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Friday, September 16, 2011
Bruins defense holds players only meeting

By Peter Yoon

UCLA's defense held a players-only team meeting this week to try and hash out the unit's early-season struggles and to try and improve the chemistry within the group before the Bruins take the field at the Rose Bowl Saturday against Texas.

The Bruins gave up 38 points and 469 yards in the season-opening loss to Houston and allowed San Jose State, the second-worst rushing team in the nation last year, to gain 202 yards on the ground in a 27-17 UCLA victory last week.

"We had a heart-to-heart about our defense," said senior safety Tony Dye, a team captain.

The struggles have been a surprise because the Bruins shined on defense all through camp and the defense was expected to be the strength of the team with a solid two-deep at every position among the front seven and a bevy of talent and experience throughout the unit.

"We called a meeting to gel," said junior linebacker Patrick Larimore, also a team captain. "Trying to feel out each other’s energy more and having that roll over into games."

Larimore said the team noticed while watching film that the energy and chemistry levels of the defense seemed to be lacking. Players are too concerned with their individual assignments, he said, and not functioning as a unit. Cohesiveness and bonding were big topics of discussion at the meeting, he said.

"We need to celebrate with each other a little more and feed off each other’s energy," Larimore said. "It gets the energy of the group together. We needed to get hyped and excited and to feel like there was a purpose other than just getting assignments and practicing. There’s something more that needs to be attained."

The early-morning meeting on Tuesday seemed to have had an effect. The defense seemed more closely bonded this week in practice, often gathering together in the huddle and bouncing up and down in unison before plays.

And Dye said he liked what he saw.

"I saw everybody running to the ball," Dye said. "I saw everybody play like ourselves like we were playing in camp. So I’m hoping it continues and we see our real defense on Saturday."