and Craig each possess outstanding speed and have established themselves as big-play performers who will only get better with experience. Ryan made great strides a year ago and gives us another dependable receiver. Jon will provide this group with senior leadership. Junior made great progress during Spring drills and should also become part of the equation. Garrett is a hard worker who has earned playing time, and Jacques benefitted from his first Spring in our program.'
The tight end position, with two experienced players, one redshirt freshman, two true freshmen and one veteran from another position vying for playing time, is once again one of the strongest on the team. The depth is important because the Bruins use several multiple tight end formations and will continue to emphasize this position.
Senior MIKE SEIDMAN (6-5, 254) is primed for a breakout season in 2002. He has the speed, hands and blocking ability to be a dominating performer at the position. He demonstrated during Spring Practice that he could be one of the best tight ends on the west coast, if not the entire nation. A year ago, he made 12 receptions for 250 yards and one touchdown. His average of 20.8 yards per catch was the highest on the team.
Redshirt freshman KEITH CARTER (6-4, 250) showed he is capable of working into the tight end rotation with a strong effort during Spring Practice. As a senior at Downingtown (PA) High in 2000, he earned prep All-America honors while making 33 receptions for 420 yards and six touchdowns. Fourth-year junior BLANE KEZIRIAN (6-6, 245) figures to add depth at the position. Last season, he saw action as a backup tight end in five of 11 games and proved to be a fine blocker. Senior SAIA MAKAKAUFAKI (6-3, 268), who has spent the last three years as a defensive lineman after entering the program as a tight end, returned to his original position during Spring Practice and established himself as a physical reserve.
True freshman MARCEDES LEWIS (6-6,240) comes to UCLA with an impressive resume and could also enter the competition at tight end or possibly wide receiver. A Parade All-American, Lewis was regarded as the top tight end in the nation by virtually every publication. He caught 44 passes for 710 yards and 11 touchdowns for the CIF Division I champions from Long Beach Poly.
Fellow true freshman J.J. HAIR (6-5, 240) also received very high ratings by the national and regional publications. He totaled 43 catches his last two prep seasons for over 700 yards and three touchdowns.
'Despite the loss of Bryan Fletcher, this remains a position of strength for us,' Toledo said. 'The performance of the tight end is critical in our offensive scheme. We have one of the best on the West Coast, if not the nation, in Mike Seidman, and Keith and Blane figure to give us quality depth. Saia showed promise in the Spring and could help us as he relearns the position. Marcedes and J.J. will each be given every opportunity to earn a place in the rotation as well. I would expect this position to play an integral role in our offense in 2002.'
Three full-time starters - senior tackles MIKE SAFFER (6-5, 305) and BRYCE BOHLANDER (6-6, 300) and third-year sophomore EYOSEPH EFSEAFF (6-3, 297) - plus two players who split the season at right guard - third-year sophomore STEVEN VIEIRA (6-6, 303) and fourth-year junior SHANE LEHMANN (6-5, 285) - return to anchor a veteran offensive line.
Saffer started all 11 games at right tackle last season and enters his senior year with 30 career starts. A candidate for All-America honors, Saffer is a fine all-around performer who is equally adept at both run and pass blocking. He plays hard on every snap, possesses an aggressive streak and is an outstanding team leader.
Bohlander has started the past 25 straight games at left tackle, including all 11 a year ago. A good all-around athlete, he is very sound fundamentally. He demonstrated steady improvement throughout his junior campaign and should contend for post-season honors in 2002.
Efseaff established himself as a budding star a year ago. A powerful young man who will continue to improve with added experience, he earned second-team Freshman All-America honors while starting all 11 games.
A year ago, Vieira and Lehmann split the right guard position. Lehmann started six games, including each of the first five before suffering a sprained ankle, and Vieira started five times, including the last three and five of the last six. Vieira firmly established himself as the starter during Spring Practice, while Lehmann's efforts were limited due to a concussion. Both figure to benefit from the competition for playing time. Vieira could also take snaps at tackle.
