Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Other Recruiting News

With the Sun Devils challenging for a National and PAC-10 championship, some Bruin commits are turning their eyes to the desert. ASU has been pushing hard for a number of UCLA commits, like Aaron Hester. He visited their campus recently and might be opening up his recruiting again.

Both E.J. Woods and Aaron Hester have been downgraded to "soft verbals" by Scout. Woods, like Kemonte Bateman, has some academic issues that could keep him out of Westwood. He has Washington on his list of programs according to Scout. I think he might still end up at UCLA but who knows if he'll be able to actually get admitted.

With turmoil in Westwood and the program suffering three humiliating defeats to bottom feeder teams, hanging onto recruits may be tough in the next few months. The constant chatter about UCLA firing Dorrell also creates uncertainty around his future that other programs have latched onto.

Bell and Bateman

So, the MRI on Kalil Bell's knee came back with a torn ACL. That's about all she wrote for the running back this year. Not good news for the Bruins who have relied heavily on Bell for success this season. With everybody and their brother injured, it is hard to envision where this team will get any kind of offensive production in the remaining four games.

The other news this week is that Kemonte Bateman, a 2008 prospect at wide receiver, made an oral commitment to ASU. Bateman had been committed to the Bruins but made the change to ASU after visiting Tempe this weekend. This wasn't entirely unexpected since UCLA actually hasn't given Bateman a written offer because of some academic deficiencies he has on his transcript. There is still a chance that Bateman could get his grades in order and receive an offer from UCLA. That would likely change his decision back to the Burins but for now he is going to the Sun Devils. Kemonte would be a tough loss to swallow since he was the highest rated WR recruit for the Bruins.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

California Deamin'

Tough night for the California contingent of the PAC-10. All four teams from the Golden State lost. USC to Oregon in a thriller. Cal jumped out to a 13 point first-quarter lead in Tempe and then "pulled a Bruin" by getting outscored 30-7 the rest of the way. We lost to the Cougs... to nobody's surprise. Stanford got tossed by the Beavers. When was the last time all four California schools lost on the same night?

They almost did it back in 2002. USC, Cal, and UCLA all lost on 9/21/2002 but Stanford had a bye that week. No, you have to go all the way back to 10/19/1996 to find a Saturday where all four teams put a notch in the lose column. The Bruins got creamed by Washington up in Seattle 41-21. The Trojans lost to the Sun Devils 48-35 in Tempe. The Cougs squeeked past the Bears in Pullman 21-18 and the Cardinal lost 26-12 in Corvallis.

Racing back to the present, it doesn't look good for these teams in conference play. Somehow UCLA is leading this motley group with a 4-1 record. The Trojans are 3-2 in the PAC-10 and likely kissed a 7th straight conference title goodbye. The Bears, who were 2nd in the country just a few weeks ago have lost 3 straight. Stanford is just Stanford. In the end it might be a non-California team that takes the title this year. That hasn't happened since 2001 when Oregon took the crown. With the way they've been playing lately, it might be the Ducks in 2007 as well.

Last One Standing

We've lost our leading passer, leading rusher, and leading receiver. Two of those three might be back, but could UCLA's offense be any more banged up at this point? Even the backups are hurt. With an always difficult game in Tuscon up next and three juggernaut offenses on the schedule to wrap-up the season, the real question is will UCLA have anyone left to suit up for those games? If you have any eligibility left, you may want to try out for the team, because there's a good chance you'll see some playing time by the end of the season.

Kalil Bell went down in the first quarter, tried to come back, and then was gone for the game. It looks like he has a tear in a ligament in his knee. Exactly how bad that injury is will be determined today after an MRI. I'm sure the news won't be good. Busted knees have kept Olson, Harwell, and Pitre sidelined for large chunks of this season. UCLA has used Bell heavily in all of it's victories, so let's hope Kalil can find his way back on the field at some point.

Markey obviously isn't close to being at 100%. He looked slow and was easily tackled. Of course, it didn't help that the O-line couldn't make a hole to save their lives yesterday. Was our entire starting line out with injury as well? No? Could have fooled me. The protection wasn't there and we couldn't even produce short gains against one of the worst defenses in the country.

Brandon Breazell has bruised ribs. He's a tough guy and I'm sure he'll try and play again next week, but you know he'll be slowed down by the pain. Too bad because he has been pretty much our only consistent play maker on offense. Terrance Austin did a pretty good job of filling in for him. I think he'll be a pretty darn good receiver for the next two years.

Pat came back to earth this week... and with a thud. That knee "fatigue" he had early this was was obviously more of an aggravation to the injury. He wasn't mobile at all. When the Cougs brought pressure, which was often, he couldn't really escape it. As the game progressed his confidence diminished and the passes got less and less accurate. It doesn't help when your receivers are dropping wide open passes either. I think Cowan could manage a game just fine, but we can't expect him to win one. Not with only a few weeks practice all season long and two leg injuries.

Unfortunately the defense isn't in any better shape. Nickola Dragovic, Christian Taylor, Jess Ward, and Chane Moline were sorely missed. WSU ran for 274 yards when they were only averaging somewhere around 75 yards a game. That may have actually hurt the Cougars as they had long drives that didn't end in a lot of points. Half way through the 4th quarter they were still only up by less than one touchdown. UCLA's defense gave up two late TDs but they got absolutely no help from the offense. Zero.. zilch. They were on the field for 38 minutes in that game.

If you are Jay Norvell what do you do at this point? Can you run with a banged up Markey and a schizophrenic offensive line? If Bell isn't back then you need a second back to fill his minutes. Chane Moline manged 5 yards on 4 attempts, including two loses on third and short. I think I understand a little better why Karl Dorrell didn't go for it on 4th and 1 against California. You can't throw with Cowan, that's for sure. It's time for the coaches to dig deep this week and think outside the box. I mean really deep... and outside of that very small box they seem to have.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Milton Knox is a Super Star

When Milton Knox committed to the Bruins this summer, everyone knew that UCLA was getting a good running back. As Knox has progressed though his senior season at Birmingham high school, it has become very apparent that everyone was wrong. Knox isn't good. He is a super star.

A few weeks ago, the Birmingham running back set the LA city rushing mark against Chatsworth. If you think about that for a second, it is incredibly impressive. No other player in the history of the city of Los Angeles has run for more yards than Knox. There was also LA News story on family support for Knox. He has a lot of people pulling for him and he has definitely made them all proud this season.

This has been a fantastic season for Knox. His Birmingham team beat perenail power Notre Dame in front of a national audience on ESPN 2. He was the star of the game going on to score 3 touchdowns. That was all the more impressive considering how many future D-1 football players were lined up against him. The Patriots also beat Long Beach Poly and they could be headed to the Division 1 State Bowl game at the Home Depot Center. All in a days work for this team which also features future Bruin linebacker Donovan Carter. These two will be making headlines in Westwood in just a few years.

Here are some highlights from game against Notre Dame:

Some more great plays from the game against Long Beach Poly:

(photo credit: Evan Yee/Daily News)

Betting on the Bruins: WSU

So, last week, the line for the Cal game came out late. Like, Friday morning kind of late. I didn't see it in time for my post so I didn't have a prediction. Good thing too, because I probably would have gone with the Bears. I should have known my history... the Bears haven't won at the Rose Bowl this decade. Doh!

Well, we have another history lesson this week. UCLA has lost 5 of the last 6 games to the Cougs. We did beat them the last time we visited Pullman but it was very close. Maybe that is why the line is coming in at UCLA -6.

The Sagarin Rating would have UCLA as a 18 to 19 point favorite. I think the gamblers are once bitten twice shy (or is that twice bitten four-times shy?) with the Bruins. That would normally make me think a bet for the Bruins would be a good deal but with Cowan missing a practice, I'm still a bit hesitant. I'm still going to pick UCLA minus the points but it could be real close this week. I'll say UCLA 27 WSU 20.

The over under is 54.5. With UCLA's defense playing so well I'm going with the under. We'll have to wait and see if the injuries along the line and to Christian Taylor really hurt this team. I think they can cover OK, simply because we'll be in a lot of nickel packages anyways and the Cougs don't run the ball that well.

  • Cal: No line.
  • ND. O/U: 48. My pick: Under. Actual: 26. +$100.
  • ND. UCLA +20.5. My pick: Notre Dame plus points. Actual: ND +14. +$100.
  • Org St. O/U: 54. My pick: Over. Actual: 54. Push.
  • Org St. UCLA +2.5. My pick: Org St minus points. Actual: UCLA + 26. -$100.
  • UW. O/U: 47. My pick: Under. Actual: 75. -$100.
  • UW. UCLA -6.5. My pick: Washington plus points. Actual: UCLA + 13. -$100.
  • Utah. O/U: 43.4. My pick: Over. Actual: 50. +$100.
  • Utah. UCLA -14. My pick UCLA minus points. Actual: Utah +38. -$100.
  • BYU. O/U: 46. My pick: Under. Actual: 44. +$100.
  • BYU. ULCA -7.5. My pick: UCLA minus points. Actual: UCLA +10. +$100.
  • Stanford. O/U: 46..5 My pick: Under. Actual: 62 . -$100.
  • Stanford. UCLA -17. My pick: UCLA minus points. Actual: UCLA +28 =: +$100.

