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Spaulding Roundup: Who's Got Next?

Let’s pick up where we left off re keys to Bruin immortality. For Bruins to get it done they will need a dominating performance from our defense. The center piece to all of our defensive strategery will be none other than Brian Price. The other Brian – Dohn – has an inspiring profile on the AA of CRN’s football program. Price knows what he needs to do to bring us Bruin glory on Saturday:

"Dominating," Price said of what he needs to be Saturday. "Doing what I do, and that's being a playmaker. I have to give momentum to the team, get the team hyped. If I go out and don't make any plays, I don't think anybody else will."

If you are still wondering (regular readers of our daily Bruin scrapbook shouldn’t have to) why I used the initials – "AA" – for Price, here is a clue:

"My job is to get this program turned around," Price said. "That's why I came here. I want to be one of the guys that got it started. I'm happy where I am, building a program. You get a lot more respect with people saying, `Brian Price had something to do with this team going undefeated this year,' and building this program to where we can be unstoppable."

In his two seasons, UCLA is 10-14. "Guys come and go over there (at USC)," Price said. "I want to be the guy that helped get this started. I've got the shovel in my hand to set the foundation."

Price is used to persevering through adversity. His personal life is filled with tragedy, including the death of two brothers to gun violence, while growing up in a tough area within walking distance of Crenshaw High.

He was also the most highly touted recruit in UCLA's 2007 class, but nearly didn't make it onto the field because of paperwork issues. He was not allowed to practice for six weeks, until the NCAA Clearinghouse certified him.

However, despite missing the first three games of the season, he still earned freshman All-America honors after seven of his 14 tackles took place behind the line of scrimmage. He built off that success to become one of the top defensive tackles in the West this season.

Still wondering who I am comparing Price to? :-)

Price is special enough that he is constantly admired by a legendary Bruin (who is now in enemy’s clothing and hated by messageboard denizens, even though he has the support of majority of Bruin Nation if he were to make a return to UCLA as a Bruin DC) who was spurned by Price in a big way on the recruiting trail:

"On the defensive line, it's really rare to find someone with his toughness and passion and focus," Norton said. "He really wants to be a great player. You could tell right away he was very passionate and very bright. You knew that no matter what team he went to, he was going to make it better. He's a difference-maker." […]

"He was the type of kid that you knew early on that he would make people around him better," Norton said. "They say when you build a defense, you build it from the inside out. He's a player you can build around. Watching him play (this year), you can see his energy, his motor. And as good as he is now, you know he's still improving."

We will have another discussion on Norton when that time comes. However, I do believe his comments re. Price means something considering his track record as Bruin/Cowboys/Niners legend and the role he has played in putting together one of the more ferocious defenses in college football.

Of course Price will not be able to win the game by himself. He and his fellow warriors in our front-7 are going to need a lot of help from our defensive backfield, that has matured and progressed through this difficult season. And one of the key cogs in that backfield is none other than Norris. Kevin Pearson from the Press Enterprise has a great story on the senior Bruin CB. While Norris has been coming along despite his struggles on the field, he is trying to achieve something special off the field (making all the South Campus BNers proud):

With his sights set on perhaps being an orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon, Norris is majoring in physiological science and is planning to take the MCAT tests in the summer to complete his applications to medical school, if his dream of playing professional football does not immediately come true.

Unlike most athletes who select majors that fit into their athletic schedule, Norris did the opposite. Last season he missed team meetings and showed up late to practice twice a week because a key class in his major overlapped with football.

While teammates were reviewing film, Norris was learning about the embryonic muscular-skeletal system. While teammates were warming up, he was wrapping up lectures on cellular biology.

"I was trying to show people that you don't have to do a history or sociology degree," he said. "People are doing that not because they want to, but because they think they won't have time to play their sport and do a challenging major.

"A lot of people said it wouldn't work and you couldn't do it at this institution, where there is a lot of emphasis on the sciences and a lot of people are trying to get into medical school."

Simply amazing what our athletes go through in school. Best of luck to Michael. As for his on field work, from the same article here are some validation from his team-mates and coach:

"The guy has been amazing all season," corner Alterraun Verner said. "He's been very instrumental in this defense."

Norris has played every defensive snap this season, intercepting passes in the past two games and ranking 23rd in Division I-A in passes defended (1.18 per game).

"Without him we'd be in a world of trouble," defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said.

We are going to need Norris to step up in a huge way on Saturday. No doubt DWalk is going to bring a lot of heat on Sanchez. That will probably mean ATV and Norris will be left on their islands a lot on Saturday afternoon. We know Sanchez (or his replacement should he gets knocked out of the game) will not be testing ATV as much as they will go after Norris. Hopefully the kid can hang in there with those explosive Trojan semi pro athletes.

On the other side of the field, no one (for good reasons) is giving our offense any kind of chance. I am seeing predictions of our offensive getting shutout and or held in single digit all over Bruin message boards. Kahlil Bell is staying defiant amidst all the gloom and doom:

"We've seen certain things against them that have been effective," Bruins running back Kahlil Bell said. "We'll take that and watch what's worked and what hasn't worked and try to implement our offense. Their defense is very good - I'm not taking anything away from them - but last time I checked they bleed like I do.

"They're just guys like us. Everyone wants to put them all up on a pedestal. Last time I checked, they put their pants on one leg at a time just like I do. I'm not taking anything away from them. I respect what they do and what they've been doing on defense, but come Saturday it's time to play and all that stuff goes out the window."

Meanwhile, freshman Baca is just excited about Saturday:

Freshman offensive lineman Jeff Baca will play in the rivalry for the first time. He knows all about Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, Fili Moala and Co., and he's excited for the Bruins to test their mettle against them.

"They're the No. 1 defense in the nation right now," Baca said. "Statistically, they're amazing. They've got a bunch of guys going to the NFL next year. That's my dream to get to that point. Now, I'm playing up against these guys as a young guy. It's a huge task, and it's a great opportunity."

Just like Baca I am starting to feel that rush too. It happens every time no matter what the odds. Can’t wait to see our boys storm out of the gates and see who emerges as the next Bruin hero(es). Who's got next?