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Bruins Ready to Take to the Field

Aug. 13, 1999

Head coach Bob Toledo's Media Day comments

LOS ANGELES - It's been a chaotic summer off the field for the UCLA football program. Now, because of the difficulties, the Bruins go to work without a depth chart.

There is one in the media guide, but it's not going to be worth much for a while.

The problems surfaced in early July with the announcement that several players were alleged to be involved in a scam to illegally obtain handicapped parking permits.

The result is 11 players - most of them starters - have been suspended for the first two games of the season.

"I'm anxious to get going, put all this stuff behind us," UCLA coach Bob Toledo said Friday at Media Day. "It's been really difficult, probably the most difficult start to a football season I've ever been associated with.

"We've got some guys that have to step it up. We're going to stick together as a team. We've got enough guys where we can be very, very competitive. We're going to prepare to play to win."

The lack of a depth chart entering Saturday's first formal practice is an unprecedented situation in the 53-year-old Toledo's coaching career.

"We've got to do some experimenting in the next few days," he said. "I'm hoping no more players (involved in the scam) pop up. The players have apologized to our team. I hope it's over with."

The Bruins, 10-2 and ranked eighth in the country at the end of last season, open the 1999 campaign Sept. 4 against Boise State at the Rose Bowl - a game they should win regardless of the suspensions.

The following week, though, is a different story - UCLA travels to Ohio State, ranked second nationally at the end of last season.

"The first couple games, I'm going to throw out more trick plays than you've ever seen in your life," Toledo said, perhaps only half-kidding.

The suspended players are offensive linemen Oscar Cabrera and James Ghezzi, fullback Durell Price, UCLA's only experienced player at that position, tailback Keith Brown, linebackers Ali Abdul Azziz, Tony White, Ryan Nece and Robert Thomas, and defensive backs Ryan Roques, Marques Anderson and Eric Whitfield.

In addition, defensive back Audie Attar was suspended for the Boise State game for his involvement in a fight last spring.

"Our linebackers, it's scary," Toledo said. "The defensive backs are a real concern. It's like getting them all hurt in camp."

Because of the suspensions, Toledo said, players like wide receivers Danny Farmer and Freddie Mitchell and tailback DeShaun Foster might see some action on defense "in certain situations."

And, Toledo added, some freshmen who would have redshirted this season will play.

The suspended players will practice, Toledo said, so they can be ready for the season's third game, against Fresno State.

"They won't get as many reps as they normally would have gotten," Toledo said. "They'll be the scout team when we get ready for Boise State. That's a pretty good scout team."

In addition to everything else, the Bruins will have a new quarterback this year. Four-year starter Cade McNown is a rookie with the Chicago Bears, leaving junior Drew Bennett as the heir apparent, at least entering two-a-day practices.

"It's been a long time since the last time I started, as a senior in high school," Bennett said. "It's not set in stone yet, but it would be nice. The opportunity is there for me.

"It's been real consistent with Cade here. I was always second-string, he was the leader of the team. Hopefully, I can take over that role. I'm anxious to prove I can do it. There's not doubt, it's uncertainty."

AP Sports Writer

UCLA Health Sponsor - Event Information
Saturday, Sep 03 - 12:30 PM PST
at Texas A&M
College Station, TX
Saturday, Sep 10 - 5:00 PM PST
vs. UNLV
Pasadena, CA
Saturday, Sep 17 - TBA PST
at Brigham Young
Provo, UT
Saturday, Sep 24 - TBA PST
vs. Stanford
Pasadena, CA