Saturday, April 28, 2007

Spring Practice: Offensive Line

One of the bigger adjustments for the offensive line this spring is the change from the weak side-strong side system that Dorrell has implemented for the past three year. The line is reverting to a simpler right-and-left scheme to keep linemen in consistent positions. This should help the players get more comfortable with their assignments.

The line has undergone some personnel changes as well. The coaches are focused on getting the best five linemen on the field, not necessarily by position. Noah Sutherland will move to left guard from the tackle position, Chris Joseph will be making starts at center instead of guard and Shannon Tevaga will anchor the line at right guard.

Joseph probably has the biggest transition to make, moving to center to replace Chai. He hasn't played the position since high school. To help ease that transition, the responsibilities of the center have been lessened, which means Joseph does not have to make all of the line calls and adjustments.

"A lot of the responsibility was on the center last year," Joseph said. "A little bit less so this year, but it's just part of the position."

Under new offensive line coach Bob Connelly, the focus so far has been on technique and footwork rather than more of the big-picture lessons that former coach Jim Colletto brought last season. He has also made adjustments to the pass-protection scheme.

Tevaga had this to say about what they learned this Spring, "It's always good to learn in practice. Especially with new coaches, it's good to see different kind of things from different coaches. There's stuff that I hadn't even learned yet that Connelly's taught me, so I'm just taking it day by day."

There was some significant competition at the right tackle position during the camp. Brian Abraham continues to out-perform Aleksey Lanis, so it looks like Abraham will enter fall camp as the starter. Alexis was hampered by injuries and has struggled to perform during the practices and scrimages. Abraham has been taking reps with the first team, while Lanis switched between right and left tackle with the second team.

"Based on eight practices and taking the instruction and doing what we're asking (Abraham) to do right now with our schemes, he's in that position," UCLA offensive line coach Bob Connelly said in the second week of the camp, "We're trying to build depth and trying to build competition."

Connelly said part of Lanis' problem are injuries. Offseason right knee surgery is keeping Lanis from weight training with his lower body, and he still is recovering from a broken left forearm suffered against the Trojans. Lanis started 12 games last season, while Abraham played extensively during games in 2005.

"There are some things that have taken place that set him back physically," Connelly said. "He hasn't been able to do the things some of these other guys (can do), so his physical development is not where it needs to be. He's overweight right now. He's not in the shape he needs to be in, partly because his knee, I'm hoping."

Dorrell singled out the O-line as an area that has made the most progress this spring. "For what we've juggled and moving guys outside to inside and left to right and all those things that we've done, we've made a lot of progress at a pretty good pace".

Spring Game

The offense as a whole looked bad during the spring game. There were a number of missed blocks and broken plays and they gave up 4 sacks on Olson. They also weren't able to establish much of a running game either. The offensive line is obviously still adjusting to the new system.

"At the beginning, it was horrible," UCLA right guard Shannon Tevaga said. "We had a lot of free guys coming up the middle. We didn't block the guys. We were calling to the wrong (linebacker). We just made a lot of mental mistakes. We went to the wrong linebackers, hitting the wrong linemen, running the wrong way. Once we cleaned that up, we started clicking."

sources: LA Daily News, LA Times,, OC Register)