The center position is wide open. Third-year sophomore JOHN REAM (6-4, 288) entered Spring Practice as the top candidate to replace three-year starter Troy Danoff. An athletic lineman, Ream gained valuable experience a year ago, appearing in six games. He started and played every snap at Washington State when Danoff was sidelined by injury. However, a toe injury which required surgery set him back, and he enters Fall camp as one of three candidates for the position.
Sophomore PAUL MOCILER (6-5, 302) took advantage of the Spring injury to Ream to become a candidate for the starting center position. A versatile performer, he also figures to provide relief for Efseaff at left guard and for Bohlander at left tackle. Last year, he saw action in five games in a reserve role.
Second-year freshman MIKE McCLOSKEY (6-5, 280), an athletic youngster who, a year ago, surprised some people with his ability, also performed well during his first Spring Practice and served notice that he will push for the starting center position. In 2000, McCloskey was an All-CIF Southern Section performer at Laguna Hills (CA) High.
The Bruin coaches used the Spring to take closer looks at a group of redshirt freshmen who will need to fill important roles providing depth at their positions.
Redshirt freshmen COLLIN BARKER (6-8, 303), ED BLANTON (6-9, 330), ROBERT CLEARY (6-7, 291) and MATT MOSEBAR (6-8, 293) each used their first Spring Practice to gain experience and prove themselves ready for a role on this year's team.
Barker, who earned All-America honors at Wortham (TX) High in 2000, will compete for playing time at guard. Blanton, who will compete at tackle, was one of the top linemen in the West in 2000, earning All-America acclaim at Napa (CA) High. Cleary, who was one of the most decorated members of the 2001 recruiting class, will compete for playing time at a guard position. Mosebar, who will play at tackle, earned All-America honors at Santa Ynez (CA) High in 2000 while distinguishing himself as one of the best in the West.
Fourth-year junior TYSON CLAYTON (6-2, 280), a non-scholarship player, provides depth at the guard position.
Highly-honored freshmen ROBERT CHAI (6-3, 274), ALEX POTASI (6-6, 291) and ELLIOT VALLEJO (6-7, 29) will each arrive on the scene in the Fall. Chai is a PrepStar All-American from Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach, CA. Potasi, also a PrepStar All-American, attended Harbor City, CA Narbonne High School. Vallejo was a PrepStar All-American at Salinas, CA Palma High School.
'The offensive line will be one of the strong points of the offense,' said Toledo. 'We have a lot of veteran performers, and this year that is particularly important because other than Cory Paus, the members of our backfield are primarily underclassmen.
'In Mike and Bryce, I feel we have as fine a pair of tackles as anyone in the West, and I expect them both to earn their share of honors. Eyoseph is very strong and just gets better with every practice, while Steven and Shane give us two quality performers at right guard. Paul, who can play each line position, stepped in for John and gave us a lot to think about at center. We were encouraged after seeing many of our young linemen get plenty of work during the Spring. A year ago, we redshirted all five members of this talented group and it is going to be exciting to work with them and watch them develop.'
Five starters return from the defense that ranked No. 1 in the Pac-10 a year ago. All-America candidate and two-time first-team All-Pac-10 cornerback Ricky Manning, Jr.; defensive tackle Rodney Leisle, an All-America candidate; linebacker Brandon Chillar; defensive end Dave Ball; and safety/cornerback Matt Ware, a 2001 first-team Freshman All-American form the core of what figures to be another quick, aggressive unit. Last year, UCLA ranked first in the Pac-10 in total defense (320.6 yards), first in pass efficiency defense (102.1 rating), second in scoring defense (20.5) and third in rushing defense (121.7 yards).
