UCLA Spring Football Day 12
Day 12 of UCLA spring football began with head coach Rick Neuheisel emphasizing the importance of seizing the opportunity that is at hand for these Bruins. Some players are not taking full advantage of the chance to showcase both their athletic ability, as well as their overall understanding of UCLA’s offense.
Neuheisel declined to name names, but he said he can already envision particular players coming into his office, and asking why they didn’t get enough chances when spring ball is technically one giant opportunity to impress the coaches. He appeared to deliver this opening with a hint of consternation in his disposition, so one can safely speculate that Neuheisel knows exactly who his statement is in reference to.
When asked which Bruin is taking advantage of his given opportunity, the first name out of Neuheisel's mouth was junior college transfer Ryan Taylor, who has taken over at center during spring ball as starter Kai Maiava recovers from an unfortunate knee injury.
Morrell Presley is an individual who will be featured in the passing game as both a blocker as well as a receiver in the slot.
On the defensive end, Nate Chandler has made a smooth transition from tight end to defensive lineman. Furthermore, LB Pat Larimore and DB Dalton Hilliard have also continued to catch the attention of the coaching staff, and will likely be key cogs for the Bruin defense come September.
Last but not least, Christian Ramirez will probably be featured as what Neuheisel described as a “moving kind of tight end/running back” (I was later told this position in this type of offense is called the "F-Back"). Although Ramirez has played on both sides of the ball during his football career, he will probably be showcased more in offensive packages.
Overall, the UCLA head coach said that what he wants most out of spring practice from his team is precision, execution, and to witness individual player development so that he can build the depth of his roster with confidence in time for fall.
On the injury front, Neuheisel expressed cautious optimism about the recovery of some of his key offensive personnel before spring football concludes.
TE Joe Fauria is still sidelined with groin issues, and WR Nelson Rosario hyper-extended his knee. Otherwise, Maiava is out for the remainder of spring ball with a moderate MCL sprain, and should be back to full speed in about six weeks.
Neuheisel maintained that he already has a decent-sized sample of work from the previous two weeks in addition to what he’ll see from his squad in the final few days of Spring Practice. However, this three-week trial will not be entirely conclusive as far as the fall depth charts are concerned, and decisions will last beyond the spring.
UCLA Spring Football Day 13
Neuheisel seemed pleased with some critical goal-line situations. Brehaut made a great pass to Moutra. Brehaut’s confidence is coming along. Otherwise, Neuheisel is optimistic about the tweaks to the offense, and feels comfortable resorting to it going forward.
UCLA Spring Football Day 14
Neuheisel reported a good, intense practice on Tuesday, Apr. 20. After getting through the experimental stages of the new Revolver offense, he noted that the Revolver facilitated the running game, and that this news formation will be implemented moving forward.
Kevin Prince has improved his command of UCLA’s offense as he approached his second season as the Bruin QB1. However, Neuheisel qualified his praise of Prince by stating that he could stand to improve in accuracy.
Neuheisel has been impressed with the play of his linebackers, and likes the competition for starting ILB between the intense Patrick Larimore and the experienced Steve Sloan.
Neuheisel also had high praise for OL Wade Yandall’s ability to deal with a heavy school workload and some injuries, yet still maintain a positive attitude and remain excited about Bruin football. In spite of the Bruin head coach’s praise of Yandall, he was non-committal about Yandall’s role on the depth chart.
When asked what he’d like to see in the annual spring game at the Rose Bowl, Neuheisel wants everyone, especially his younger players who haven’t played much, to be able to concentrate yet get their adrenaline running in the dress rehearsal. Furthermore, Neuheisel wants the spring game to be played like a “lights-out scrimmage with everybody flying around…and nobody in the training room.”
UCLA Spring Game, Saturday, April 24
The problem with spring ball is that one encounters difficulty in gaining perspective when comparing a college football program’s offense to its defense. In UCLA’s case, the defense played great as it racked up eight sacks and two interceptions (one of the pick-six persuasion), but the offense didn’t really impress as Bruin offensive coordinator Norm Chow wore an expression of concern on his face after the scrimmage concluded.
But is the defense actually this good, or does the offense just stink?
