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UCLA football: Tailback Franklin moves up depth chart

August 24, 2009 | 12:37 pm

Franklin_240 UCLA’s offensive line is set in ink.

The tailback spot, though, in still penciled in. An injury to Christian Ramirez and an impressive performance by Johnathan Franklin shuffled the backfield.

Ramirez watched practices on crutches, with what is now being called a high ankle sprain suffered in Saturday’s scrimmage. Franklin, a redshirt freshman who gained 99 yards in the scrimmage, jumped Derrick Coleman into the No. 1 tailback spot in this morning’s practice.

Franklin’s performance in the scrimmaged included a dart-and-dash 60-yard touchdown run.

“A lot of guys find ways to get tackled, he found a way to get out of there,” UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said of the touchdown run. “He has great vision. He has the nice combination of things that can help us move the chains.”

As for his blocking, Neuheisel said, “he is getting better, but it is still something that he needs to work on, and something we need to focus on daily. You have to understand that he doesn’t have his main arsenal, which is the cut block. We’re not letting him do that to our guys.”

Ramirez entered camp atop the depth chart in training camp. But he labored through hamstring problems during practice last week and suffered a sprained right ankle during the first series Saturday. Neuheisel said Ramirez is “iffy” for the season opener against San Diego State on Sept. 5.

Whoever is at tailback, they will run behind an offensive line with four newcomers. Tackle Xavier Su’a-Filo and guard Stanley Hasiak are both redshirt freshmen. Center Kai Maiava, a sophomore, is a transfer from Colorado. Guard Eddie Williams, a junior, is a transfer from Mt. San Antonio College. Tackle Jeff Baca, a sophomore, is the only returner. He started eight games at tackle last season.

In other news from the morning:

-- Neuheisel was impressed with the speed that the Bruins displayed during the scrimmage, particularly freshman tailback Damien Thigpen. “He can be an impact player,” said Neuheisel, who also said he was leaning toward using Thigpen this season. Thigpen returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown and also had a 61-yard kickoff return.

-- Korey and Kyle Bosworth flew to Oklahoma to be with their ill grandfather, who has been “very instrumental in their lives,” Neuheisel said. “Our prayers go with them.” There is no timetable for their return.

-- Wide receiver Morrell Presley suffered an injury to his right leg, “a quad,” Neuheisel said.

-- Wide receiver Randall Carroll was at traffic court and missed practice.

-- Defensive end Keenan Graham, a freshman, suffered a broken jaw in the scrimmage.

_Wide receiver Gavin Ketchum (hamstring) returned to drills, but defensive tackle Jerzy Siewierski (back) sat out a third consecutive practice.

 --- Chris Foster 

Photo: UCLA tailback Johnathan Franklin during practice drills on August 13. Photo credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times.

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