The unquestioned leader of this unit is fourth-year junior right tackle RODNEY LEISLE (6-4, 312). A candidate for All-America honors in 2002, he has started all 23 games of his Bruin career. An extremely strong player who plays the run well, he ranked second among defensive linemen with 36 tackles, including two sacks and five behind the line of scrimmage. He made seven stops against both Alabama and USC.
The other returning starter along the front line is fourth-year junior DAVE BALL (6-6, 278). An aggressive performer, he started all 11 games at right end a year ago and made 18 tackles, including four for losses.
Mat Ball is one candidate to replace Kenyon Coleman at left end.
Twin brother MAT BALL (6-6, 281) is one of the candidates to replace Kenyon Coleman at left end. He has returned to his natural position after playing outside linebacker a year ago, when he started twice and made 12 tackles, including two for losses.
Fifth-year senior RUSTY WILLIAMS (6-4, 256), a two-year starter at right end, will compete with Mat Ball for the starting job at left end. He had shoulder surgery at the end of his sophomore year and spent the 2001 season as the top reserve at right end, making six tackles.Battling Dave Ball for the job at right end is fourth-year junior, ASI FAOA (6-4, 270). A year ago, he was the top reserve at left end and appeared in every game, finishing with six tackles, including two for losses.
Junior DAVID TAUTOFI (6-3, 271), who redshirted last year after transferring from Fresno City College, will also compete for playing time at the end positions. At FCC, he earned JC All-America honors while making 52 tackles, including eight sacks and 17 tackles for loss, in 2000.
The tackle position opposite Leisle will be hotly contested between two fifth-year seniors. STEVE MORGAN (6-3, 303) has been a valuable reserve throughout his career and performed well during Spring drills. He played in every game a year ago and made nine tackles, including 1.5 sacks. Fellow senior SEAN PHILLIPS (6-5, 295) started three times as a sophomore and played in seven of 11 games as a key reserve a year ago. He made six tackles, including one sack. He also excelled during Spring drills, giving the coaches some options at this spot.
Junior RYAN BOSCHETTI (6-4, 275), who transferred from San Mateo College in January, is expected to back up Leisle after performing well during his first Spring with the team. Rated the nation's No. 2 junior college prospect, he made 21 quarterback sacks during his two-year career.
Three PrepStar All-Americans - KEVIN HARBOUR (6-3, 250), C.J. NIUSULU (6-2, 288) and THOMAS PATTON (6-3, 250) - enter the program this Fall as true freshmen. Harbour was credited with 72 tackles and 14 sacks in his senior season at Los Angeles, CA Loyola High School. Niusulu made 90 tackles in just seven games as a senior at Barstow, CA High School. Patton registered 78 tackles, including 14 sacks and four fumble recoveries in his senior season at Oakland, CA Technical High School.
'Rodney Leisle has the strength and quickness to disrupt an offense's blocking schemes. He possesses the potential to be a dominating performer, and we feel he is one of the best defensive tackles in the country.
'In the Ball brothers, Rusty Williams and Asi Faoa, we have four quality defensive ends to depend upon. They are all athletic, aggressive and experienced. We are very comfortable playing any two of the four at a given time. We also were pleased with David Tautofi during the Spring.
'Steve and Sean give us two experienced players at tackle. They will each get an opportunity to win the tackle spot opposite Rodney. Ryan showed during the Spring that with continued hard work he can be a playmaker.'
UCLA enters the 2002 season minus the services of All-American Robert Thomas, a Butkus Award finalist and first round selection in the NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams, and four-year starter Ryan Nece, a Butkus semifinalist. However, the coaches are optimistic, thanks to the return of one starter and a player classified as the team's fourth starter at this position a year ago.
True junior BRANDON CHILLAR (6-3, 240) had an outstanding season as the strongside linebacker. He started nine of 11 games and played at least 40 snaps eight times. Possessing the size and strength to take on tight ends and the quickness to rush the quarterback or cover pass routes, he ranked fifth on the team with 42 tackles. In addition, his 4.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss ranked third to only Coleman and Thomas.