I am not actually gambling on these games. This is entirely for fun. I know nothing about gambling and have no insider information. If you actually bet on these games using my predictions you are crazy and will likely lose all of your money

Where There's Smoke...

Uh oh. It has been a tough week at practice for the Bruins. The air quality around campus hasn't been good because of the wild fires and that has hindered how much they can exert themselves. Pat Cowan also experienced fatigue and tightness in his leg that lead Coach Dorrell to keep him out of drills yesterday. Now Jill Painter, at the Daily News, is reporting that some players said they had another sub par practice. Is this a sign that this team is not going to be focused on Saturday for their game in Pullman?

Some of that might come from UCLA being so banged up. After six games, this team is feeling the pinch of injuries and a little down time to heal up is much needed. The next bye is still 3 weeks away (after UCLA plays ASU at home), so the Bruins are going to have to hobble their way through some difficult practices. Still, not good news to read that players aren't energized and pumped to beat-up on a very bad Washington State squad. Let's just hope this isn't the sign of another let down. I think we've filled our quota for the year in that department.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

No Joy in Pullman

On the Road Again. I can't wait to get back on the road again. Well, Willie Nelson might not be able to wait, but I sure can. And I'm pretty sure other Bruin fans will agree with me. Those pesky away games have proven to be incredibly difficult over the last few years and the Palouse in particular has been a house of horrors for UCLA.

This is one of those games where you just wish we could take a pass. WSU stinks and is in last place; there really is no surprise there. UCLA is coming off a big win and flying high. This is exactly the type of game the Bruins love to lose. To make matters worse, the Cougs had a bye week to prepare for UCLA. Oh did I mention the weather looks like it will be cold and gloomy? Fantastic.

No, there is no joy in Pullman. Playing Wazzu is like getting a root canal. You know you have to do it but you're in pain the whole time and just want it to end as soon as possible. They've completely owned us over the last decade, winning five of the last six with our only victory a come-from-behind overtime thriller in 2005. Yet for some reason our team never seems fired up to play these guys. Maybe it is the 2 1/2 hour plane ride followed by the 2 hour bus trip just to get into Pullman. Maybe it is the cold weather, the crazy crowd, or the northern latitude. Whatever the reason, the Bruins seem to find a way to take this game off every year.

The Cougs do bring a pretty good passing attack this season. Alex Brink has put up respectable numbers but he hasn't gotten much help from the running game. I'm sure the Bruin defense will keep the Cougs running backs locked up so expect a lot of throwing on Saturday. Our corners will need to have a big day. With Christian Taylor likely unavailable and our defensive line taking some hits, the Bruin defense will need it's other play makers (Trey Brown, Bruce Davis, Alteraun Verner, and Chris Horton) to step it up.

Their defense has struggled as well and the Ducks absolutely lit up the Cougs two weeks ago. Pat did a great job managing the game against the Bears and if he can do the same on Saturday, I'm sure we'll score even more points. I liked how Norvell got Brandon Breazell more involved in the offense. Chris Markey is also looking good in practice and I'm hoping he'll add some more oopmh to our running game. If we can stay balanced then I think UCLA should move the ball very well.

The final thing to consider is WSU's mental condition. This is looking like a team who is starting to mail-in their performances. Coach Doba will probably get canned at the end of the season, and I think the players have lost all confidence in their coaches. I could be wrong, but you just don't see the same passion from this team; the same scrappiness that has always defined WSU football. If they are going to rebound at all, it would be this week. I just hope they've already surrendered.

I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens on Saturday. Will the Bruins fall victim to history once again? Will WSU final break and roll over? Who knows, but I'm pretty sure it will be a close game and a tough battle. There may not be a whole lot of joy in playing the Cougs, but I sure would like to be smiling when the game is over.

Thin Blue Line

The season of injuries roles along. The big news from the Cal game was that Christian Taylor had a very severe concussion (along with seizure like symptoms) that put him in the hospital. I don't think he'll be available for the trip to Pullman. It is hard losing your defensive captian, but the Bruins might have another defensive problem this week as well. The UCLA defensive tackle position has become dangerously thin.

Right now the Bruins only have a handful of healthy defensive tackles. UCLA saw Jess Ward and Jerzy Sierwierski go down with injuries against the Bears. Ward had an MRI yesterday and he is doubtful for the Washington State game. Jerzy may be able to go, but he is still questionable. Kevin Brown (R-Sr), Brian Price (F) and David Carter (R-F) are the only guys functioning at 100% right now. One senior and two freshman is kind of a scary proposition for a team looking to compete for the PAC-10 title.

Who Rules the Pac-10?

ed note: reprinted with permission from Brian Kamenetzkey of SportsHubLA.

By Brian Kamenetzky of SportsHubLA.com

I don’t claim to be a college football sage. It’s been a while since I picked a national champion. Nor, unlike some people I know, do I spend hours on my cell phone trying to place offshore wagers on the Northern Illinois-Western Michigan game. But I’m not ignorant, either. So I’ll give myself a break for not being prepared in September to ask myself the question that now looms large in October:

Which L.A. school will finish higher in the Pac-10?

Yes, I’m aware that UCLA entered the season as the 14th ranked team in the country, but SC was supposed to be a pigskin juggernaut. Team of the Century, Waltz-through-the-Pac-10-then-get-promoted-to-the-NFC-West good.

It hasn’t worked out that way.

Despite their 38-0 whup up on Notre Dame Saturday afternoon, sandwiching in a loss to Stanford between two near-misses against conference cellar dwellers Washington and Arizona has added some serious tarnish to the previously lustrous Trojans. Even USC’s marquee win- 49-31 over Nebraska on Sept. 15- has been diminished by the Cornhuskers’ Hammer-esque fall from grace.

UCLA, meanwhile, scuttled any national buzz they might have been able to generate with a horrible loss to Utah and an injury induced, but equally catastrophic, loss at the Rose Bowl to the Golden Domers.

Still, despite getting trumped by Pete Carroll’s boys in Q factor and general program sexiness, with their 30-21 win over Cal this weekend, UCLA moved to 4-0 in the Pac-10. USC? Just behind the Bruins at 3-1. Nothing the Men of Troy can’t overcome, right? After all, their win in South Bend pushed them to ninth in the national polls while UCLA, despite that unblemished conference mark and win over Cal, are scratching out whatever love they can in AlsoRecievingVotesVille.

Not so fast.

Like the BCS computers, who only bumped the Trojans from 14th to 12th despite a host of high ranked teams losing this weekend, I don’t put much stock in USC’s win over Notre Dame. By every statistical measurement, the Fighting Irish blow. Now, after considerable chaff, the Trojans get the wheat of their schedule. Oregon next week on the road. Then Oregon State at home, before traveling to (suddenly not so intimidating but still dangerous) Cal on November 10th and Arizona State- that’s seventh ranked, fourth in the BCS, undefeated Arizona State to you and me- on the 24th.

Then, of course, they finish with UCLA at home.

UCLA still has Oregon and Arizona State on the docket, except they’ll host both at the Rose Bowl. As for remaining roadies that require anything more than a bus ride, the Bruins have next weekend’s visit to wretched Washington State and pretty damn bad Arizona on November 3rd. Not a road paved with cupcakes, but it’s an easier one than the Trojans have to walk. And they’ve already beaten Mountain West-leading BYU and Cal, which is more by way of quality wins than USC can present. (Of course, the Bruins have the aforementioned non-quality losses, too, but as the song says, let’s accentuate the positive.)

So how does it end?

There’s no way the Trojans run the table, which they’ll need to do to preserve any national title hopes. This team simply isn’t that good. The defense may be second in the Pac-10 behind ASU, but they’ve let Washington and Stanford, two of the conference’s least powerful teams, score right about at their averages (27.0 and 24.1 respectively). What happens Saturday in Eugene when they face Dennis Dixon and the 46.6 ppg Ducks? I don’t think the Trojan defense can hold them down long enough to bail out an offense still struggling to pass the ball effectively and avoid turnovers.

Only if USC can exploit their soft-ish run D (143 ypg) do they have a chance. I don’t see it happening. Trojans fall to 3-2 in conference. From there, I think they split Cal and Arizona State on the road. That leaves them with three losses heading into their game against the Bruins.

