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UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price (Crenshaw HS) has made life rough for opposing running backs. Â Price has become one of the best tackles in the nation and will be a driving force on defense this year for the Bruins.Photo Credit: Jason Lewis for Sentinel
UCLA has closed the gap with local talentBy Jason LewisSentinel Staff WriterUCLA made a bold statement before the beginning of the 2008 season. "The football monopoly in Los Angeles is officially is over!" They looked like they might back up that statement with a 27-24 upset victory over Tennessee to start the season.Any delusions of grandeur were quickly swept away the following week when BYU routed UCLA 59-0, and it was all down hill from there, as the Bruins finished 4-8 in Rick Neuheisel's first year as the head coach.Well nobody thought it was going to be a quick fix in Westwood. But if a few Los Angeles natives have their way, this team could make some noise this year. Red-shirt freshman running back Johnathan Franklin (Dorsey HS) has fought his way into the rotation, and could be the starter pretty soon because he has simply been the best back in training camp.Franklin entered camp in a fight for third string with two-time Los Angeles City Player of the Year Milton Knox (Birmingham HS). But a combination of an injury to junior Christian Ramirez, who was penciled in as the starter, and Franklin running wild at practice and scrimmages, has landed him in a two-man rotation with sophomore Derrick Coleman.Franklin and Coleman have been splitting carries with the first team. Knox is also getting a lot of reps, and if he can get in front of Ramirez on the depth chart he would get some carries this season.A running game is only as good as the line in front of the running backs, and that was defiantly a weakness for the Bruins last season. It is too early to call the offensive line a weakness again, but it is a question mark. UCLA will have an entire new line this season, possibly starting two freshmen and a junior college transfer.There is local talent on defense.Junior defensive tackle Brian Price (Crenshaw HS) has been an impact player since he stepped foot on UCLA's football field. He has become one of the best defensive tackles in the nation, and will be playing in the NFL in the future. Price makes it extremely hard for teams to run in between the tackles. He is an All-America candidate, and is on the pre-season watch list for the Lombardi Award.Senior middle linebacker Reggie Carter (Crenshaw HS) loves playing behind Price. The double-teams that Price draws allows Carter to run around and make plays, and he makes a lot of them. He is on the pre-season watch list for the Lott Trophy and is an All-America candidate.It looks like red-shirt freshman Akeem Ayers (Verbum Dei HS) will be playing along side Carter. Ayers is in line to start at strong side linebacker. In the secondary sophomore free safety Rahim Moore (Dorsey) started all 12 games as a true freshman and is on the verge of being a star for the Bruins. Playing along side Moore in the secondary will be red-shirt freshman Aaron Hester (Dominguez).Are these Bruins ready to make a run at cross-town rival USC? Probably not just yet. The offensive line needs to prove themselves, and they have to hope to find an answer at quarterback. But this team certainly is not far away because they are a very improved team with a lot of young talent.Now that UCLA is recruiting in the inner city of Los Angeles they are getting the athletes that can compete with the Trojans.Â