Since the defense has been dominating the practices in recent days they are getting more and more attention from the reporters covering the UCLA beat. Yesterday the LA Times profiled our defensive backfield. Today it's Brian Dohn's turn. Dohn profiles the close knit defensive backs who can be considred as one of the "strengths" in Bruin defense. While we have seen what ATV can do over the years and have seen Rahim Moore's ability to play up to potential, we are all curious to see how Hester and Love performs in the spot light this season. Dohn has more on Hester adjusting to playing a key role this spring:
Hester, who prepped at Compton Dominguez, is a pro-sized cornerback (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) with pro speed (4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash). He has shown excellent cover skills in practice, but he is unproven.
He redshirted last season because his high school team didn't play zone defense, and the coaching staff wanted him to learn the concepts in depth before he played. Hester has been plagued this spring by holding penalties, but Neuheisel believes that will work itself out.
"Aaron is coming along, picking up things, getting more confidence," Verner said. "It looks good. I'm confident he's going to do his part.
"You can tell in the film room, and out here on the field, his enthusiasm, his wanting to play. He's going to try to beat up people and be aggressive, and that's what we need."
Meanwhile, Love is working to stay healthy which has been a challenge for him in his first two years at UCLA:
Love, UCLA's 6-4, 212-pound free safety, is a hard hitter who should aid in stopping the run, but he must prove he can avoid the wrath of the injury bug, which first sunk its teeth into his shoulder and required surgery before he arrived at UCLA. In his two years in the program, Love experienced an assortment of injuries, including to his hips and a concussion. "I've gotten myself in better shape, I'm stronger," Love said. "I think I'm ready for this."
Love, UCLA's 6-4, 212-pound free safety, is a hard hitter who should aid in stopping the run, but he must prove he can avoid the wrath of the injury bug, which first sunk its teeth into his shoulder and required surgery before he arrived at UCLA. In his two years in the program, Love experienced an assortment of injuries, including to his hips and a concussion.
"I've gotten myself in better shape, I'm stronger," Love said. "I think I'm ready for this."
In addition to ATV, Moore, Hester, and Love, Bruins have depth because of talents such as Tony Dye, E.J. Woods (although we will have to wait to see how his off field legal case resolves this off season before counting on his availability), Aaron Ware and Courtney Viney. We will also have have freshman DBs joining the team later this summer. Plus there is walkon Andrew Abbot who once again is making an impression this spring. We talked earlier this week how he has been shining this spring. Dohn got Bullough to comment on Abbot's performance this week:
During training camp last August, then-defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker told me to keep an eye on freshman walk-on cornerback Andrew Abbott. At the time, Abbott was turning heads.
Well, here we are getting ready to end spring practice, and Abbott's name keeps popping up when I talk to members of the coaching staff.
The latest was defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough, who said, "Abbott has flashed, made some plays.''
Stories like Abbott is one of reasons I love college athletics so much more than pro sports. I think Abbott will have a difficult time getting PT next year but to hear how this kid has been going all out and giving his team-mates all they can handle in terms of competition is great to hear. I bet it's something that doesn't go unnoticed by other team-mates who were highly recruited blue chippers out of high school and inspires to give them a better effort at practice. I am rooting for Abbott to turn up the intensity even more in these last few days and eventually make it into a game at the Rose Bowl.
Going back to the defense's success and the secondary's performance CRN is taking the cautious approach:
I love to say they're meshing unbelievably well and that's the reason we're not doing so well on offense," Neuheisel said. "But it's hard to tell when you're inexperienced and you're struggling a little bit protecting the quarterback. But I do believe we have the making of a very solid and successful secondary."
I guess we will see some of the results of that practice this Saturday. As always would love to hear the takes from those who have been attending these practices last couple of weeks.