UCLA, meanwhile, dodged one of the four big scheduling bullets aimed at them by beating Cal. Assuming they can take care of Washington State and Arizona on the road (something no Bruins fan will do until the games are safely in the win column), they’d need to pick up one win against ASU, Oregon, or SC to finish ahead of the Trojans. I realize that it’s never a good idea to bet on team that can beat SC then lose to Florida State in the Emerald Bowl, as UCLA did last year, but assuming the Bruins can keep a quarterback healthy (Patrick Cowan? Ben Olson? I’d rather have the former, I’ll take the latter over what’s behind them both) I think they can do it.

Maybe it’s the lover of underdogs inside me (certainly Karl Dorrell qualifies), or that when I was younger I always loved UCLA’s uniforms. Maybe it’s a dislike of a CFB ranking system that often rewards teams for how writers and coaches think they’ll play in late August rather than how well they actually play on the field. Really, it comes down to the fact that USC hasn’t played nearly as well as everyone expected coming into the season. Their flaws are real, and can be exploited. Their schedule is brutal. People can continue to wait for the G.O.A.T. Squad to show up, but I think seven games in USC has shown their hand. They are who they are.

And who they are is a team that will finish behind UCLA in the Pac-10.

Brian Kamenetzky hosts the Lakers Blog and Blue Notes: A Dodgers Blog for the LA Times.com. He’s a contributing writer to ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. Write him at bk@sportshubla.com

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Week of Reconing

In so many ways this is the week where the "real" PAC-10 schedule begins.

ASU, UCLA, and USC really haven't had to play the top teams in the conference up until now. That all changes this Saturday as USC heads to Oregon and California visits undefeated ASU. The following week, Oregon plays the Sun Devils and USC plays a pesky Oregon State squad. UCLA, in the meantime, heads to cellar dwellers WSU and Arizona. Of course, with the inconsistency of this team, no game is a gimme.

I have to say, I think USC is starting to come back around. They demolished Notre Dame, but more importantly, they are starting to get back some key injured players. Next week they should see some offensive lineman return including guard Chilo Rachal. Sam Baker and Kris O'Dowd are still questionable but could practice and play. Their running game is also starting to solidify with Staffon Johnson back. They still don't look like a dominant program but the next two weeks will tell us for sure. I think they will beat Oregon and Oregon State, because Carroll always seems to have his troops prepared for the big games. That leaves them 5-1 in conference play.

Arizona State might be in some trouble. They lost leading running back Ryan Torrain for the season and they have a brutal stretch of games coming up. They've been playing very well, however, and I think the Sun Devils will be a hard-win for anyone playing them. At the same time, I also believe the Bears will rebound and give ASU's defense their first real test of the season. I think a Cal victory is in the making. Likewise, the Sun Devils will lose on the road to the Ducks. That leaves them at 4-2 in conference play.

That leaves the Bruins. Who knows what to expect from this squad. Beat a good team, lose to a bad. It makes watching games a lot of fun but also maddeningly frustrating at the same time. If the defense keeps playing well and the offense can continue to gel under Pat Cowan, then UCLA should take care of business. Call me a skeptic, but I think the Bruins will drop one of these road games. If they can manage to defy the historical evidence and actually beat these two teams on the road then they could be sitting alone atop the conference rankings.

For fun, let's just say UCLA wins both games. I think the standings would shake out like so:

UCLA 6-0
USC 5-1
ASU 4-2
Ore 4-2
Cal 4-2
OSU 3-3
Stan 2-5
AU 2-5
UW 1-5
WSU 0-6

That would set UCLA for a run at the conference crown with ASU and Oregon at home (with a bye before Oregon) and a big show down with the Trojans at the Coliseum. A lot of pieces still need to fall into place, but at least UCLA owns its own destiny at this point. All of those games are winnable and I don't think the Bruins are a prohibitive underdog in any of them. Of course, all of that is predicated on this team actually playing to it's potential each week. Can they do it? Stranger things have happened.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

More From the Cal Game

Here's some post interception celebration in section 28.

We beat those Bears like they were a Mountain West team. Well, a non-Utah Mountain West team anyways. Overrated pretty much sums up Berkley athletics.

Reminding Bear fans that the REAL University of California is in Los Angeles!

That's all she wrote...

Alteraun Verner Pick 6

Great day at the Rose Bowl. Had an awesome time and really enjoyed the atmosphere today. Here is a video I took at the end of the game as Verner intercepts the ball and runs it back to clinch the Bruin victory!

Kind of hard to see from my cheap seats but you'll have to trust me. That's me screaming out scoreboard. Not my normal stick at games, but there were these terribly annoying Cal fans behind us who were chanting that when Cal took the lead there near the end of the game. They must have made a b-line for the exit as I was looking for them and they were nowhere to be found! Good time...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Betting on the Bruins: Cal

So, it looks like there is no line this week. I guess the instability at both quarterback spots means nobody is sure what will happen. I'm thinking a Cal victory but, with Pat Cowan in there, anything could happen. I'm just going to show up, drink my beer, and have a good time. We'll let the chips fall where they may.

Looking back at last week, I hit on both bets. It was almost like taking candy from a baby seeing UCLA favored by almost 3 touch downs. Of course, who could have know that Olson would get hurt... certainly not our coaches! Oh well, it improved my gambling numbers and I'm now up $100 after two tough games. Woopie! Good thing my imaginary bookie doesn't take a big chunk or else I'd be down for sure.


  • ND. O/U: 48. My pick: Under. Actual: 26. +$100.
  • ND. UCLA +20.5. My pick: Notre Dame plus points. Actual: ND +14. +$100.
  • Org St. O/U: 54. My pick: Over. Actual: 54. Push.
  • Org St. UCLA +2.5. My pick: Org St minus points. Actual: UCLA + 26. -$100.
  • UW. O/U: 47. My pick: Under. Actual: 75. -$100.
  • UW. UCLA -6.5. My pick: Washington plus points. Actual: UCLA + 13. -$100.
  • Utah. O/U: 43.4. My pick: Over. Actual: 50. +$100.
  • Utah. UCLA -14. My pick UCLA minus points. Actual: Utah +38. -$100.
  • BYU. O/U: 46. My pick: Under. Actual: 44. +$100.
  • BYU. ULCA -7.5. My pick: UCLA minus points. Actual: UCLA +10. +$100.
  • Stanford. O/U: 46..5 My pick: Under. Actual: 62 . -$100.
  • Stanford. UCLA -17. My pick: UCLA minus points. Actual: UCLA +28 =: +$100.

I am not actually gambling on these games. This is entirely for fun. I know nothing about gambling and have no insider information. If you actually bet on these games using my predictions you are crazy and will likely lose all of your money

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Show Me The Money

Have you ever wondered what UCLA pays Karl Dorrell to coach the football team? I'm sure you've heard about things like bonuses, salaries, other-income, and the like. Well, I got a copy of the contract and figured I'd break it all down for you.

USA today has a great flash application that gives you information on all the division 1 college coaches and how much they get paid. The complete list of coaches compensation was updated in 2005. It is very interesting and it includes the actual text of the contracts themselves. The application also lets you sort the data so you can see which coaches are getting paid relative to each other.

Here is a PDF of Karl Dorrell's contract as of 2005. I'm not sure if there is a later version, but I doubt things have changed that much in two years. I'll warn you, the first few pages are very hard to read. They are addendum to the original 2003 contract. The addendum changed some of the monetary compensation for salary and bonuses. I've managed to work my way though the garbled text and I've compiled a list of the highlights of his overall contract.

(I'll preface this by saying I'm not a lawyer and there might be subtle nuances that I am missing).

Annual Compensation

The way the contract is structured, Karl Dorrell gets paid through two different channels. He is hired directly by the University to coach the football team. The other channel is that Karl Dorrell's company, KJD8 Enterprises, is contracted with the University to handle things like speaking engagement, TV interviews, and promotional and fund raising activities. I think this is done, (and again, I'm no lawyer), to bypass some salary limitations that the UC System might impose. Basically, this allows Dorrell to get paid more money but it has to come through this song-and-dance routine. I'm sure Jeff Tedford and other coaches have to do the same thing.

Date of Contract: August 29, 2005
End of Contract: January 15, 2011.

Karl Dorrell Base Salary: $150,000.
KJD8 Salary: $350,000.
KJD8 Royalty: $225,000.
Total: $725,000

Now, there is a paragraph in the contract that says his base salary can be raised at any time. USA today said the base salary was $181,000 in 2005. I'm not sure where they got that number, but for the purposes of this discussion, I'm just sticking with the $150,000 that is in the contract text. What's $31K among friends, anyways.