In all honesty, it’s far too early to tell. But here are my observations from the Spring game that pitted Team Prince (starting offense + backup defense) against Team Brehaut (backup offense + starting defense).
I think the game ended in a 16-16 tie, although the score was a tertiary concern on Saturday. Bruin Nation would turn their attention to their quarterback of the future.
QB Prince looked shaky to start the game. His passes were not crisp, and he appeared hesitant in the pocket. His play, as well as his passes would improve slightly as the game progressed, although the porous protection from the offensive line prevented both QBs from having much time in the pocket.
Prince finished the scrimmage having completed five of 13 passes for 73 yards, and a pick. Brehaut wasn’t much better, as he was able to complete just three of his nine passes for 34 yards.
The only signal-caller that shone at the scrimmage was reserve Ted Landers, who completed all four of his passes for 29 yards with the lone touchdown pass of the night, a 15-yarder to TE Andrew Yelich in the last play of the scrimmage. WR Ricky Marvray led all Bruin receivers with three catches for 25 yards.
RB Derrick Coleman (six rushes, 64 yards, TD) resembles a college version of New York Giant RB Brandon Jacobs. He has a powerful downhill running style, and takes tacklers along with him when he surges ahead.
Johnathan Franklin (14 rushes, 47 yards) is more of a slasher back who is quicker but smaller than Coleman. With a few QB runs sprinkled in from the Revolver, expect these two tailbacks to get a big share of the carries, at least early in the season.
Datone Jones looks like a beast in the making. He led the Bruin defense with two sacks, and applied a significant amount of pressure on passers. With Brian Price having gone pro, Jones will take over in 2010 as the primary pass rusher on the UCLA defensive line.
The Revolver rushing scheme: The play-fakes and misdirection involved in the Revolver kept the defense on their toes, and created a bit of room for offensive linemen and running backs to carry the ball.
"King" Kai Forbath showcased his monster leg by drilling four field goals in a placekicking clinic. He bisected the uprights from 34, 44, 51, and a whopping 57 yards. This is one aspect of the Bruin offense that bears no concern as spring ball concludes.
Both Steve Sloan and Patrick Larimore contributed with four tackles apiece. Inside linebacker has been one of the most hotly contested position battles during spring ball this year, and if anything, they proved that they are both capable of helping the UCLA defense, regardless of how the depth chart reads. LB Todd Golper and SS Stan McKay led the Bruin defense with six tackles apiece.
CB Marlon Pollard made an impressive 84-yard interception return for a touchdown, and has caught the attention of the Bruin coaching staff.
After some initial egging on, former UCLA quarterback-turned-sideline reporter Wayne Cook was called into the scrimmage by Neuheisel much to the delight of the 12,494 in attendance, lined up under center, and completed a four-pass in street clothes.
The offensive line play looks eerily similar to last year, as it is able to open some holes in run blocking yet gets beaten in pass protection. Neither Prince nor Brehaut had sufficient time in the pocket to pass the ball for most of the game.
Prince, the key to the Revolver’s success, didn’t resemble a quarterback with electric ability who could consistently carry the Bruins with his legs like Jeremiah Masoli did with the Oregon offense. With Prince running the Revolver, this new-look offense has a limited ceiling of potential.
Although the Revolver improved some aspects of the running game, the Bruins will need to vastly improve their offensive line play to be able to further propel the rush attack and protect the passers.
Dalton Hilliard limped off the field with a sprained left ankle. The extent of the sprain is yet to be known, but he was at least able to hobble off the field under his own power.
Frankly, I am worried about this offense. In a spring scrimmage game, I can’t really tell if the UCLA defense is that good, or if their offense is that bad. Regardless, if the maxim holds true that defense wins championships, then the Bruins have a shot at winning the Pac-10 conference in 2010.
The offensive line clearly missed Maiava, who is nursing a sprained MCL, and was declared out for the duration of spring ball earlier in the week. He is an inspirational leader on the team, and the Bruins can ill-afford to have him aggravate his knee injury come autumn.
Prince had better look a bit more polished by the time the Kansas State game comes. His mechanics appear to have somewhat improved since last year, but the Bruin QB still has a ways to go in his maturation before he is mentioned in the same class as, say, Washington’s Jake Locker.