Hester and Price find themselves

Aaron Hester speaks in a certain tone when he’s frustrated. He shakes his head and he sighs a big sigh. He is a cornerback. Sorry, the emotions just pour out, uncontrollably, even if that’s not the intention.

This time, there is no sigh.

“I feel like for the first time in a long time, I’m myself again,” he says, loose, confident, smiling.

New defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin has brought along some swagger from up in Washington, where he coached the DBs for three years for Steve Sarkisian. He has breathed new life into Hester and Sheldon Price, UCLA’s long-time starting cornerback duo.

Most importantly, he’s brought press coverage, utilizing every inch of Price’s 6-3 frame and Hester’s 6-2 build.

“This was our plan from the get-go,” Martin said. “They bought right in. I haven’t seen the other way, so it’s hard for me to say the light has switched on for them. From day one, since we started implementing the defense, these guys have had that natural body language, the attitude you want bump-and-run corners to have.”

In a word, swagger, something that has been sorely missing from the duo for quite a while.

Hampered by the passive style of the previous regime, which often called for the cornerbacks to be 8-10 yards off the ball, Price and Hester felt stifled, unnatural. Worse, they felt…quiet. These are cornerbacks to the purest level, chatty, feisty, fiery. Unable to jam, they were unable to jabber, losing their edge. The swagger, gone.
It’s back.

“The confidence we’re playing with is unreal,” Price said. “You can see it in the both of us. We love pressing, we love being in their face, and with Martin behind us in our ears, ‘That wasn’t good enough; you looked him up, but you messed up your feet,’ it’s great. It’s getting our game right.”

Martin isn’t always behind the defensive backs, chirping about their strengths and weaknesses, challenging them, bringing them to their knees.

He brings it directly into their faces, almost crawling into their facemasks to deliver his message. On a staff full of excitable young energy, Martin might just have the most. And what the players love most, they say, is that he can take it as well as he gives it.

“He’s a coach, but he’s one of us, too,” Price said of Martin, who was an all-conference cornerback at Michigan State. “He’s been there. He’s been on that island. He’s young, he relates to us. We have fun with him, calling him Derek Fisher. We love it. He challenges us, gets in our faces every day. We needed him.”

Hester and Price needed to just have a little fun again, to learn how to stop worrying so they could stop the bombs. They both admit: football hasn’t been much fun the last few years.

“I can’t say it was,” Price said. “Look, we’re dog tired out here, about to fall out, and we love it. They’re pushing us. This is what we want. This is what we need. When Aaron said we’re feeling like ourselves, I truly believe that. This is Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price. How we’re supposed to be.”

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  • Anonymous

    Thank G_D! I hated seeing the cushion they played the last couple of years, especially against the SUC.

  • Thomas

    I’ll believe it when I see it.

  • Blueblood

    Message to Price and Hester. Paraphrasing a famous and successful coach. Don’t just talk the talk, Now walk the walk! Go Bruins!

  • Avid Lurker

    Thanks for all your updates Jon. So no more 10 yard cushion eh? Have you seen this missing on every defensive play? It’s definitely something to be excited about.

  • UCLAFan 11

    The swagger is back?? When was it ever there?? Or, more importantly, when did it EVER deserve to be there?? Between Hester’s constant PI penalties and Price’s terrible pass coverage, I haven’t seen anything from the UCLA cornerbacks to actually deserve any swagger…they should just focus on improvement from here on out, because after 4-8, 7-6, 4-8….they have only shown me rock-bottom incompetence. UCLA deserves better, and if anything, UCLA needs to get its swagger back….hopefully the on-field results will get us there.

  • Anonymous

    I call them the P.I. twins. With them initiating contact sooner, watch out. Hester always talked real well, let’s see if he can finally back it.

  • Bruin79

    Didn’t Coach Martin’s secondary set a record for futility in the Alamo Bowl last December? Baylor receivers and running backs running free and untouched? I sure hope he tuned up his schemes, or there won’t be much swaggering from our DBs.

  • localbruin

    Jon, don’t do this to yourself. You’re getting close to going Datone Jones on these two.

    These guys are horrible. Technically deficient, undisciplined, prone to big whiffs and PI. Goodness sakes!

    Finding themselves? We will all find them next year chasing someone to the goal line, complaining about PI on 3rd and 6 and, in Price’s case simply falling down untouched in the endzone to allow a pitch and catch TD. The faster we get this dynamic duo on the bench for younger, more disciplined talent, the better.

  • BruinRogue

    Too early to say but at least we won’t be seeing the 25 yard cushions Tresey set up. A big corner needs to be in press coverage where he can get physical within the 5 yards allowed, not 25 yards deep.

  • Sec21R14S110

    How is it that everyone in the stands and people watching on TV knew our corners were playing WAY too far off the line yet Tresey and staff never adjusted?! I don’t get it.

    Anyway good riddance and I’m glad we have a new coaching staff to finally whip our kids into shape. Here’s to hopefully emulating some of the success Stanford has had since Harbaugh turned things around for them!

    Cautiously optimistic

  • Anon

    The Baylor Alamo Bowl offensive performance was nothing new to any of their opponents last year. It doesn’t say a thing about Coach Martin’s ability as a CB coach.

  • anon

    those guys suck, always have, always will.

  • 50-0

    Swagger? How about toast. As in well burnt.