Now the incentives and bonuses are interesting. These are additional payments that Dorrell can receive in addition to the $725,000, he's getting in his basic salary. I think it is kind of strange that there are no incentives for actually winning bowl games (with the exception of the National Championship game). Maybe that is why the Bruins are 1-3 in bowl games under Dorrell.

Coach of the Year: $50,000
5-year-bonus, if still coach in 2010: $500,000 (prorated if fired without cause before 2010)

Plays in National Championship game: $100,000
Win National Championship game: $150,000

Plays in BCS game: $50,000 or
Plays in PAC-10 Bowl (paying UCLA $1M or more): $25,000 or
Plays in Other Bowl: $15,000

Undisputed PAC-10 champs: $50,000 or
PAC-10 co-champs: $40,000

Final Coaches Poll rank (top-10): $30,000 or
Final Coaches Poll rank (top-25): $15,000

Graduation rate (70% - 75%): $30,000 or
Graduation rate (75% - 80%): $40,000 or
Graduation rate (> 80%): $50,000

Regular Season Wins (8): $15,000 or
Regular Season Wins (9): $30,000 or
Regular Season Wins (10): $45,000 or
Regular Season Wins (11): $60,000 or
Regular Season Wins ( > 11): $75,000

Getting Fired

Since Dorrell getting fired is the hot topic these days, I looked into the sections of his contract that talk about getting terminated. This is my understanding (again, I'm not a lawyer) of what it says:

Fired With Cause

While many fans would say that the teams performance over the years is a good reason to fire Dorrell, the contract lays out precisely what would be considered cause for termination. Pretty basic stuff, I would think. If he does any of this stuff then he basically isn't entitled to any money and the contract is void.
  1. Any serious or significant violation of NCAA rules.
  2. Theft, dishonesty, misappropriation of University property, fighting, insubordination, serious misconduct, or lack of judgment that has a significant or serious adverse effect on the University.
  3. Committing any crime, act or other involvement that reflects unfavorably upon the University's reputation.
Dorrell is a pretty stand up guy, so I doubt any of the above items would be violated. That leads us to the other section.

Fired Without Cause

More than likely, UCLA would have to fire Dorrell without cause. In that scenario, the University has to pay out compensation to Karl for ending the contract early. I'm going to assume that he would be fired at the end of the year, just to make the math simpler; if he got fired earlier, there would be proration of some of the payouts. Here is what would be owed:
  1. Pay the base salary through January 2011.
  2. Pay a prorated amount of the 5-year-bonus.
  3. Pay one additional year of the KJD8 salary and royalties.
By my math, if UCLA fired Dorrell at the end of this season they would owe him 3-seasons base salary ($450,000) ,plus 2 years prorated value on the 5-year-bonus ($200,000), plus one additional year for his KJD8 income ($575,000). So $1,225,000, or thereabouts, just to hand Dorrell his pink slip.

There are a ton of other details in the 31 page document and you can download it yourself and take a look. Really, I think my summary catches the major points. Now, I'm going to go and do some analysis, on the USA Today numbers, and see what kind of correlation there is between paying head coaches well and winning programs. Look for that in a future post.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Other Running Back

Here is a great story about Derrick Coleman of Troy High School. He is currently committed to UCLA for the 2008 class. Rivals has him as the #3 fullback in the country but don't be surprised if Coleman wants to play tailback. He's the primary running weapon for the Warriors and, including this last weekend, he has racked up 1085 yards and scored 20 touchdowns. He is definitely turning into a premiere college-caliber back who brings a lot of power running and toughness.

One of the great stories around Coleman is that he has a hearing disability. He has to use two hearing aids when he plays but it doesn't seem to impact his results on the field. His hearing loss started when he was 5 years-old, so the High School senior has learned to adapt to not hearing as well as his teammates.

When he arrives at Westwood he'll have a bevy of running backs ahead of him. Milton Knox, who recently set the LA City Section career rushing record, will be on campus. So will Aundre Dean from Katy Texas. Both are super star running backs in their own right. Kalil Bell will be a senior, Raymond Carter a red-shirt freshman, and lets not forget Chane "the Train" Moline as a junior. Coleman may not get much playing time that first season, but he could be used at either fullback or tailback down the road. I could see him inheriting the role of Moline as the "power" running back used in short yardage situations.

(photo credit:
Gina Ferazzi / LAT)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Starting at the Top

You see, Nebraska got the memo. They took a hard look at the state of their football program and decided it was stuck in neutral. Did they fire their head coach? No... at least not yet. I'm sure that is coming soon enough. They decided that the first thing they needed to do was get a new direction for their program. They did that by firing their Athletic Director.

This is exactly the type of action I'm calling for UCLA to take. I don't think the answer is firing Dan Guerrero, who has done an excellent job with basketball and baseball hires. No, I think DG should stick around for a while. But I like the message the Nebraska chancellor is sending. Make football a priority... or else. That is the message we need to send to DG: Make football the priority.

Make sure we hire an experienced, proven coach. Before we get rid of Dorrell, we need to insure that UCLA and the Morgan center are serious about getting a winner. Not just another bargain-basement, up-and-comer. We want somebody who has a track record of success as a head coach. That will likely take some money and some fortitude to put other sports and projects on the back burner. These are the tough decisions you have to make as an Athletic Director and if Guerrero can't do it then we need to find someone else who can.

(photo credit: AP Photo/Nati Harnik)


Really, no further explanation is necessary

(photo credit: Image of Sports, Deadspin)

Is the PAC-10 this Bad?

We're 7 weeks into the schedule and the PAC-10 only has one undefeated team. That sounds about right, if you said that before the season started; USC would be undefeated and the nine dwarfs would be scrambling to keep up. Oh, but things haven't gone according to form this year, have they? ASU sits atop the conference, the lone team without a blemish on their record, and everyone else is licking their wounds from some head-scratching defeats. How did this happen? Is the PAC-10 this balanced or this bad?

Before anyone gets too excited about Arizona State, let's remember that they haven't exactly played stellar competition. They have, literally, played almost the entire bottom half of the conference as it stands today (Stanford, Washington, WSU, and Oregon State). Their out of conference opponents included SDSU and SJSU... not exactly football juggernauts. They also had Colorado, which has turned into a decent team, but otherwise it has been a bakery full of creme puffs. Every game has been at home with the exception of Stanford and WSU (which they barely won). They still have games at UCLA, at Oregon, and match ups with Cal and USC. They have played great football and were extremely under rated coming into the season, but you have to think their winning streak is about to end soon.

The Trojans are a big blemish on the conference. It has been a long time since anyone could honestly say that. Pete Carroll definitely takes the cake for "doing less with more" this season. Barely squeaking out a victory against Washington; losing to 1-3 Stanford; then barely getting past an Arizona team that only has one victory over a D1-A opponent. That hardly sounds like the gem of the conference. With pre-season hype through the roof, it is hard to think of another team (well, maybe Michigan and Louisville) that is disappointing more right now. They've had their fair share of injuries, but common, they are stacked 3-deep with All Americans.

California was looking hot until this last weekend. I'm sure some Bear fans will wring their hands and say they lost because of their backup QB. Don't believe that for a second. Riley's numbers compare very favorably with Longshore's averages for the season. His 20/24, 294 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT were better than what Longshore had against Arizona. I would take those numbers any day of the week and twice on Saturday. No, it was their defense that was suspect. Giving up 478 total yards (including almost 300 in the air) to an Oregon State offense that has struggled much of this season. Like the old saying goes, defense wins championships. Cal ain't winning a championship anytime soon.

That leaves us with Oregon, another team expected to make some noise this year. The Ducks have looked pretty good, but they were fortunate to play a Michigan team reeling from their loss to Appalachian State. The Wolverines are playing great football right now and that game probably wouldn't go down the same if it were played this weekend. On the flip side, their one loss to Cal probably should have been a victory. Still, like the Bears, they aren't playing stingy defense and with games remaining at Seattle, at Corvallis, at Pasadena, and hosting USC, they aren't going to finish with only that one loss.

No need to go into UCLA. Our pre-season top-20 ranking went down the tubes with our blow-out loss to Utah and that was back when we were still relatively healthy. With no clear starting QB, and a mountain of injuries, this team is in for a very long second-half of the season. I could say we are the biggest disappointment, but did anyone really expect this team to win the conference? We're still technically in that race, but baring some miraculous turn-around, it looks like a the middle of the conference finish for the Bruins.

You could say there is some parity here in the conference. The PAC-10 did win some big OOC games this year including victories over Tennessee, Nebraska, and Michigan. But even those games are fading as those teams rack up defeats. The bottom feeders in the conference are scoring wins they shouldn't and the top-tier teams are looking very pedestrian. Sure, everyone is losing this year to unranked teams, but even in victory our best teams look very vulnerable. Sagarin says we are the #2 conference behind the SEC. That might be true, but that gap is very wide and deep at this point. No, I think the conference is just that bad this season. We have no clear-cut leader and the top is muddled with teams that don't strike much fear into their opponents. Not exactly the sign of a good conference. We'll probably continue to bloody each other in conference play and it wouldn't surprise me if the eventual conference champ has two or more defeats. It could be an ugly bowl season this winter.

