Monday, December 31, 2007

Why Wasn't Our Defense Better Last Year?

Leaving off from the first post, I posed the question, "why wasn't our defense better last season"? Given all the returning starters and the depth chart loaded with seniors, it should have been one of the best defenses in the country. Well, there were a few reasons.

One was injuries. Yes, even the defensive side of the ball had injuries. But not just injuries in general, but injuries specifically along the defensive line. Losing Brigham Harwell was a blow, but it was followed up by injuries to Jess Ward and Chane Moline. Luckily, Brian Price got cleared and he was able to step up as a true freshman. Still, not having that rotation at tackle was difficult. Added to that was losing Nikola Dragovic at DE. Without another rusher from the other side, Bruce Davis was getting double teamed.

In any defense, a rush by the front four is crucial. But in Walker's scheme it is a down right necessity. With an aggressive attack, those guys need to get at the QB and quickly. He likes to leave his defensive backs in man coverage and the longer you give a receiver to get open the more likely he will. With those injuries up front, UCLA couldn't consistently bring pressure and it hurt the overall defensive performance.

The other major factor was that this defense just wasn't as talented as many of us thought. Like so many other writers, fans, and critics, I thought this team would be chocked full of stars. They definitely played over their heads in 2006 and I think Walker got the most from this group in 2007 as well. Still, the linebackers were slow and very poor in pass coverage and our safeties, while great at getting after the run, were also prone to fatal mistakes.

I think we saw a good preview of this at the BYU game in Pasadena. Starting in the second half, the Cougars found the weakness in UCLA's defense: the middle of the field. Drag a tight-end across the middle and he was sure to be open; the linebacker assigned to him would be yards behind. Likewise a running back coming out of the backfield would be another easy target. The receivers were covered deep, but UCLA couldn't handle the mismatches underneath.

Our corners, while generally good, were also a bit outmatched at times. Hence the large number of pass interference penalties. They were a scrappy bunch, but not tall nor fast enough to handle the more elite receivers. Even our safeties were less impressive than I think many expected. The completely blow coverages against Utah and Arizona were big head scratchers.

Some of that falls on coaching. DeWayne is still learning the ropes as a DC and even the best plans can be out schemed by an opponent. I think Walker still has to work on consistently stopping spread offenses, but having better personnel will go a long way to help that problem. The rest falls on guys just not executing what they learned. That might sound like a "Dorrellian" explanation, but it is true. Even the best coached kids will make mistakes.

I think the silver lining is that the team still performed fairly well. It wasn't an elite defebse, like Auburn, or even a great one, like USC. But it was pretty good. They definitely performed better as the season progressed and with a few notable exceptions, finished the year strong.

No doubt next year the defense will be rebuilding. It will take a year, or maybe two, to replace many of the departed seniors. I have confidence, though, that Walker will continue to develop and mold this unit into a powerful asset for this program. With more of his recruits finding their way onto the field, like Brian Price, this should be one of the best squads in the conference, if not the nation.

Was our Defense Good (Again) Last Year?

I wrote up an article this past May, talking about the defensive performance of UCLA under coach Walker in 2006. Despite a lot of accolades and hype after that season, there were quite a few fans questioning if the defense was all that good. Fast forward to January 2008, and a lot of fans are asking those same questions again. So, I have to ask, was our defense good (again) last year? The answer is (again) an emphatic yes!

Here is an e-mail I got from a reader, Ken, asking about our defense:
Well, last year in the blog you predicted great things for the Bruin D, based on one USC game. UCLA was 7-6 then, better than this years 6-7..and the defense was composed of seniors and is probably the best UCLA will field in the foreseeable future. USC appears to be on track to scoring more than 20+ points a game against the Bruins and UCLA is sporadic at best week to week. Did the defense cost Dorrell his job this year?
Before I tackle some of the assumptions at the beginning of the e-mail, let me answer the question at the end. Did the defense cost Dorrell his job? No, absolutely not. If anything, the defense was the only reason Karl wasn't fired sooner. It was UCLA's offensive numbers and the Bruins overall mediocre record during Dorrell's tenure that cost him the job.

Looking at UCLA's win and lose record is an easy, but rather poor, way to judge the defense. Football, probably more than any other sport, is a team game. It takes a good effort in all three phases ( offense, defense, and special teams) to produce wins. There is no doubt that the Bruins had an absolutely terrible offense this season. Terrible. Abysmal. Atrocious offense. Special teams was good. Defense was good. But the offense was the albatross around the neck of this team.

OK, let's look at some numbers.

UCLA's offense this year ranked 98th in the nation in terms of total offense. That's out of a 116 teams. That was also good for 9th in the conference, just ahead of lowly Stanford. Many people like to quote the old gridiron adage, "Defense wins championships". What a lot of people don't quote is the entire adage, which goes, "Offense wins games, but defense wins championships". For UCLA, the first part of that saying couldn't be more true. You got to put points on the board if you want to win games. Our offense this season didn't. The scoring offense was ranked 92nd in the nation and 9th in conference. You're not going to win many games when 9 of the 10 teams in your own conference score more points than you. What's even sadder about those scoring numbers is that they include the 3 touchdowns UCLA earned on special teams and the 2 earned on defense.

On the flip side of those numbers, are our defensive statistics. UCLA, this past season, ranked 30th in total defense. In the all important scoring defensive category, they ranked 32nd nationally, and that was good for 2nd in the conference. Only one team, Rose Bowl bound USC, gave up fewer points per game than the Bruins. When you look at those numbers compared to the offensive statistics, you have to conclude that the main reason UCLA was able to even win 6 games at all was because of the defense.

Did our defense have some poor performances? Absolutely. The Utah game wasn't exactly a shinning moment in the sun. Likewise, the 4th quarter of the Washington game saw a porous Bruin defense giving up way too many points. I also think UCLA could have won the game in Arizona, if it weren't for some bad coverage in the second half. I wouldn't call UCLA's defense great this last season. It could have been better.

