After celebrating its first bowl win since 2005 with a 30-21 win over Temple on Tuesday night at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., UCLA was dealt crushing blows on both sides of the ball after the game.
Junior defensive tackle Brian Price told Chris Roberts, Wayne Cook and Matt Stevens of the UCLA ISP Sports Network that he intended to declare for the NFL Draft after a spectacular junior season and freshman offensive tackle Xavier Su’a-Filo confirmed in a text message that he was going on his LDS mission immediately.
While Price qualified his statements by adding that he still needed to have final discussions with the UCLA coaching staff and his family, all indications are that he is leaving for the NFL.
“I want what’s best for Brian Price,” Neuheisel said. “Obviously, we would love to have him back. He’s a big-time football player. But if it’s a good decision for Brian and his family to move on, we wish him the very best.”
Price sky-rocketed up the pre-draft charts late in the season and his five tackles and one tackle for loss gave him season totals of 48 total tackles and 23.5 TFL. While also adding seven sacks this year, Price’s 44.5 career tackles-for-loss rank second in UCLA history behind current cornerbacks coach Carnell Lake.
Many around the UCLA program braced themselves for Price’s early exit, though, particularly as he exploded onto Mel Kiper’s Big Board at the No. 10 spot.
“I knew before the season started,” said UCLA senior linebacker Reggie Carter, who played with Price at Crenshaw High. “That’s my dude, but I can’t stand him. There were a couple tackles today where I just had the running back sized up, and he gets him. I’m just like, ‘What are you doing!? Why don’t they block you!? You’re in front of them already!’ He’s unbelievable.”
Price’s loss would only compound a potential weak spot for the Bruins, as they also lose starting senior defensive tackle Jerzy Siewierski and one of their top backups in senior Jess Ward. UCLA will return juniors David Carter and Andy Keane and sophomore Justin Edison, and has two verbal commitments in Bellevue (Wash.) High’s Julious Moore and Fresno Edison’s Wesley Flowers. The Bruins are also targeting high-level recruits Ricky Heimuli from Brighton High in Salt Lake City.
“Definitely (Price’s decision) is going to have a big impact on the team,” UCLA sophomore linebacker Akeem Ayers said. “Especially with me, being a linebacker, playing behind him. He just kept tackles off me. But it’s something we’ll have to adjust to. We’ll have to get the other players ready to step up and ready to go.”