In and Out for Cal

With injuries mounting, guys coming back to practice, and the starting lineup changing almost every week, here the list of the walking wounded going into the Cal game:

Should be Back

Dominique Johnson (WR) didn't practice last week, but should be ready to go for the Bears.

Marcus Everett (WR) practiced all of last week and will play.

Aaron Whittington (LB) was heavily bandaged, but should practice this week and play on Saturday.

John Hale (LB). Haven't seen any updates on his concussion. I'm guessing he'll be back, but haven't heard for sure.

Maybe In, Maybe Out

Patrick Cowan (QB). Pat was cleared to practice last week but Dorrell wanted him to take another week to heal up. He should be back in full practice starting tomorrow, with a final decision coming later in the week to determine if he'll play on Saturday.

Chris Markey (RB). Chris did not practice last week. He did some light cardio, but spent a lot of his time getting treatment for his turf toe. A decision will probably be made later this week on his availability.

Reggie Carter (LB). Had surgery on knee to remove some torn ligament. If he practices well without much pain then he should start against the Bears.

Likely Out for the game

Chase Moline (DT). Has headaches related to back pain and a neck injury. He is out indefinitely and could be looking at a medical retirement if his back problems don't get better.

Brigham Harwell (DT). Doing light running and practice. Could be back later in the season, but a red shirt is still possible.

Nickola Dragovic (DE). Hip injury has him out indefinitely. Along with the concussions from earlier in the year, he could be done for the season. He does not have a tear in in his hip, according to the latest MRI.

Michael Pitre (FB). Knee is not responding well. He is likely done for the year. UCLA will probably petition for a 6th year of eligibility to try and get Pitre back next season.

Ben Olson (QB). Arthroscopic knee surgery found no damage. Out for another 3 weeks.

Shawn Oatis (LB). The concussion and neck injury against Notre Dame, means he will likely be out for a while.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Facts of Life

There are five indisputable truths in college football:

  1. USC cheats. Reggie Bush is a prime example. The phantom face mask call this weekend against Arizona is another.
  2. Notre Dame is overrated. Maybe not this season, but pretty much every other season. When was the last time they won a bowl game?
  3. SEC fans are insane. A couple of weeks back some LSU fans got a hold of Tim Teabow's cell phone number and left him death threats. Death threats!?! Here I thought this was just for fun.
  4. Oregon has ugly uniforms. So does Oregon State for that matter. There must be something in the water.
  5. The Cal Bears will falter in the face of success.
Yes, and a prime example of that last point occurred this weekend. Hey, we're the number two team in the nation. Number one just lost. We have hapless Oregon State at home. We're going to be the #1 team in the country for the first time since color television was invented!


Sure it was their 2nd string quarterback, it is the year of the upset, and Oregon State is making Strawberry Canyon their home away from home... but common! What bugs me even more is that we were supposed to be the team to shock Cal this weekend. I thought, even before their defeat to the Beavers, that Cal was due for a mistep. It's in their nature. Just when success comes knocking on their door, the Bears decide to go hibernate for a weekend. But no... the Beavers stole our thunder. Now I have to wonder if all week if Cal will show up motivated and ready for redemption or deflated and flat?

The other big question for this week is who's playing at quarterback for both teams? Longshore was supposed to be back this last weekend but he didn't see a snap. Their 2nd string guy, Riley, actually did a decent job for about 59 minutes and 48 seconds. Then came the "oops" play of the season. Guess you have to expect that from a freshman. Of course our freshman quarterback turned the ball over 5 times in his debut, so what the hell. Riley deserves the Heisman by comparison.

If we get back Cowan (likely at less than 100%) and the Bears start a gimpy Longshore (likely less than 100%) then the game could be interesting. If we don't have Cowan then it is hard to imagine us winning. Of course, stranger things have happened this year so I'm not going to entirely write off this game as a loss. Our defense has been playing very well the last two weeks and if we can just find a pulse on offense then we could be competitive. The extra week to prepare helps as well.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Offensive Penalties

It seems like two things have defined our season this year. The first is injuries. It seems like every player is injured, coming back from injury, or otherwise banged up. I can't remember a year where we had such a rash of guys not available. The other thing is penalties. Silly, crazy, mind-numbing penalties. Penalties that I would call offensive. Not because the offense committed them, but because I'm offended that they keep occurring week-in and week-out.

I recently just generated statistics for all the PAC-10 teams up to last weekend (Sorry, I've been delinquent in keeping those up to date). One interesting section of the stats is the number and type of penalty that each team commits. After looking at those numbers, it confirmed what I've been seeing all season long from this team... tons of procedural penalties. By procedural penalties, I mean stuff that occurs before the play is even executed. False starts, delay of game, illegal motion/shift and my all time favorite: illegal substitution. These are penalties that are 100% avoidable, yet they are occurring with frightening regularity this year.

When you look at our 2007 statistics, the first number that jumps out at you is the number of false starts. By my count, UCLA has committed 16 false starts in our six games. Just to give you a means of comparison, they committed 14 false starts all of last season! In 2005, they had 20 false starts for the entire year! We're only half way through the season and we're already passing up season totals from prior years. Absolutely unbelievable considering that we returned pretty much every offensive starter from last season.

We had two substitution infractions in the 2005 and 2006 seasons combined. We have had three so far this season. Substitution infraction!? That means we had a guy go into the huddle, who wasn't supposed to be there, and he didn't get off the field before the huddle broke. Three times that has occurred. Three times! We can't even get the right personnel on the field? No wonder we're struggling to move the ball.

Last year we had five delay of game penalties, but the coaches worked on fixing that his year. Or so we thought. My stats say two for the year, but I think there might have been more (my numbers aren't always perfect). In either case, we're basically on pace to repeat that number this season even though the clock rules were changed to give you more times between snaps.

When you total up all these dead-ball penalties, you have 25 for the season. That is an average of over 4 such penalties a game. Sadly enough, these penalties occur at some of the most inopportune times. Six times this year we have had a procedural penalty on 3rd and short (by short I mean less than 5 yards). Each of those drives ended in either a field goal (x2), punt (x2), interception, or we lost the ball on downs. We even had a first and goal situation where we had a delay of game. The result of that drive? Field goal. These drive-killing penalties are keeping us out of the end zone.

So, no, it is not just your imagination. UCLA has been suffering both a rash of injuries and a rash of bone-headed penalties. With this bye week, I sure hope the coaches are trying to address both of these issues. They are 100% fixable. The penalties that is, not always the injuries.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why I don't want Dorrell Fired

OK now, hold your horses. Before you send me an angry e-mail or leave a nasty comment calling me an idiot... let me explain.

It is painfully obvious that Karl Dorrell is not the right man for the head coaching job at UCLA. The details are out there for everyone to see, no need to rehash them here. However, if you think Karl Dorrell is the problem, you are wrong. No, he is merely a symptom of a much larger problem that has plagued UCLA football for decades. I would contend that if the underlying problem is not fixed that firing Karl Dorrell will actually make our current situation worse, not better.

So what the heck am I talking about? Well, let me break it down for you.

UCLA football was mired in mediocrity long before Karl Dorrell showed up in Westwood. People tend to forget that. With all the vitriol and hatred spewed at Dorrell over the last few years, I think everyone has erased from their memories the fact that the Bruins were a middle-of-the-pack team under Toledo as well. Here's the records if you have forgotten:

  • 1996: 5-6 regular season. No bowl.
  • 1997: 9-2 regular season. Cotton Bowl victory.
  • 1998: 10-1 regular season. Rose Bowl defeat.
  • 1999: 4-7 regular season. No bowl.
  • 2000: 6-5 regular season. Sun Bowl defeat.
  • 2001: 7-4 regular season. No bowl (self imposed penalty).
  • 2002: 7-5 regular season. Las Vegas Bowl victory.
  • 2003: 6-6 regular season. Silicon Valley Bowl defeat.
  • 2004: 6-5 regular season. Las Vegas Bowl defeat.
  • 2005: 9-2 regular season. Sun Bowl victory.
  • 2006: 6-6 regular season. Emerald Bowl defeat.
Toledo had a few good (even great) years in there, namely the '97 and '98 seasons. But they were also surrounded by some pretty bad ones including the 2001 season that ended in no bowl game because the team was out of control. Not exactly championship football by any stretch of the imagination.