Despite those poor performances, our defense did have some awesome games. Against Notre Dame, the defense absolutely stifled the Irish offense. Unfortunately, our boys were repeatedly put into horrible situations, like the Irish starting a drive on the UCLA 2-yard line and another on the UCLA 26-yard line. Even though the defense held Notre Dame to only 13 points and 140 yards, the Bruins lost.

Likewise, they shutout Oregon. They held USC, Oregon State, and BYU to a combined 7 points in the second halves of those games. They held a high powered ASU offense to numbers well below their season averages. They had the Bruins within one score against WSU going into the final minutes of the 4th quarter; that despite our offense recording 3-and-out after 3-and-out for most of the game. They gave up more yards then you might have liked in some of those games, but UCLA had every chance to win if the offense didn't have so many problems.

Against BYU, it was two forced fumbles by our defense that lead directly to 10 UCLA points. Another unforced fumble, by Terrance Austin on a punt, gave the Cougars the ball on the 14-yard line. Besides that easy touchdown, BYU only scored 10 points in what was a virtual road game for UCLA. I know some people like to criticize BYU because they play in the MWC and aren't a BCS bowl conference team. But they were conference champs and like Hawii and Boise State, they represent the creme of the crop of the non-BCS teams. With the parity that exists in college football today, beating a team like Brigham Young isn't easy.

Another interesting point raised by Ken was the improvement (or lack their of) in the defense over last season. UCLA had a lot of returning starters this season and the vast majority of those guys were Seniors. Yet the defense statistics weren't significantly better than 2006. Total defense in 2006 was ranked 35th and scoring was ranked 39th nationally. So why was that? I think there were a few reasons.

I'll touch on those in the second part of this article.

BlackJack Joins Bruin Roar

The creative and witty mind behind the WeWantWalker website, BlackJack, has joined Bruin Roar as a contributing author. His blog, that campaigned on behalf of defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker for the head coaching position, gained instant success and wide spread attention just a few short weeks ago. He was invited onto a segment with Joe Grande over at AM 570 and his blog was noted by beat writer Brian Dohn at Inside UCLA.

Now that the search for the head coach has completed, BlackJack has started a new website called GuttyLittleBruins. Expect a lot more of his humors, controversial, and thought provoking takes both here and on his new blog. Check it out!

Unity/Another Self-Righteous Shmuck Starts a Blog

At 2 a.m. this morning I was on the corner of Gayley and Strathmore walking back to my car. I start hearing the pitter patter of very big feet coming behind me, but I don't bother to look...until a very hairy, very naked college male runs past me at full speed. He starts running a series of squared laps around the perimeter of the four crosswalks that outline Gayley and Strathmore. As people at the Beta house cheer him on, one dude stops at the intersection (despite a green light) and proceeds to flash his brights, honk his horn, lower his window, and and start clapping and whistling. Moments later, two other cars do the same exact thing. Yes, the light was still green, as they too flashed their brights, honked their horns, lowered their windows, and started clapping and whistling.

And there was no doubt in my mind that the people in those three cars didn't have a CLUE who they were cheering on.

It was then that I realized that I really, really, really missed college:

Ah, memories.

and that I really, really, really, love UCLA.

I'm BlackJack (of fame) and have just started a new blog over at Go there.

CPBruinFan asked me to be a contributor to this site and I told him how much I admired his site's unbelievably detailed analysis and told him that his analysis was second to none in the Bruin Blogosphere.

I, myself, like analysis but I'm not quite as gifted as CPBruinFan. I do, however, like whoopie cushions. And that's me in a nutshell. Okay, enough about me, I actually do have something substantive to say this fine morning. It's about this weird feeling I started having immediately after Rick Neuheisel was hired as UCLA's next football coach.

It was a feeling that I had never felt in my many years as a Bruin fan.

Wait, a second. Was there some...unity? Did the bruin community at large feel satisfied with the Neuheisel hire?

Let me get this straight. We like our basketball coach...and we like our football coach?

At the same time?

Wait, a second. Rewind...

I still don't get it. I CAN'T GET IT. The last time this happened at UCLA, I don't think Dick Vermeil was crying at every press conference yet. Yeah, that long. For as long as I've been a fan, the Bruin Civil War continued to rage on.

Seriously...this is weird. I'm not used to it. and I think it will take some getting used to. If you were alive way back when there was a comparable unity to today's, I would seriously like hear firsthand accounts of the Civil War. No, not that civil war silly, this one began WAY before that one. The Bruin Civil War, remember?

As the next days unravel, I'm going to be feeling this unity thing out.

What's Bruin Sports without a gigantic rift amongst the fans? Who am I going to throw empty beer bottles at now???

Alright, BlackJack.

Calm down. The only thing we can do is sit down and let it all play out. Maybe I can get used to this...we'll see.

Talk to you guys soon.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

On Neuheiel and NCAA Violations

(Ed Note: I started writing this article before Neuheisel was hired. Still, I think it helps shed some light on his past transgressions)

Another argument you hear against Rick Neuheisel is that he recorded over 50 NCAA violations during his time as the head coach in Colorado and Washington. That sounds like a shocking number and nobody wants a coach who is a cheater. But when you look further into the details, you'll discover that there is a whole lot of hoopla over some very minor rules violations.

