Spring Practice Opens Today

April 2, 2002

The UCLA football team opens Spring Practice today (April 2) on Spaulding Field. The practice sessions are scheduled to conclude on Saturday, April 27 with a public scrimmage in Drake Stadium.

Practices are scheduled for April 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25 and 27 and are open to the public. They are set to begin at 4:00 p.m. each day and will end at approximately 6:00 p.m., with the exception of Saturday, April 27. The final scrimmage of the Spring will be held April 27 at 1 p.m. on Marshall Field of the Drake Track Stadium and the public is invited to attend.

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 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 Steve 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 safety or corner, where he started every game in 2001.

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.

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.

'This should be a very interesting Spring for both the players and the coaches,' said head coach Bob Toledo. 'We lost half of our starting team, including several multi-year starters, from a year ago and I expect the competition for those positions will be extremely intense.

'We have some talented young players who will now get a chance to show the coaches what they can do. Offensively, I expect that the battles at tailback, fullback and wide receiver will be very competitive. And, although we return four starters on the offensive line, we need several of our redshirt freshmen to step their game up and show us they are ready to contribute as freshmen.

'Defensively, we return several 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 position and Marcus Reese and Matt Ware are outstanding players 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.

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