You can go back to the end of the Donahue years as well. They were slightly better but not by much. The highlight was a conference co-championship in 1993 with a defeat to Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. No, you have to go all the way back to 1986 to find a Rose Bowl victory. That's two decades and counting of meandering, listless, life-less football... only speckled with a hand full of good seasons. This Bruin football program hasn't been consistently relevant since the 80's and that's a very long time to be stuck in neutral.

The problem, my dear Bruin fans, is not the coaches. They are mere pawns in a much bigger chess game. No, the problem is with the Athletic Department, the donors, and ultimately... us fans. You see, UCLA football is not that important to everyone listed above. Yup, there it is, I went and said it. Everyone knows that basketball is king at UCLA and football plays second, or maybe even third, fiddle in that symphony. Sure there are some of us that eat, sleep, and breath Bruin football. But we are the small minority. Everyone else demands a great basketball program and, if it isn't too much of an inconvenience, a good football team as well. Not a great football program, mind you, but a good one, a respectable one... a program they can basically ignore while they wait for the start of basketball season.

You want proof of this? Take a look at the salaries paid to UCLA football coaches. How much does Dorrell make? Somewhere around $1 million. Pete Carroll gets paid 3 times that salary, and maybe even more with incentives. Before you complain that SC is a private school, Cal (a fellow UC System school) pays Jeff Tedford over $2 million a year. Just recently our assistant coaches were given pay raises to make their salaries competitive with other PAC-10 schools. Let that sink in for a second. It took years for our assistants to get paid what all the other schools have been paying all along. No wonder, we have an assistant coaching carousel. Why stay at UCLA when you can make more at the same job some place else? Doesn't take a genius to figure that one out.

Why aren't donors giving more money to pay for a better coach? Why aren't fans demanding higher salaries to attract more qualified and (*gasp*) experienced coaches? The money is there for the basketball team. Ben Howland was recently given a contract that will pay him $2 million a year next season with increases for years to come. The Pauley Pavilion reconstruction project is taking in money now. Where is the fund for the UCLA football reconstruction project?

This is the underlying problem. UCLA football needs to be put back at the top of the priority list for Dan Guerrero and the Athletic Department. Money needs to be made available to attract and hire an experienced and proven head coach and coordinators. If that doesn't happen then UCLA will hire another coach with a bellow average salary. The only coach who wants to take that job is somebody "up and coming" who wants to use UCLA football as a spring board to greater success. If he succeeds then he's gone in a few years and we're back to square one. If he fails then we're stuck with another mediocre coach learning on the job racking up mediocre records. And before you counter with, "But we got Ben Howland with a low salary", remember that coaching at UCLA was his dream job. There aren't too many football coaches out there thinking the same thing.

Firing Karl Dorrell is just half of the equation. If we can't replace him with a qualified, experienced head coach then what did we accomplish? We got rid of a Karl Dorrell just to replace him with another Karl Dorrell. The worst part is that this new Karl Dorrell will have to be given 4+ years to prove his worth. That's another 4 years of mediocrity followed by another firing and another rebuilding project. At least our current Karl Dorrell can be fired at any time.

No, I say don't fire Dorrell. At least not until we demand better for this football program. Only when I know that the football program will be put on par with the basketball program will I get fired up about firing Karl. The last thing I want is another coach we'll have to fire come 2011.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Fall of Troy?

Tough week for the Trojans. Their 35 game home winning streak came to an end against lowly Stanford. Then they get news that Heisman-hopeful quarterback John David Booty broke a finger on his throwing hand. He could miss their next game against Arizona and maybe more.

But all of that is small potatoes to the biggest news of the week. After months of nothing, it looks like there might finally be a crack in the Reggie Bush case. Yes, that toothless, gutless, paper-tiger of an organization, the NCAA, might finally have someone willing to testify against Bush. The LA Times is reporting that Loyd Lake has agreed to meet with NCAA investigators and provide documentation of financial transactions between himself and Bush. Lake is a sports marketer who was supposed to represent Bush when he turned pro.

Until now the case was stuck in limbo because nobody would testify against Reggie. The NCAA is so inept they couldn't take any action without somebody going on record. This despite the fact that Yahoo! dug up a mountain of evidence on the former Trojan running back. The PAC-10 also has its own investigation but I haven't seen anything stating that Lake would meet with them as well. I'm pretty sure they could use his testimony with the NCAA in their investigation and levy their own penalties.

If either investigation finds that Bush received improper benefits while playing for the Trojans then USC could be forced to forfeit some games. The program could also face sanctions if investigators determine that coaches knew or should have known about the illegal benefits.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Is Anyone the Answer?

last month, I asked if Ben was the right man for the job at quarterback. Things haven't exactly been peaches-and-creme with the big southpaw. When he was replaced by Pat for the Washington game, I asked if Cowan could be the answer. Now that both are banged up, I'm wondering if anyone can fill the breach? With two weeks to prepare for a huge game against #2 California, coaches Dorrell and Norvell will have to see if they can get someone ready to take control of this offense.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson

Mac has been our backup quarterback the entire season. He was behind Olson for the first two games, then behind Pat for the Washington game, and finally back behind Ben for Oregon State and Notre Dame. However, against the Irish, he sure didn't look like a kid the coaches had been preparing to take the reigns for 6 weeks. I'm sure Mac is a better quarterback than what he showed last Saturday. He was obviously, and understandably, nervous and his confidence must have sunk after the first few turnovers. The coaches didn't exactly put him in a good situation either, placing the burden of moving the team on his shoulders.

Of all the backups, Mac is the most experienced. He got thrown in the deep end of the pool, and almost drowned, but you got to figure he'll only getter better from here. He had a pair of decent drives against the Irish and with a better call on that 4th-and-one (like maybe using our short-yardage back Moline!), he could have at least kept the chains moving on a third.

That being said, I don't think this kid has the skills, at this point, to be a real offensive weapon. He made some poor decisions last week as well, so we'll have to see if he can keep his cool under pressure. He can probably manage a game but I wouldn't expect much more.

Osaar Rasshan

Rasshan has been an intriguing figure for the Bruins at quarterback for years now. There always seems to be a small faction of fans on UCLA message boards who think Osaar should be the starting quarterback. That group of fans might finally have their moment in the sun. Rasshan hasn't taken a snap at quarterback for a few months now but Dorrell has said that he'll move Osaar back to quarterback this week. He's been at receiver this season.

Rasshan is an athletic and talented player. His senior season in high school, he had 1,716 yards passing and 860 yards rushing. That was three years ago, but you have to think that Osaar is a much bigger duel-threat quarterback than what we've seen so far this year. The offense hasn't exactly been playing well with Pat and Ben, so putting in a running quarterback sounds like a great alternative. Maybe the coaches can install a simple package that allows Osaar a chance to maximize his athletic strength.

Before you get too excited about Rasshan, let's remember that he was beaten out this summer for the 3rd quarterback slot by Mac. That's right, the guy who threw 4 interceptions and gave up a fumble on Saturday has looked better in practice than Rasshan. It might be the system, but the Bruins will have a hard time switching to a spread-option offense for Osaar. He'll have to find a way to work with the WCO.

Chris Forcier

C-Force is another intriguing option at quarterback. He is a lot like Rasshan, in that he is a multi-dimensional offensive weapon who is athletic and fast running the ball. He is expected to red-shirt this season, so he would really need to show something special in practice for the coaches to put him in at quarterback for Cal.

Chris racked up 2,382 yards and threw 31 touchdown passes as a Senior in high school last year. He is quick on the ground and put in a 4.4 forty time in one combine. He hasn't looked that good passing the ball, however, in practices this summer. He has some problems with the mechanics of his throw and it would be ideal for him to work those things out before getting thrown into a D-1 college football game.

What to Do?

I guess we'll see if Ben is able to play after his MRI today. If he is a no-go then maybe Pat could be ready. He'll be in limited workouts this week and I have a feeling that he won't be available against the Bears. I think the coaches are going to have to seriously consider which of the players above will be given the nod in two weeks.

Maybe the coaches could go with a two quarterback system against Cal? Florida used Tim Tebow at times last season, and he was very effective with his running ability. If the Bruins mix in Rasshan with a simplified spread-like package then that could cause the California defense some problems. They would have no footage on that offense and the element of surprise could give the Bruin offense a fighting chance in this game. Mac could be used to help manage the game and we rely on Markey, Bell, and Moline to really carry the offense. The emphasis on running the ball could even give Mac some easy opportunities to mix in a few passes in safe situations.

I can't say I'm all too excited about any of the above players taking the starting spot. There is very little experience in this group and even a best-case scenario may not be enough to beat a high-flying Bear offense. Our defense has played very well lately, but it will take a herculean effort against California to keep the Bruins in that game. I guess we'll have our answer soon enough.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Worse Case Scenario

Since Training camp, the depth in our backfield has been paper thin. Markey got hurt last week against OSU and we only had Kalil Bell and a banged-up Chane Moline at running back. Cowan was hurt, then came back, and then was hurt again. So, of course, the worst case scenario happens on Saturday and Olson gets hurt. We end up with a third-string walk-on playing at the most important position on our offense. That's UCLA football! Just when you think things can't get any worse.