The following information comes from a number of websites:

USA Today,
University of Colorado,
Seattle PI,
University of Washington Magazine

Compensation Violations

The first set of violations was due to over compensating recruits during visits. Here is the list:
  1. Excessive reimbursement for mileage to recruits ranging from $3.20 to $35.76
  2. $15 in excessive entertainment money to each of three student hosts of recruits
  3. Use of a hotel game room at a cost of $3 over the limit for some recruiting week-ends
  4. Provision of TV station tours and a gift of a mock interview tape
  5. Allowing a newspaper reporter from a recruit's hometown to be present during a campus visit.
  6. Failure to recover athletic apparel provided for campus visit week-ends and inadequate equipment room monitoring.
I mean, seriously, this is some rather petty stuff. A few dollars here and there for "excessive entertainment". Going $3 over the limit for playing on a Nintendo? My goodness, the humanity. Really, all of this is accounting problems, not problems with Rick, but because he was the head coach he gets the blame. Reggie Bush took over $300,000 from agents while he played at USC and Neuheisel gets run up the flag poll for recruits keeping Buffalo t-shirts after their visit. Mind boggling.

Just this year, Colorado got in trouble again for not charging walk-on players enough money for meals over the course of 5 years. Their punishment? They lost 3 scholarships and the school will pay a $100,000 fine. They also got two years probation. Now you have to ask yourself, is it Colorado that has a problem with keeping track of money spent on players and recruits or is it Neuheisel? Because it sounds to me like the University has the problem.

Recruiting Violations

The next set of violations were the more serious stuff. All related to recruiting:
  1. A CU staff member phoned a walk-on player after he had transferred to a different institution.
  2. Football coaching staff under Rick Neuheisel's direction regularly making in-person, off-campus "contacts" with prospective student-athletes outside of appropriate contact periods. The staff contacted 26 recruits.
  3. Use of a private jet without proper documentation by then-coach Neuheisel for recruiting.
  4. Attendance at a prospect's baseball game by an unauthorized athletic department staff member.
  5. Neuheisel also made improper contact with several of his former Colorado players after going to Washington
  6. Engaged one UW recruit in a a game of H-O-R-S-E, deemed an improper tryout by the NCAA.
These violations are all very minor. Rick gets 26 violations for calling recruits during a "silent period". This is a very common practice called "bumping". Basically the recruiter just calls and says what's up, just to keep in touch. It happens all the time. Rick just got caught. Still, it is a violation. A very minor, secondary violation... but still a violation none the less.

The improper contact with his former recruits when he went to Washington comes from him calling those players and "wishing them good luck". Was he also recruiting them to the UW? Maybe, but it is very plausible to think he also was honestly just wishing them well. Coaches get to know their recruits over the course of a few years. They build relationships and some even look up to their coaches as father figures. To just walk away without even a goodbye seems cold and heartless. But that's the NCAA rules.

Calling a game of HORSE an improper tryout is so ridiculous it is absurd. Attending a baseball game of a recruit is rules violation? I mean seriously. I understand that the NCAA is trying to protect the kids, but some of this stuff is so draconian. The private jet one sounds bad, until you read it closer. It wasn't a violation that he used the jet, just that he didn't have the proper documentation and approval.

Fallout and Sanctions

In the wake of these minor violations, the University of Washington self-imposed penalties including reducing Neuheisel's off-campus visits in 2000 from 29 to 9. They also agreed not to accept any of Neuheisel's former Colorado players as transfers.

When the NCAA completed its investigation of the violations at Colorado, they prohibited Rick from off-campus recruiting for a few months. For lack of institutional control, the NCAA placed the Buffaloes on probation for two years, reduced the number of scholarships by two and restricted off-campus recruiting by Colorado coaches. Neuheisel also got censured by the American Football Coaches Association earlier that year for "demonstrated lack of remorse for such violations" in the Colorado recruiting infractions..

Second Chances

At the end of the day, Rick did break some rules while he was a head coach. But let's put them in perspective. He was a very young coach, at the age of 34, when he took over the reigns at Colorado. He only had one year of experience as an OC before being pushed into the limelight of one of the best programs in the Big-8. Colorado had gone 11-1 the prior season and the Buffs were just a few years removed from a National Championship. There was immense pressure on him to preform and he probably felt that he had to work twice as hard to impress his critics.

He was an aggressive recruiter, no doubt. There is a fine line between been aggressive and violating the rules. Rick stepped over that line a few times. He didn't cheat, he didn't steal signals, he didn't break the rules of the game. No, he just went a little too far in trying to get the best talent into his program. In NASCAR they have an expression, "if you ain't cheating you ain't trying". In the same way, recruiting is a dance that has coaches going as close to the line as possible and finding "creative" ways to interpret the rules.

He was young and obviously didn't realize that, while each violation was minor, that as a whole it could hurt the University. If anyone in the college ranks understands the repercussions of pushing the NCAA rules, it is Rick. I think now that he is older and wiser, he'll learn form these mistakes. He has recently expressed that he is sorry for the incidents that occurred and he takes ownership of them. There isn't anything he can do now to make up for those mistakes, except run a clean program and stay out of trouble.

I'm all for giving Rick a second chance. It has been almost 10 years since his last violation was committed. He is, after all, a Bruin and member of the UCLA family and that should be enough reason to give him our support. He is definitely one of Westwood's wayward sons and It's time for him to come back home and prove that his past is just that... in the past.

Rick! Rick! Rick!

Neuheisel hired on as the head coach. Boy, I was about to go postal on Guerrero over the delay in the decision. But he made the right hire and I'm glad to see Westwood's wayward son return home.

Neuheisel now has to convince Walker to stick around. From Brian Dohn's article:
“I have told Dan that DeWayne Walker is my No. 1 recruit,’’ Neuheisel said. “I am very, very impressed with the defense he played over the last couple of years.’’

Sweet. Let's make that deal Dan and Rick. Keep one of the best defensive coordinators UCLA has seen in a very long time. The push will also be on for the recruiting class which is currently ranked #7 by

I'll have more thoughts later. Needless to say, I'm very happy right now. I think Neuheisel is a great hire and a candidate I have liked from the beginning. As the search narrowed, he clearly became the best prospect and I think Guerrero absolutely made the right choice today.


