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Riley a sophomore ready to shine

The former St. Francis standout and Pasadena native will look for a breakout season with the Bruins now that he's 100%.

August 04, 2011|By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com

As a ballyhooed freshman at St. Francis High, Dietrich Riley came to the Golden Knights with his share of hype and made his share of noise late in his first varsity campaign.

The Pasadena native entered UCLA in much the same way and, as his freshman season as a Bruin progressed, so too did Riley's playing time and contributions.

"Last half [of the season], he put on a show," says UCLA redshirt junior Aaron Hester, a cornerback out of Dominguez High. "You could tell he had the physical attributes to shine."

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Whether on defense or offense, Riley truly began to take off during his sophomore campaign at St. Francis, when, upon the conclusion of the season, he was voted the All-Area Football Player of the Year for the first of on an unprecedented three times.

And as Riley's sophomore college campaign and the 2011 Bruins' season looms ahead, there are many that believe the talented strong safety will once again shine as a sophomore.

"He's got Troy Polamalu-type skill in terms of making plays," says UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel, paying Riley a large compliment in comparing him to the Pittsburgh Steelers' four-time All-Pro safety. "I think it's just a matter of time before he starts to show that."

Neuheisel and the Bruins enter the upcoming season — one that begins at Houston on Sept. 3 — on the heels of a disappointing 4-8 campaign last year and in dire need of steering the program in the right direction. With Riley entering fall camp as the starting strong safety on the depth chart, many believe he will play a vital role in a turnaround if it is to be had.

"Back there, a lot of times you're looking for guys who can make a difference, can change a game," UCLA secondary coach Tim Hundley says. "And Dietrich's a difference-maker."

In the fall of 2006, a 14-year-old freshman Riley made his varsity football debut for St. Francis against Alemany and promptly caught three passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. In just three games at the varsity level, he would become an All-Mission League player.

"It's so rare for a freshman to do that," St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds says. "Right there, we knew he was something special."

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