I don't blame Mac Beth for what happened tonight. I mean, common, the kid doesn't even have a scholarship. This is his second game at the collegiate level. It was a horror show, but what do you expect? He played his heart out and at least he had the balls to put on the pads and try out for the team. He even looked good on a couple of drives but a few unlucky tipped/deflected passes got intercepted. It was that kind of night for the kid. His only touchdown pass and big play to Joe Cowan gets called back on a hold. That stunk too because it didn't look like a hold to me and that play could have given Mac some confidence. As it turned out the next play was intercepted.

Anyways, we lost. We gave yet another winless team their first victory of the season. You're welcome Notre Dame fans... see you in another 40 years. The sad part isn't that we were defeated. It wasn't sad that we had 6 turnovers, or 11 penalties for 93 yards, or that we couldn't get revenge for last year's soul-crushing defeat. No, actually, the sad part is that I'm not surprised. I'm not even really that upset. I've come to accept that UCLA just can't win games like this. At least not in the Karl Dorrell era. It is sad that this is what I've become as a Bruin fan. I just shrug my shoulders and say, "eh, that's about what I expected".

I could blame Dorrell and the coaching staff for tonight, but I'm tired of that. No, I'm moving past blame. I'm moving on to acceptance. With all the injuries, the poor coaching, and the lack of play makers, we're going to see a lot more of these types of games. Our season was ruined when we lost to Utah and I think Bruin fans everywhere saw the writing on the wall after that fateful afternoon in Salt Lake City. It is time to lower your expectations and hunker down for another mediocre season. We might get some upset victories and win more than we lose, but a great season? No. Good season? Doubt it.

Well, at least our spanking by Notre Dame wasn't the worse loss of the night. Hell, it wasn't even the worse loss in the city. The #2 ranked Trojans go down to one-win Stanford... who was playing their backup QB. Of course ,we did loose to a winless team but nobody thinks we're any good. The Trojans were supposed to be one of the greatest team ever. Booty was supposed to be a Heisman candidate and he threw as many picks as our 3rd-string walk-on. I love that it was against Harbaugh and the Cardinal no less. Trojan fans were licking their chops talking about how Carroll was going to run up the score because of the comments Harbaugh made this fall. Ouch.

I guess that is my silver lining tonight: our defeat won't be the lead story on Sports Center. Yes, that is sad and pathetic, but I don't care. It is about the only thing I have left as a fan at this point. If the Bruins aren't going to win, well dammit, the Trojans better lose. So thank you Stanford, you at least made tonight somewhat tolerable. Now, I'm going to go finish the rest of my beers and dream of regime change in the off season.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Betting on the Bruins: Notre Dame

Another week and another victory by the Bruins! Good for my soul but bad for my gambling instincts. I thought the Beavers would win that game and they looked poised to do so entering the 4th quarter. It seemed like both teams were trying hard to lose that game and the Beavers finally succeeded. I can't recall a team that had such a sudden and complete collapse at the end of a game. Those players should be ashamed for the way they just quit. Especially on that blocked punt where Bosworth went completely unblocked. I guess the good news about that scoring spree is that it at least pushed the over/under to a push.

Right now the gambling gurus say UCLA -20.5 points. Call me a cynic but I'm not feeling a huge blowout victory by the Bruins. A solid victory, yes, but 20 points is a lot to give up. Especially with Notre Dame improving each week. Since UCLA has won it's last two games with me picking against them, I'm going to keep that trend alive and take the Irish plus the points. The over/under is 48. The Bruin defense stood up last week and did a fantastic job in holding the Beaver offense to only 1 touchdown. Will they repeat again? I think they can and will. With our offense struggling, I'm going with the under. I've been burned by the under this year, but lets see if that will pay off this time.


  • Org St. O/U: 54. My pick: Over. Actual: 54. Push.
  • Org St. UCLA +2.5. My pick: Org St minus points. Actual: UCLA + 26. -$100.
  • UW. O/U: 47. My pick: Under. Actual: 75. -$100.
  • UW. UCLA -6.5. My pick: Washington plus points. Actual: UCLA + 13. -$100.
  • Utah. O/U: 43.4. My pick: Over. Actual: 50. +$100.
  • Utah. UCLA -14. My pick UCLA minus points. Actual: Utah +38. -$100.
  • BYU. O/U: 46. My pick: Under. Actual: 44. +$100.
  • BYU. ULCA -7.5. My pick: UCLA minus points. Actual: UCLA +10. +$100.
  • Stanford. O/U: 46..5 My pick: Under. Actual: 62 . -$100.
  • Stanford. UCLA -17. My pick: UCLA minus points. Actual: UCLA +28 =: +$100.

I am not actually gambling on these games. This is entirely for fun. I know nothing about gambling and have no insider information. If you actually bet on these games using my predictions you are crazy and will likely lose all of your money

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Notre Dame farks

The Irish are up next on our farkive hit list.

Lots of good fun to be had with the Domers, but we didn't go overboard, kicking them while they're down. Ahhh, who am I kididng, we love kicking teams while they're down, especially a NBC-hogging, non-Bowl-wining, lucky-as-hell-to-win-last-year team like Notre Dame. We're not bitter. Uhuumm . . . Hit it maestro!

Jeer, jeer for Old Notre Dame . . .

Hear the alumni cry out in shame . . .

0 and 8 they soon shall be . . .

can old Charlie stop this misery . . .

. . . not this week! Go BRUINS!

Talk Notre Dame this Wedensday

On the Bruin Show this week, we will have two very special guests from the Notre Dame blogosphere:

Head over to the Bruin Show website at 9pm Eastern / 6pm Pacific on Wednesday Oct 3. You can then call in and talk about this highly anticipated game at the Rose Bowl. There will also be live chat where you can face-off with Irish and Bruin fans from across the country!

Call in and participate:

  • Dial one of the local phone numbers
  • Press 2 to enter a show ID
  • Dial our show ID: 234801
  • Press 1 to go live

The Luck of the Irish

Unless you've lived under a rock for the last month, you've heard about the implosion that is Notre Dame football. They have lost their starting five games; the first time that has ever happened in school history. In fact, you have to go back 47 years to 1960, when Joseph Kuharich was coach, to find a longer losing streak (Notre Dame lost 8 consecutive games and finished 2-8 that season). This week they head into Pasadena to visit a revenge minded UCLA squad, in what should be another beat-down and loss number six. Or will it? Before you chalk this one up in the win column, let's consider a few things that could give the Irish a fighting chance to pull the upset on Saturday.

There is no doubt that Notre Dame's rushing attack has struggled this year. They were anemic (and that's being nice) for their first 3 games. They actually had a total of -14 rushing yards after playing Georgia Tech, Michigan, and Penn State. Things have changed a bit in the last two games. The Irish put up 166 yards on the ground against Michigan State and Purdue and while that isn't much to write home about, it shows that this team is improving from week to week. The Bruin run defense has been solid all season long (89 yards/game), so it will take a season-best effort for Notre Dame to move the ball.

The real trouble that UCLA's defense might face will come through the air. Notre Dame has struggled mightily with their inexperience quarterbacks, but things started clicking against Perdue. Behind a strong 4th quarter effort by reserver quarterback Evan Sharpley, the Irish almost doubled their passing yards for the year and actually gained more yards than an opponent for the first time this season. His final numbers for the game, 16-24, 203 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, compared very favorably to what Ben Olson put up against Oregon State. The Bruin's secondary has been caught with it's pants down a few times this year and some timely passes by the Irish could cause trouble. The real question this week for Charley Weis and company is if Jimmy Clausen (who missed the second half against Purdue with an injury) will be behind center or Sharpley. The Irish responded well to Sharpley and he could be a spark for their struggling squad.

The Bruins offense goes up against an Irish defense that has to be begging for some help. They actually aren't all that bad of a squad, but when you get no breaks and no points from your counterparts on offense, it is almost impossible for any defense to look good. They have a total defense ranked 52nd in the country, which is right up there with UCLA (55th). The scoring defense has been poor, but what do you expect when your offense puts you in bad situations? If Weis can solve his offense woes then this defense has enough mustard to keep them in the game. Defensive lineman Trevor Laws has made some plays this year to help the Irish and they could use a big game from him this weekend.

When it comes to execution, the two teams leave a lot to be desired. Each have been assessed 39 penalties this season. That has killed drives for both offenses and it was maddening to watch UCLA sputter and stall the last two weeks against Oregon State and Washington. The Irish had a suffocating 11 penalties against Perdue and their fans can only wonder if that cost them their first win of the season. If either team can clean-up it's act then that can be a big boost toward winning this game.