True senior MARCUS REESE (6-2, 222) possesses the ability and versatility to play both linebacker positions, which he did a year ago. An outstanding athlete who runs well, Reese appeared in all 11 games a year ago and ranked ninth on the squad with 34 tackles, including four for losses. A fine special teams performer as well, he blocked punts that produced touchdowns in back-to-back games a year ago.
Redshirt junior DENNIS LINK (6-2, 220) figures to be the top reserve behind Reese at middle linebacker. He saw limited action in that role last season, earning most of his playing time on special teams. He has the size, speed and experience to provide the Bruins with quality depth this year.
Redshirt freshman SPENCER HAVNER (6-3, 232), who has good speed and overall athletic ability, had a good Spring and figures to compete for the starting job on the weak side. As a prep All-American in 2000, he made 110 tackles, including eight sacks, and eight interceptions at Nevada Union High in Nevada City, CA. Junior college transfer PATRICK PIERRE-LOUIS (6-0, 215), who made 97 tackles last season at Glendale Community College, will also begin his Bruin career at the weakside position.Redshirt sophomore TIM WARFIELD (6-2, 237) will compete with Chillar for playing time on the strong side. One of the top linebackers in the San Diego area as a senior in 1999, he earned All-America acclaim at Vista High in Oceanside, CA, making 111 tackles, including 19 for losses. He saw limited action a year ago.
Several youngsters will arrive in the Fall ready to compete for roles in the linebacker corps. XAVIER BURGESS (6-2, 219), KIRBY JOSEPH (6-2, 230), JUSTIN LONDON (6-2, 232) and WESLEY WALKER (6-2, 215) will be true freshmen when they join the team in August. Burgess, a PrepStar All-American made 85 stops, including 14 sacks in his senior season at Grant Union High School in Sacramento, CA. Joseph accounted for 60 tackles and eight quarterback sacks in his senior campaign at Lake Charles, LA Washington/Marion High School. London was regarded as one of the top linebackers on the East Coast after recording 120 tackles as a senior at Northside High School in Roanoke, VA. Walker, a SuperPrep All-American, was credited with 120 tackles and eight sacks at LaPuente, CA Bishop Amat High School.
'We have to do a bit of rebuilding in this area due to the loss of Robert and Ryan,' Toledo said. 'However, we have several players who have been waiting for the opportunity to show what they can do. Marcus is a veteran with a lot of experience. We have always considered him a starter and feel he will be able to impact games in the same manner Robert did a year ago. Brandon made great strides in his first season as a starter, and we are excited about the prospect of his continued development over the next two years. Dennis and Tim have limited experience and should provide quality depth. Spencer is a talented youngster who looked promising during Spring Practice, as did Patrick. We are looking forward to getting a first-hand look in August at what is regarded as an outstanding group of freshmen linebackers.'
The Bruins have two returning starters to lead the secondary. Several talented youngsters, some with game experience, will be competing for starting roles during Fall camp.
True senior RICKY MANNING, JR. (5-9, 181) burst onto the scene with an outstanding freshman season and has been a fixture at cornerback ever since. A 2002 All-America candidate, he possesses fine cover skills, the ability to stop the run and the confidence to know he's going to win the battle in one-on-one coverage. A two-time All-Pacific-10 Conference first-team selection, he has started 32 consecutive games dating back to the third game of his freshman year. In 2001, he ranked sixth (tied) on the team with 36 tackles, including two for losses, and his three interceptions ranked second on the squad. He enters his senior season with nine career interceptions.
True sophomore MATT WARE (6-3, 202) is the second returning starter and a future All-American. A fabulous athlete with unlimited potential, he spent Spring Practice at free safety but ultimately will play UCLA's greatest position of need in the secondary. The first true freshman in school history to start every game, Ware earned first-team Freshman All-America honors at cornerback. He led the team with five interceptions, the most by a Bruin since 1997, made 32 tackles and recovered two fumbles. He also showed his versatility by taking several snaps as an option quarterback, rushing for 22 yards on four attempts, and making one reception for 49 yards as a wide receiver. Ware figures to be a fixture in the secondary, whether at cornerback or safety, for the next three years.
