In his detailed report on Saturday's practice rye talked about how Aaron Hester is emerging as the favorite to win the starting spot for the second cornerback in the team with his physical play and recovery speed. It sounds like the local beat reporters also had the same impression as rye as they led their coverage zeroing on Hester. From the LA Times:
"We know other teams are not going to test Alterraun, so whoever is at the other corner has to be ready for action," Hester said. "I picked up a lot of nuances watching Alterraun last year. The main thing is I have to be consistent."
Hester was that throughout most of Saturday's practice, with a physical style Coach Rick Neuheisel says he hopes will be tamed somewhat.
". . . When he thinks he's in trouble, he grabs and holds," Neuheisel said. "But is he competitive? Yes. Is he fast? Yes. Is he long? Yes. He has all those things you look for in a great corner."
Hester spent last year getting acclimated to the college game. He has added weight and is now 6 feet 1, 200 pounds. He also has the edginess, according to safety Rahim Moore, a longtime friend.
"He don't care about nobody," Moore said. "He's going to stand you up and he's going to win the battle. He's reckless and fast and just loves the game of football. That separates him from a lot of guys."
Coach Carnell Lake is working with Aaron on his techniques:
"We're going to continue to develop his technique," said Carnell Lake, who coaches defensive backs. "The main thing is, he has the desire to play."
Aaron red shirted last season. He took full advantage of his redshirt season by concentrating on picking up the nuances of playing zone. From Brian Dohn's practice report:
His pure athleticism and speed was apparent in the fall, but the playing style of his high school team, Dominguez of Compton, worked against him. Dominguez did not play any zone - "zero," Hester said - so the Bruins coaching staff didn't feel comfortable playing him immediately.
"That's why I'm glad I redshirted. I had time to work on that," Hester said. "You get a lot of picks in zone coverage. That's what I see."
Hester, an AAU junior national champ in the 100, 200 and 400 meters, learned zone defense while playing on the scout team last fall, and put those concepts to work during 7-on-7 offseason passing drills.
He said he learned how to read a quarterback's dropback, and the patience needed to play in zone.
"I'm feeling very instinctive," Hester said. "I can recognize stuff. I can see routes developing before really they happen."
If Hester continues to develop this spring and during Fall camp, it will be something to have two athletic corners like ATV and Hester manning the corner spots. It's been a while since UCLA has been able to put together such athletic combination of CBs on the field at the same time. Plus they will have Moore, Dye and Love (who came around late last season) to work with in the backfield.
If these guys can grow up and mature fast next year, it will give our coaches more confidence to be ultra aggressive with our front-7. It will make watching Bruin defense even more fun than it has been in recent years.