Friday, December 28, 2007


OK, so the "mystery" 3rd choice was John Harbaugh? Because, if that's the case, them I'm officially done following the rumors around this job. Seriously. If it's not going to be somebody big like Mike Leach, Chris Peterson, or June Jones... then why even bother.

Did anyone like Harbaugh's name when it came up the first time? An assistant coach in the NFL, with virtually no experience. Doesn't that sound familiar. I guess old habits die hard, huh Dan? His big claim to fame is being Jim Harbaugh's brother. I mean, common, we're waiting around for interviews like this?

Like I said a few days ago, I think either Rick or DeWayne would be fine choices. Both are far better than John Harbaugh. Even Walker, with the little experience he has gained at UCLA as a DC, is more qualified then Harbaugh.

I just have to ask what the heck is Dan Guerrero doing at this point? Dude, you have two very solid choices in Walker and Neuheisel, both really want the job, both are affordable, and both are light years ahead of Karl Dorrell. What the %^&! are you doing interviewing John Harbaugh!?!

The latest reports say it is a three man race with Walker, Neuheisel, and Harbaugh. A decision should come any day now. Of course, earlier this week it was a two man race with a decision coming any day. So, who the heck knows. It could go into the middle of February at this pace.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Jonesing for Jones

How many more last minute rumors can there be? Well, maybe one more. I guess UCLA and Dan Guerrero are still looking at candidates. The name June Jones is being kicked around and his recent success at Hawaii has some in the athletic department enamored. His name came up earlier in the process but it was shot down because he wanted to bring in his own defense staff. Guerrero has been adamant in trying to keep Walker at UCLA. But maybe with the push from Washington for Walker's services and some talk that Walker might bolt if Neuheisel is hired, maybe Dan is reconsidering Walker staying as a prerequisite for a hire.

(photo credit: STAR-BULLETIN)

On Neuheisel's Record

I see this posted a lot on message boards far and near, "Rick Neuheisel's teams didn't perform well after years one and two". They make this observation in reference to Rick's time at Colorado and Washington. Let's take these numbers and put them into some perspective shall we? Because, far too many Bruin fans who are critical of Neuheisel's record have completely lost their minds.

Here is Rick's win loss record at Colorado and Washington:

1995: 10-2
1996: 10-2
1997: 5-6
1998: 8-4

1999: 7-5
2000: 11-1
2001: 8-4
2002: 7-6

So what people complain about is the 5-6, 8-4, 8-4, and 7-6 records. I don't know how any UCLA fan, with a sense of where this program has been the last twenty years, can look at an 8-4 record and call that "bad". Since 1992, the Bruins have only had 3 years where we had a better record than 8-4. That's 3 years in 15 where our program was better than some of Rick's worst seasons.

Looking at the whole record, Rick's teams have finished ranked in the top-25 four times. That's his teams finishing ranked 50% of the time. Since 1992, the Bruins have finished ranked four times as well but that was over the course of 15 years. That's only a 25% chance of being ranked. If you narrow that criteria to top-10 finishes, Neuheisel looks even better. Rick finished ranked in the top-10 three times. UCLA only twice. Remember that is looking at UCLA over a time period almost twice as long as what Neuheisel had. So with two times the number of opportunities our Bruins have had less success.

Is Neuheil's record perfect? No. Is he the greatest head coach ever? Of course not. Is he the best option we have for our next coach? I sure think so. Also remember that, as much as you like to criticize and nit-pick Rick's record... he actually has a record. He has experience that you can evaluate and exam. Walker doesn't. DeWayne's candidacy is based entirely on potential and speculation. I think he could be a good coach, but I have no way to know because he really hasn't been a head coach yet. Neuheisel has. Even with the warts and all, if he could bring the same records to UCLA, it would be a HUGE improvement over what we've had in a very long time.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Decision 2007

With the recent notice from Al Golden that he is withdrawing his name from consideration (i.e. "I ain't gonna get the job, so screw you guys I'm going home") ... it is down to two. DeWayne Walker vs Rick Neuheisel. Defense vs Offense. Experience vs Freshness. It is decision 2007! And that much anticipated decision should be coming very, very, soon.

I guess, with all the heated exchanges during the Karl Dorrell years, that it is only fitting that the two candidates to replace him generate strong emotions as well. There are the Walkeristas and the Neuheiselistas. The respective supporters and detractors for each camp have waged war over Bruin message boards this week. No punches were pulled and no opportunity to shill was missed. When this is all over, I'm sure there will be a very angry and pissed off segment of the fan base. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I'm still solidly in the Pro-Rick camp. Of all the candidates seriously considered, I still think he is far and away the best choice. But really, I'd be pretty happy with DeWayne Walker as well. That probably puts me in the minority. Most fans seem to think that hiring one or the other (or both for that mater) will bring an end to the American way of life, speed up global warming, and officially cancel Christmas for ever.

Maybe I'm just a deep-down optomist at heart but I think both can be very good coaches for UCLA. They are definitely a big improvement over Karl Dorrell and the two finalists bring some much needed energy and enthusiasm to the position that was so lacking with the oh-so-stoic former head coach. So forgive me if I don't wait with baited breath, praying to the football gods, while hitting refresh on my browser every 5 minutes for any morsal of news on the coaching search. Whoever is chosen will be a nice breath of fresh air for a program that has had such a stale taste these last 10 years.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Heart Break!

Man, what a game. I'm not a big fan of moral victories but that was one hell of an effort by this team. With a 4th string walk-on QB, looking for vindication after the Notre Dame debacle. With a Senior laden defense that held BYU scoreless in the 2nd half. With a team that scratched and fought and played until the last second. With Forbath kicking two field goals from beyond the 50. With all of that... and we came up one blocked field goal short.

I was believing in Christmas miracles too.

The Footnote Bowl

We have a game today? Oh yeah. The Vegas Bowl, or as I like to call it, the Footnote Bowl. I gave it that name because this is really just a final footnote to the story of Karl Dorrell's last season.