Fifth-year senior JOE HUNTER (5-11, 172) will begin Fall camp as the front-runner for the cornerback spot opposite Manning. Hunter appeared in all 11 games last season as the third cornerback and played at least 20 defensive snaps on five occasions. On the year, he had 19 tackles and broke up five passes.
True sophomore MATT CLARK (5-9, 177) will compete with Hunter for the starting position opposite Manning. Clark, who possesses outstanding quickness and had a productive Spring, was one of just three true freshmen to letter in 2001. He saw the bulk of his action on special teams, making three tackles and averaging 27.0 yards on four kickoff returns.
True junior KEITH SHORT (5-9, 177) and second-year freshman MARCUS CASSEL (6-0, 170) will compete for playing time as important reserves. Short, who excels at special teams coverage, played more than 25 defensive snaps twice last season. On the year, he made 17 tackles. Cassel, who redshirted last year, made 60 tackles and two interceptions as a senior in 2000 at St. John Bosco High in Bellflower, CA.
Redshirt junior KEVIN BRANT (6-0, 191) emerged from Spring drills as the No. 1 strong safety. A year ago, he provided the Bruins with quality depth, appearing in 10 of 11 games on defense. He started one game (Oregon State) and played virtually the entire USC game after an injury to Marques Anderson. On the year, he made 11 tackles, one fumble recovery and one interception.
Two youngsters, third-year sophomore BEN EMANUEL II (6-3, 202) and true sophomore JIBRIL RAYMO (6-3, 202) will also contend for the starting job at strong safety.
A year ago as a redshirt freshman, Emanuel started three of the final four games and played in 10. In his first career start (Washington State), he made two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. Due to off-season reconstructive surgery on his left shoulder, Emanuel did not participate in Spring Practice but is expected to be ready to go this Fall.
Raymo, one of just three true freshmen to letter last year, appeared in every game, playing on the kickoff, kickoff return and punt return teams. An outstanding all-around athlete, he gained valuable experience at the strong safety position during Spring drills. As a prep All-American in 2000, he made 86 tackles and also caused six fumbles with his aggressive play at Beverly Hills (CA) High.In addition, five true freshmen will look to make an instant impact in August. Candidates at the cornerback position include JEBIAUS BROWN (6-0, 185) and JOE GARCIA (6-1, 185). Brown, a PrepStar All-American, made 55 stops and three interceptions in his senior season at Milpitas, CA High School. Garcia, also a PrepStar All-American, was credited with 68 tackles, three interceptions and 13 pass breakups a year ago at Los Alamitos, CA High School.
Those projected to be candidates at the safety positions are ERIC McNEAL (6-2, 191), JARRAD PAGE (6-0, 200) and GLENN OHAERI (5-9, 190). One of the nation's top prep performers a season ago at Gardena, CA Serra High School, McNeal was a member of PrepStar's Dream Team. He made 80 tackles and seven interceptions as a senior. Page, a PrepStar All-American, totaled 99 tackles and made five interceptions last year for San Leandro ,CA High School. Ohaeri, a SuperPrep All-American, was a two-way standout for San Bernardino, CA Aquinas High School who rushed for over 2,000 yards as a senior and returned one interception for a touchdown.
'In Ricky Manning, we have one of the best cornerbacks in the college game,' Toledo said. 'He is a great athlete and an even greater competitor. There isn't a battle on the football field that Ricky doesn't think he will win. He can be an outstanding team leader for us this season.
