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WALKER STAYING WITH BRUINS UCLA FOOTBALL: COVETED DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR HAD BEEN WOOED BY PAC-10 RIVAL.

Byline: Jill Painter

Staff Writer

Rick Neuheisel has won his first recruiting battle: DeWayne Walker is staying at UCLA as defensive coordinator.

When he was announced as UCLA's new head coach over the weekend, Neuheisel had said that Walker was his No. 1 recruit. Walker was heavily pursued by Washington, and was passed over by UCLA for its top position. But the school announced Wednesday that he had elected to stay in Westwood.

Walker is expected to sign a multi-year deal and receive a bump in pay from the $330,000 he made this year, according to sources.

"It's a great hire for us as we go forth with the new staff," Neuheisel said in an evening conference call. "DeWayne has proven himself as a bonafide, top-notch defensive coordinator in his two years. We're elated."

There were some anxious moments for the Bruins, since Walker was heavily pursued by Washington. Walker even had discussions with Washington president Mark A. Emmert, who was in town for the Rose Bowl.

The sticking point to staying at UCLA was if Walker could keep linebackers coach Chuck Bullough and defensive line coach Todd Howard on the Bruins staff. Both will remain.

"It was very important," Walker said of keeping the defensive assistants. "We came in together. Coach Dorrell was very good about that in terms of hiring these two guys. They're the focal points in trying to establish this defense also. I'm happy Coach Neuheisel felt the same way."

Walker and Neuheisel were on a conference call together, and when Walker was pressed over whether that was the sticking point, Neuheisel answered.

"No, it was not the point of contention," Neuheisel said. "The issue was that I wanted to make sure, and DeWayne and I discussed this, that each guy came in on his own merits. You want everybody united on the same front. I sat down with both Todd and Chuck and talked to them about how they saw this thing. I heard each of their visions separately rather than just as a group. I feel very strongly that they're great football coaches in their own right. Working with DeWayne enhances that."

Bullough and Howard will be given consideration for pay raises as well, Neuheisel said. Washington would have allowed Walker to bring his own defensive assistants and an increase in pay as well.

Asked if he was close to leaving, Walker said yes.

"(Washington coach Ty Willingham) did everything right. He really did," Walker said. "He was thorough. He was honest. Again, it was one of the toughest calls I had to make to let him know I was going to stay a Bruin."

A decision on UCLA's other assistant coaches has yet to be made. Neuheisel said he is still in the process of interviewing those coaches as well as talking to candidates outside the program.

By the time Neuheisel had a conference call with reporters announcing Walker's decision, he'd already phoned a recruit to tell him Walker was remaining on staff. Neuheisel said he couldn't reveal the recruit's name but did say the recruit was elated. Walker seemed happy to be staying as well.

"At the end of the day, it's about winning championships," Walker said. "When I had a chance to sit down with coach and listen to his vision and commitment in terms of trying to get to the championship level: (it's) really trying to finish what we started. To be a defensive coordinator but also to win a championship. Being from L.A. and having a chance to grow up around the Rose Bowl is something we haven't accomplished yet. The recruits and the (current) football team and all those things factored into this decision."

Walker had two interviews for UCLA's head coaching position after the firing of Dorrell, but athletic director Dan Guerrero chose Neuheisel. Walker didn't get the job, but he was a popular man in recent days and many recruits had said if Walker stayed, they would stay committed to UCLA.

Walker didn't comment on terms of the deal, but said: "If coach wouldn't mind, I'll sign a 10-year deal if they have that."

Added Neuheisel: "I would, too."

jill.painter@dailynews.com

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(color) DeWayne Walker said he was close to leaving UCLA.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 3, 2008
Words:713
Previous Article:THESE THINGS ARE BOUND TO HAPPEN.
Next Article:TROJANS LOOK TO FUTURE USC FOOTBALL: DEPTH IS NOT AN ISSUE, BUT WHO WILL EMERGE?


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