When these two teams last met, it was the second week of the season. I was at the Rose Bowl that day and it seemed like the Bruins were poised for a great season. The 20-0 lead near the end of the first half was proof that UCLA was a team with conference championship potential. But then the Cougars came storming back. We held on for a victory that day, but it felt like we escaped with the win instead of earning it.

The Bruins left that game with a #13 ranking and a 2-0 record. Since then, this team has gone 4-6, fired the head coach, and today is starting their 4th-string quarterback-turned-receiver turned-quarterback in Osaar Rasshan. The Cougars went 9-1, captured a second straight WMC championship and are ranked #19. Their quarterback, John Beck, had the best season of any sophomore signal caller in the country. My how things have changed.

We have little chance for victory today. Our offense is still terrible and, to make matters worse, Rasshan hasn't been practicing with the first string much because Olson was taking all the snaps. He hurt his knee again in practice just this week. That might give UCLA a surprise advantage since the Cougars were likely preparing for Olson. I doubt it will make much of a difference.

It is the debut of Walker as the interim head coach. I don't know how much of a difference that will make today, but maybe these players will gain an extra ounce of effort to help Walker win his first game. Defensively, they should play well and I'm expecting the battle between BYU's offense and the UCLA defense to be pretty entertaining. It could get painful watching the last performance of Dorrell's WCO.

I guess that is the silver lining to today's Footnote Bowl. This will be the last time we get to see Dorrell's offense in action. It has sputtered and struggled for the better part of five years and I won't shed a tear when it walks off the field for the last time. Maybe in some strange twist of fate, these guys will figure it out and churn out some yards. A guy can dream can't he!?!

With Bruin fans almost 100% focused on Basketball and the coaching search, today's game probably wont garner much interest. But I'll be parked in front of my TV, cheering on this team. I hope they win for the seniors and all the guys who put in so much time and effort for this team. I'm sure they never imagined they would be playing in Vegas back when the season started in September. But they can still go out winners. That would be a Christmas miracle indeed.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Bye, Bye Bellotti

It's like speed dating around here! Bellotti is gone. In a 24 hour whirlwind, he was on board, the front runner, about to sign a deal, and now he's out. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Anyways, now it is all about Rick. He would have been my pick even if Bellotti was in the mix. This is his dream job, he is a great recruiter, and great game day coach. I truly believe he is remorseful and learned his lesson from this past transgressions.

So, I'm happy about this latest development. Though, I know a lot of you aren't. You can just sing this happy little tune to get you in the mood for Slick Rick as our next head coach.

Neuheesl back in the gold and blue!
Bring on Rick and the sanctions too!

Uh, just kidding about that last part. I hope.

Comparing Bellotti and Dorrell

Since Mike Bellotti appears to the leading candidate for the job, let's take a look at what we are getting over our last head coach. Obviously, Bellotti has much more experience, but what happens if we compare their records for the last five seasons (Which was Dorrell's tenure at UCLA)? The differences may not be all that different.

If you look at the overall record, they are virtually the same.

UCLA (2003-2007): 35-27
Oregon (2003-2007): 38-23

Three more wins over the course of 5 years is hardly anything to brag about. Everyone called Dorrell's 10-win season in 2005 a fluke. Oregon also had a 10-win season that year. If you remove that season from the totals for both teams you get:

UCLA (2003-2004,2006-2007): 25-25
Oregon(2003-2004,2006-2007): 28-21

Again, not much of a separation between the teams. What about bowl records in that time:

UCLA (2003-2007): 1-3. Win: Sun Bowl. Lose: Vegas, Silicone Valley, Emerald.
Oregon (2003-2007): 0-3: Lose: Sun, Holiday, Vegas.

UCLA is slightly better, but only because Dorrell played in one more game than Bellotti. Finally, let's look at how these teams finished in the rankings:

UCLA (2003-2007): ranked 13/16th in 2005.
Oregon (2003-2007): ranked 12/13th in 2005.

Another big complaint about Dorrell was that his teams performed poorly at the end of the year. Let's look at how both teams played starting in November:

UCLA (2003-2007): 7-17.
Oregon (2003-2007): 7-14.

I have to say, my initial reaction to a Bellotti hire was very positive. But after thinking about it some more, and looking through the numbers, I'm not all that excited. I have to acknowledge that Bellotti has done this while at Oregon; he's had much less talent at his disposal than what Dorrell had at UCLA. But I'm not all that convinced that Bellotti is such a great coach. I think he is a good coach, sure, but not a great one.

A lot of his success came around 2000 when Jeff Tedford was still on the staff. Since Tedford left for Cal in 2002, the Ducks have been sort of average. Some of that comes from having a very poor defense. Maybe keeping Walker on staff will help alleviate that problem, but I'm wondering if Bellotti can really replicate his offensive success without another "Tedford" as the OC?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Coach Profile: Mike Bellotti

(Editor Note: After sleeping on the news, I'm a little less bullish on Bellotti)

Wowza! Fresh off the press is a profile of the current Ducks head coach Mike Bellotti. Don't know much about him? Read on...


Robert Michael Bellotti is 57 years old. He played his college ball back in the early 70's at UC Davis. Soon after Mike started his coaching career. He was a Junior Varsity coach (back in the days when they still had JV college teams) before jumping to the Varsity level in 1977 at Cal State Hayward.

After a stint as an OC at Hayward, Bellotti took the head coaching spot at Chico State (which no longer has a football program). In 1989 he took the job as the offensive coordinator at Oregon. After five seasons he was given the head coaching position and he has spent the last 12 seasons as the Ducks head coach.

Bellotti's current salary is a little over $1 million.