Probably the best thing Notre Dame has going for it is their winless record. While that might seem counter intuitive, there is a certain degree of desperation and determination that seeps into a team when they keep losing. Like a caged animal, they might come out swinging and any early success could fill them with enough enthusiasm to finally prove their every-growing list of critics wrong. Of course, the opposite is also true and an early deficit could cause them to break and mail in the rest of the game. Let's not forget that this team is young, inexperienced and talented and the young and inexperienced parts are diminishing every week. If they can get a little wind behind their sails, anything is possible.

At the end of the day, UCLA should easily win this game. The Bruins have a statistically superior offense, defense, and special teams. They are playing at home in the Rose Bowl, where they have gone 14-1 over the last 2+ seasons. UCLA is also 4-1 taking on a winless team. All of that is true, yet if we have learned anything from watching UCLA football in the Karl Dorrell era, it is that UCLA plays to the level of its competition. No game is a gimme and, worse yet, the Bruins are prone to inexplicable collapses against vastly inferior competition. Have the Bruins really learned their lesson from the Utah debacle in week two? Let's hope so, because Notre Dame is bound to win a game one of these Saturdays. We'll have to see if the luck of the Irish is with them this Saturday.

(Photo Credit: AP)

The West Coast Offense

We're almost four and a half years into Karl Dorrell's tenure at UCLA. Lots of things have changed over that time, including 4 different offensive coordinators, entire classes of players, and more position coaches than you can shake a stick at. Yet the one thing that hasn't changed is Dorrell's dedication (some would say stubbornness) to utilizing the West Coast Offense (WCO). Even though it has taken on slightly different incarnations with his coordinators, at the heart it remains Dorrell's baby. While we've all read and heard about the WCO, I've never been entirely clear on the details of this offensive philosophy. Is it too hard for college level? Why are some teams more successful at using it than others? I decided to take a little time and give you the evidence of my findings and a little football 101 on the WCO.


The first thing you need to know about the WCO is that it is an offensive philosophy, not a particular formation or set of plays. Unlike an option-offense, which uses the option at the core of it's workings, the WCO has no set packages or plays. It is more of a mind-set, a way of approaching the game that is predicated on passing the ball to setup the run. From that perspective, it has been around for decades and most teams have incorporated some aspects of the West Coast Offensive philosophy into their scheme. However, when we talk about the WCO, we tend to associate it with a more narrow definition. The WCO that UCLA runs finds it's roots in the NFL and the teachings of Bill Walsh.

While the WCO has taken on many different incarnations over the years, most would agree that the modern professional variations are based on the offense devised by Bill Walsh and the San Francisco 49ers. In Walsh's system, multiple receivers, running backs, and tight ends are available to catch passes. The focus is primarily on short, quick passes, where receivers run precisely timed routes. The offense tries to spread out the defense by throwing the ball more horizontally to receivers aligned across the field. Receivers are then expected to gain more yards after the catch to move the ball down field. Walsh had amazing success with his system and he won 3 Super Bowls up in San Francisco using it.

Obviously that type of success drew a lot of imitators and Walsh's former assistants went on to build great teams using this system. It was this new generation of Walsh disciples that took the WCO all over the country. In the NFL, George Seifert (San Francisco), Mike Holmgren (Green Bay), and Mike Shanahan (Denver) each put on Super Bowl rings while using variations of Walsh's original concepts. In particular, Mike Shanahan was a strong influence on Karl Dorrell who spent time as the receiving coach with the Broncos before coming to Westwood.

At the same time that Walsh was winning Super Bowls up in the bay, LaVell Edwards was having great success using a similar pass-first scheme at BYU. The Cougars went on to win a National Championship under Edwards in 1984 and set a number of passing records in the process. Edward's also sent a lot of players and assistants on to great success including Steve Young (San Francisco), Norm Chow (USC), Steve Sarkasian (USC), Mike Holmgren (Green Bay) , and Brian Billick (Baltimore).

The reason for the success in this college-version of the offense is that it cuts down on complexity. Norm Chow says his college offense has around 12 basic pass plays and 5 basic run plays (with screens). Those plays are run from many formations, with plays tagged for a little versatility. With this simplified version of the WCO, players know the offense by the second day of practice. The defense is kept guessing by the different formations and the offense can focus on learning a much smaller play book. Like I mentioned above, UCLA uses more of a pro-style WCO that has considerably more plays and complexity.


The core strength of the WCO is that it is difficult for defenses to stop. Why run the ball against a team stacking 7, 8, or even 9 guys in the box when you can throw the ball to a receiver facing man-on-man coverage. Since your quarterback doesn't have to throw many long passes, he doesn't have to be as physically gifted. A smart, accurate quarterback is prized over the guy with the big arm. The quick, 3 and 5-step drop passes mean the offense line doesn't have to give the QB a long time to throw, so there are fewer sacks.

Likewise, your receivers don't have to be as fast or talented in a WCO. Players run precise routes with little room to improvise, but a well timed delivery of the ball means they don't have to outrun the defender as often either. With a large number of players available to receive passes (including running backs and tight ends), the defense is forced to spread out it's coverage and the quarterback can deliver the ball to a receiver with the fewest defenders.

This pass-first strategy forces defenses out of the box and, thus, makes it easier to run the ball. Great WCO teams are great running teams as well since their pass-first scheme means the defense has to cover everyone on the field. Running backs become duel-threat weapons that should be equally good at catching a quick pass out in the flat as they are at taking a hand-off. Backs don't have to be big bruisers who can get 3 yards and a cloud of dust. A more versatile, athletic running back can have great success in the WCO.


The quarterback is the most important part of any offense, but especially so in the WCO. With short, quickly timed passes, the quarterback has to make a split second decision on where to put the ball. The pass has to be quick and, most importantly, very accurate. The receiver usually don't have much separation from his defender, so the ball must be right on target for the play to succeed. If your quarterback can't make those "instant" reads and get the ball to the right spot at the right time then the whole scheme collapses.

The other weakness, especially at the college level, is the complexity of the offense. It often takes professional players years to fully adapt to the WCO and they get to practice and train year-round. The complexity isn't just in the size of the play book, but also in gaining a comfort level with the timing of the plays. The quarterback has to have a "feel" for the offense, so he can make an instinctive and immediate decision on where to throw the ball. That type of instinct doesn't develop overnight and for some quarterbacks, it never develops. When asked what is the WCO, Steve Young had this to say, "Timing and choreography, not plays, are what make the West Coast offense."

The WCO and UCLA

It is not too much of a stretch to say that the WCO hasn't been a success at UCLA. Most would classify it as a down right failure. Looking at the offensive ratings over the last 4+ years you get a picture of a team that struggles to move the football.
  • 2003: UCLA ranked 110th in total, 100th in scoring. 9th total in conference.
  • 2004: UCLA ranked 28th in total, 29th in scoring. 4th total in conference.
  • 2005: UCLA ranked 23rd in total, 5th in scoring. 5th total in conference.
  • 2006: UCLA ranked 71st in total, 64th in scoring. 7th total in conference.
  • 2007: UCLA ranked 39th in total, 39th in scoring. 6th total in conference.
The 2003 season was obviously a horrific year that had quarterback issues in spades. Things improved significantly in 2004 and 2005, but sadly, those numbers still didn't put us in the top-3 offenses in the conference. In a offense-oriented conference like the PAC-10, UCLA struggled to keep up with it's peers. Some of the improvement can be credited to Drew Olson getting more comfortable with the WCO. Other gains can be attributed to future NFL players like Maurice Drew and Marcedes Lewis making big plays. If the WCO can only be successful every few years, and it takes years for the quarterback to get comfortable, then you have to scratch your head and wonder why a college team would use it with players turning over every 4-5 seasons.

Now What?

Some fans, with an honest desire to see change, ask if we can just scrap the WCO and do something else. The answer, unfortunately, is no... at least not during the season. There is a reason why teams install offenses in the spring. It takes months for teams to learn and drill in an offense before they feel completely comfortable. The Bruins, unfortunately, can't just take a month off and retool the entire offense. In the off season it is possible, but Karl Dorrell is married to the WCO and he isn't likely to change to something else. For better or for worse, we're stuck with this system as long as Dorrell is the head coach.

What UCLA can do is try and simplify things. The hard part about that, is that you want to simplify without being simple. If a defense keys in on your small play book, well then you don't have anything else to pull out of your pocket. Really, what the Bruins need is to try and find ways they can maximize their talent. That means getting the ball to play makers like Chris Markey, Brandon Breazell, Joe Cowan, and Kalil Bell. Get the ball into their hands and let them make lemonade from this lemon of an offense.

(photo credit: AP)