'Matt Ware is a coach's dream. He has great athletic ability and is a great young man who will do anything for the team. We will play him wherever we feel we need him the most, and he will make an impact. Joe made good progress a year ago. We think Kevin, Ben and Jibril together will give us solid punch at strong safety. Kevin can contribute at either safety spot. Matt, Joe, Keith and Marcus give us quality depth at the corners. We will welcome a group of talented freshmen to the defensive secondary in August who could work their way into the mix. '
The Bruins possess an outstanding group of kicking specialists. Both of last year's kickers return for their fourth seasons as regulars, and the team is also well- stocked with kick returnees.
NATE FIKSE (5-9, 189) enters his senior year as a legitimate All-America candidate. His career average of 43.09 yards ranks No. 2 in UCLA history. Last season, he earned first-team All-Pac-10 acclaim after leading the league in punting for the second straight year. His average of 44.2 yards ranked eighth nationally and was the fourth-highest in school history. He had 12 kicks of a least 50 yards, and 12 of his punts were downed inside the 20-yard line. He averaged at least 43.0 yards per kick in eight of his 11 games, topped by a 50.6 mark at Washington State. An outstanding place kicker in high school, Fikse also handles the kickoff duties, routinely planting the football in the opposition's end zone.
Redshirt senior CHRIS GRIFFITH (6-1, 198), a former walk-on, begins his fourth season as the Bruin place kicker. He earned a scholarship prior to the 2000 season and was an All-Pac-10 honorable mention selection last year after earning second-team acclaim in 2000. A year ago, Griffith connected on 10 of 13 field goals and all 41 PATS to rank second on the team with his 71 points. His 34 career field goals rank him No. 4 on the all-time list, and his career scoring total of 212 points ranks eighth. In his three years, he has made 25 of 30 attempts from inside 40 yards and nine of 15 from at least 40 yards.
Redshirt sophomore CHRIS KLUWE (6-5, 207) will again battle both Fikse and Griffith for playing time. As a prep senior in 1999, Kluwe was both a punter and place kicker, earning first-team All-America honors at the former position. He averaged 46.6 yards as a punter and made 16 of 22 field goal attempts as a place kicker. He redshirted in 2000 and was sidelined part of last year with a knee injury.
JUSTIN MEDLOCK (6-0, 185) is a promising youngster who had solid field goal numbers and outstanding kickoff distance as a prep senior at Fremont, CA Mission San Jose High School last season.
For the first time since the summer of 1998, the Bruins are looking for a long snapper following the graduation of Jeff Grau. Defensive end RUSTY WILLIAMS (6-4, 256) enters Fall camp as the front-runner for those duties. Wide receiver GARRETT LEPISTO (6-1, 197), a fourth-year junior, will serve as the holder for the second straight year.
There are numerous candidates to return kickoffs and punts, and many of them have experience in this role. Redshirt sophomore CRAIG BRAGG (6-1, 193) averaged a team-high 8.4 yards on 14 punt returns and 18.6 yards on a team-high 10 kickoff returns. Senior RICKY MANNING, JR. (5-9, 181) averaged 3.3 yards on 16 punt returns a year ago, 6.7 yards on 18 returns in 2000 and 10.2 yards on 10 kicks in 1999. Redshirt freshman TYLER EBELL (5-9, 170) will also have an opportunity to contribute in this area.
True junior TAB PERRY (6-3, 220) set school records with 29 kickoff returns for 598 yards in 2000 but returned just two kickoffs last year. True sophomore cornerback MATT CLARK (5-9, 177) averaged a team-best 27.0 yards on four kickoff returns, and fourth-year junior tailback AKIL HARRIS (6-0, 215) averaged 22.8 yards on five kickoff returns. Several other young players will also have a chance to audition during Fall camp.
'Year in and year out, special teams play an important role in the success of any football team,' Toledo said. 'In Nate and Chris, we have two of the premier performers at their positions in the Pac-10, if not the entire nation. Nate has really been a valuable weapon for us throughout his career. In Bragg, Clark, Manning and Perry, we have proven kick returners who can change the complexion of a game with a big play. We will also be looking at several young players to provide us additional contributions.'