College Head Coaching Record

Year Team Overall Bowl
Chico State () (1984 — 1988)
Chico State

Chico State 5-4-1

Chico State 7-3

1987 Chico State 4-6

1988 Chico State 3-7

Oregon (PAC-10 Conference) (1995 — present)
Cotton (L)


Las Vegas (W)

Aloha (L)

Sun (W)

2000 Oregon
Holiday (W)

2001 Oregon
Fiesta (W)

2002 Oregon
Seattle (L)

2003 Oregon
Sun (L)

2004 Oregon

2005 Oregon
Holiday (L)

2006 Oregon
Las Vegas (L)

2007 Oregon


Total: 126-77-2

Indicates BCS bowl game. #Rankings from final Coaches Poll of the season.


Bellotti has a wealth of college coaching experience. Of all the coaches mentioned, only his mentor Rich Brooks had more. All of that experience comes on the West Coast and he has spent almost two decades in the PAC-10 as an assistant and head coach.

He has won two PAC-10 conference championships this decade and put together a sensational 2001 campaign that saw the Ducks finish #2 in the country. He has taken Oregon to 9 bowls in the last 11 years. Mike has built a once dormant Oregon program into a contender on the national level. This season his team came within a torn knee of competing for a national championship.

Bellotti knows offense. This years Ducks team finished 12th nationally in total offense. The spread option up in Eugene absolutely decimated Michigan and it beat the Trojans. Teamed with DeWayne Walker's defense (and Bellotti is rumored to want to keep Walker) they could build a potent team in the next few years. The only question is how much of his offensive success was Mike and how much was it is coordinators?

All of Bellotti's success has come while trying to recruit kids to Oregon. Imagine what he could accomplish with the wealth of talent at his finger tips in Southern California. He also had that little incident two years ago with Carroll in the Coliseum. Don't you think he would love to stick it to Pete in his own back yard!


Bellotti's team, over the last few years, have had some games they completely mailed in. Every other season his team performs poorly and they have faded down the stretch. All of that sounds awfully familiar to Bruin fans. There is a lot of critics of Bellotti who say he depends heavily on his coordinators for success.

They have lost four straight bowl games, including that embarrassing debacle to BYU in the Las Vegas bowl last season. His players were woofing and hollering before the game and then got completely owned. Is he losing his touch when it comes to motivating his players? Despite having superior talent to the Beavers, Oregon loses to them every other season. Is that just the nature of a rivalry game or poor coaching?

Going from Nike-U to UCLA's Spaulding field would be a huge downgrade for Bellotti. Is he really going to be happy moving from Eugene to Westwood? He is the toast of the town up there and he'll come into LA and have to play second fiddle to the program at Fig Tech. Could this be just a ploy to get more money from Oregon?


Bellotti would be a solid choice for UCLA. Proven success, potent offense, and a guy you know is a good (though not great) head football coach. He hasn't had great success outside of a few seasons at Oregon... but common it's Oregon. They have very little in state talent and they have to fight with Washington and the California schools for their local kids. With Southern California kids at his disposal he should field a much better team.

He is getting a bit up there in age, but I like that Mike has been very loyal to his job. If he could come to UCLA and finish out his career (likely another 10 years) then he could pass the torch to an assistant that he has groomed. That would be a great way to establish a new dynasty in West LA. The question is can he do it? Oregon was great when they had Tedford but faded after he took the job at Cal. Can Bellotti attract a top notch OC to UCLA?

Holly Bellotti!

Wow. So, now Mike Bellotti is in the mix? Are you serious!?! There were rumors earlier today that an experienced head coach was still in consideration. I thought that was just idle speculation and wishful thinking. But now Bellotti is being reported by the beat writers as having "spoke with UCLA". Dohn is even saying that a decision could come in the next 72 hours on whether the Ducks coach would take the job. That's weird because Oregon still has a date with South Florida in the Sun bowl on December 31st.

Talk about last minute DRAMA!

Damn, now I have to write another coaching profile.

Ciao to Chow

Chow is out. So, that leaves Neuheisel and Golden as the only two guys to get second interviews for sure. Maybe Walker will get one after the Vegas Bowl? In that three man race, I have to pick Neuheisel by a large margin. If Rick comes, I think Walker will stick around, so we get the best of both worlds.

I fully expect a Neuheisel hire early next week. I'm excited about it and getting more excited every day. This recent article about Neuheisel's feelings about the college game and his time at Washington tell me a lot. I really think he deserves a second chance and all the fuss about his NCAA violations is over blown. I'll have more on that later.

Coach Profile: Al Golden

With the rather unexpected news that another candidate had interviewed with the Chancellor yesterday, a new name has been thrown into the coaching ring. That name is Al Golden. He's been lauded as an "up-and-coming" coach. But who is this relative unknown that has made it to the UCLA coaching finals?


Alfred James Golden played his college ball as a tight end at Penn State University. After graduation, he went to the NFL where he played one season with the New England Patriots. Soon after Golden jumped into the coaching ranks.

While getting his master's degree at Virginia, he served as the linebacker and special teams coach. In 1997 he moved to Boston college to coach linebackers there. In 2001, he became the youngest Div 1-A defensive coordinator when he accepted the position at Virginia. In his time withe Cavaliers, he took a team that ranked 108th nationally in total defense to 18th in total defense in 2004.

At the very green age of 38, Golden is the youngest candidate for the UCLA head coaching position. He has been the head coach at Temple for the last two seasons and his youthful attitude and energy have helped breath some life into a virtually moribund program. His four victories this season matches the win total from 2003-2006. That shows you how bad things had gotten for Temple before Golden showed up.

College Head Coaching Record

Year Team Overall Bowl
Temle (Mid Atlantic Conference) (2006 — present)
2006 Temple 1-11

2007 Temple


Total: 5-19

Indicates BCS bowl game. #Rankings from final Coaches Poll of the season.


Golden is a young and energetic coach. He could relate well to the players. Even as a very young coordinator, he was able to command respect at his prior coaching gigs and Temple took a chance on him to give their program some much needed enthusiasm.

Al did a fantastic job turning around a terrible Virginia defense. In four years Virginia went from one of the worst defenses in the country to being in the top-25. He used a 3-4 scheme there and found success with his experience as a linebacker coach. He has coached a number of guys who went on to gain conference accolades and land in the NFL.


Golden still has very little experience as a coach. Temple took a chance on him because pretty much nobody wants that job. Will he be able to handle a big time, BCS conference school like UCLA? The expectations and pressure are going to be much, much higher than at Temple.

Al has no West Coast ties. He has played ball and coached almost exclusively in the North East. It will take him some time to establish recruiting connections in Southern California.

Golden is a defensive coach. UCLA needs a boost on offense. Who will be his offensive coordinator? Can he attract a top name and will Guerrero be able to pay for somebody? It is hard to say. The Bruins already have a good defensive coordinator in Walker, so I don't see much of an advantage in bringing in another coach with experience on that side of the ball.


I know most Bruin fans will look at this guy and say, "no way". Really, though, Al isn't all that bad of a hire. In many ways, he is a lot like DeWayne Walker 4-years from now. A great defensive coordinator who turned around a terrible squad at Virginia. He is young, a hot name among coaching circles, and a guy with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. If you like Walker for what he has done at UCLA then you can't be all that down on Golden.

Do I want this guy? Not really. I would much rather get a coach who can bring some life and attitude to the offensive side of the ball. The other guys who have been mentioned, Chow and Neuheisel, definitely have that in spades. He is also going to take some time to get up to speed on West Coast recruiting. With the positive momentum we have in that department the last two years, I don't think we want to start over with someone entirely new in that area. You can also kiss Walker goodbye if this guy gets hired, so his recruiting connections will be gone as well.

Silence was Golden

There's been talk of a mystery candidate interviewing for the UCLA head coaching job. The rumors said it was somebody we hadn't seen mentioned before. Well, the cone of silence was lifted last night and the mystery man was none other than Temple Coach Al Golden. Who? Yeah, exactly.

I don't know much about Golden but from what I've read he is a defensive coach and he helped Temple win 4 games last season. That's pretty impressive, if you've followed Temple at all over the last few years. They've been absolutely atrocious, winning 1 game in 2006, and being a perennial favorite for "worst team in the country".

Golden apparently has a past relationship with Chancellor Block. The two were at Virginia where Golden was an assistant coach. It looks like Block is throwing his weight around in this search. I just hope they weight the merits of all the coaches and don't just pick some guy because he is buddies with the Chancellor or because a group of former players are pushing for him to be coach.

The talk around town is that a new coach will likely be named sometime near the end of next week.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Husky Fan on Neuheisel

Editor's note: Portions of this post are reprinted with permission from dawgncarolina from the BRO free football board.

If you're interested in getting a good perspective on Rick Neuheisel, you should talk to Husky fans. They lived with Rick at the helm for four seasons and he brought them their last PAC-10 championship and Rose Bowl victory. Here is one fan's perspective on Neuheisel as a coach:


I think Rick is a very good coach (though not great). He wins far more often that he loses. I think most of the criticisms of him are short-sighted, or just plain foolish. I'll list a few of my favorites:

He destroys programs

He was 15-10 in his last year at the two schools. Despite unceremonious endings that caused great upheaval, neither school had a losing season the year after he left. Washington hired two awful coaches who produced awful results with Rick's kids - Colorado hired a decent coach who produced decent results with Rick's kids (note that in the four years after RN left Colorado they went 29-21 with as many bowl births as losing seasons).

He doesn't recruit lineman / He over recruits skill players

There was one year at UW where he recruited a small number of lineman. According to sources, it was a tactical decision - that year was devoid of OL talent in the state of Washington, and the next year was stocked full of it. That one class that he pulled few lineman he signed 7 receivers. Of course, he had signed a total of 3 receivers the two years before.

I think there are some legitimate complaints about RN's recruting. First, I do think he recruits to himself rather than the university. This is fine as long as he's around, but if and when a new coach comes in he inherits a group of kids who were REALLY attached to the former regime. This is not a huge problem IMHO, but probably not a good thing.

Second, I think Rick's recruiting philosophy lends itself to unbalanced classes positionally. In his mind (and history bears this out) they even out over a two year span, but there may be something to be said for spreading things out a little better.

Overall, I think his recruiting philosophies are decent, and his salesmanship is top notch. At UCLA, he'd be a recruiting powerhouse.

He only wins with other people's players

Closely related to #1. I think this is just silly. Colorado was a top notch program when he came along, but Washington was mediocre. While he did perform better earlier on at both places, he still went 8-4 in his last year at CU and 7-6 in his last year at UW with almost entirely his own guys. Furthermore, both programs were ranked top 10 coming into the following seasons before he left. The perception nationally was that he was set to do serious damage with entirely his own guys. I think he would have.

He is dirty

I can't imagine that anyone has ever gotten such a horrible rep for doing so little. He was famously reprimanded by the AFCA (or whatever the coaches group is) for some illegal contact. At the same convention, Hal Mumme was given a full recommendation by the group after getting busted for paying players at Kentucky.

Rick is cocky and rubs people the wrong way, and they blow his transgressions out of the water. He is an aggressive recruiter, sure, but he's never been guilty of anything that lost multiple scholarships or cost a program bowl eligibility. He had some illegal bumps at Colorado and his first month at Washington contacted some kids during a dead period. He once played horse with a recruit.

Is he squeaky clean? No. But he's far from some rogue. He's not dirty enough to even survive in the SEC. Oh yeah, and he gambled on an NCAA tourney bracket when the NCAA's own website said it was okay. And he beat the NCAA (and UW) in court for trying to penalize him for this.

Seriously, look up his list of violations and explain to me what he's done that is so awful?

You can't trust him to stick around

Of all the criticisms of Rick, I think this is by far the most valid. It's no secret that he had one foot out the door the entire time he was at Washington, and this angered many UW fans to no end. IMO, this, more than anything else, is why the University fired him. He was not viewed as loyal, and to a large degree, I don't think he was.

However, I'd much prefer a good coach who has ambition to move onto better things than a mediocre coach who will happily suck your program dry forever. More relevant to this discussion, I think it's pretty likely that he would be content at UCLA since it's his alma mater, and since he's been humbled by being out of a HC job for five years.

Rick as a Head Coach

He'll give you four better years than you'll get out of just about anyone else. I think he's got the perfect personality for UCLA - he relates fantastically to kids and would relish the opportunity to take on Pete for recruits. I don't think he'd win most of the battles, at least not at first, but he'd win his fair share and CERTAINLY make UCLA the #2 PAC-10 destination at the very least.

Rick is highly motivational, which has it's pros and it's cons. The pros are that he can beat anybody at anytime, and that his teams are phenomenal in the fourth quarter. The cons are that when it's not a big game, against a worthy foe, his teams often sleepwalk through the first three quarters and have to pull it out in the fourth. They usually do though - it's very rare for Rick to lose a close game to anyone other than a top 15 program.

He does favor the passing game to the running game, but as evidenced by his willingness to run the option while Marques Tuiasosopo was at UW, he is adaptable and will run what works best for the talent at hand. His defenses were rarely great, though never terrible.

His development of QB's is absolutely sensational (IMO he's easily one of the top 5 QB gurus in CFB), but his emphasis on the position seems to overwhelm other positions, which don't get the same scrutiny or develop at nearly as quick of a rate.

Neuheisel at UCLA

Anytime you make a hire I think it's smart to look at best case, worst case, and likely case.

Best case - consistent #2 program in the conference with peaks at #1/poised to take over #1 consistently if Pete ever leaves USC.

Worst case - upper-mid level Pac10 (3rd to 5th) program with consistent excellence in recruiting, especially skill players, but leaves in 3-5 years after some secondary violations put UCLA on minor probation.

Likely case - consistent upper level Pac10 program (2nd to 4th) with big wins on the field and in recruiting sandwiched around the occasional disappointment. Lots of close wins over inferior teams. Consistent bowl team. Stays at UCLA for at least 6 years and longer if they're willing to pay him.

Olson Doubtfull for Vegas Bowl

Ben Olson is having a bad year, or two, or five. Man, he just can't buy a break. It looks like he may not play this Saturday because he re-injured his left knee in practice this week. That means Rashaan might be making his third start this season. I guess that makes BYU's job harder because they'll have to prepare for a more mobile QB.

Get 'em While They're Hot

Interested in joining the UCLA blogosphere? Do you want to be invited onto local and national talk radio shows to voice your displeasure with the head football coach in Westwood? Do you have no prior experience or educational background that would qualify you to speak on the matter? Well, join the club! You too can start your own blog and join us internet idiots in the avalanche of information that plagues our modern lives.

Since Rick Neuheisel is in the driver seat for the position, may I suggest you jump on a domain name now. Unfortunately, is already taken. I know, shocking. The guy who owns it, isn't giving it up either. Here is a quote from the website:
If you were expecting to get a chance to vent your frustrations on the possibilities of firing Rick Neuheisel, I'm sorry. It worries me that college football has gotten to where it is the focal point in one's life. Checking message boards, poring over recruiting information on 15 year old high school kids, calling sports radio shows in May to talk about college football is not healthy.
Ok, this guy obviously isn't on board. is also off the table. Man, you got to be quick around here! So, to help you out, here are some more domain names, still available, that you can pick up today:

I'm kind of partial to NixNeuheisel myself, so if you register that one make sure to give me credit. With the rampant hatred that Neuheisel produces among some fans, you could easily gain a following in the next few years and then parlay that into sports blog fame.

Polarizing Prospect

So, we've come full circle in the coaching profiles. I started out with Rick Neuheisel and it looks I might be ending with him as well. Everyone is now reporting that Rick is the leading candidate for the job. He is the only guy to have a second interview at this point and that is a prerequisite to getting hired at UCLA.

One thing I wrote in the profile is that Neuheisel is a polarizing candidate. You either love him or hate him and the passion on both sides is very intense. His profile got by far the most comments (and most debate) of any of the other guys mentioned. I'll come out and say that I am definitely in the Pro Neuheisel camp. I think his past troubles are behind him and he is a more mature and seasoned person. I'm also sure that, if Rick is hired, he will have strict language in his contract about morals and ethics.

If you look at the other candidates (Walker, Chow, and Harbaugh) a Neuheisel hire actually makes the most sense. Guerrero said in his new conference ,when Dorrell was fired, that he was looking for a candidate with head coaching experience. Well, out of the four, Rick is the only one with experience. I was totally convinced that he was out of the picture with his past run-ins with the NCAA, but he must have nailed the first interview because now he is the leading candidate for the position.

A Neuheisel hire also satisfies the long held UCLA rule that all coaches must be directly related to Terry Donahue by no more than one degree of separation. I'm just kidding about that. Well, no, actually I'm not. It is strange how every coach since Terry was at the reigns was either a former assistant (Toldeo) or player (Dorrell). Rick is also a former Donahue player, so the Bruin gods will be appeased once again.

Just to go along with the rumor mill, there is some crazy, crazy, crazy talk of Chow also joining the staff as an offensive coordinator. I guess he isn't that happy in the NFL and is looking for a return to the college ranks. So we could have a Neuheisel, Walker, and Chow combo leading this team. That would be, probably, the my biggest football fantasy of all time. Two great assistants, an experienced head coach with a PAC-10 title on his resume, and recruiting prowess unprecedented in UCLA's recent history. All of that means it can't possibly be true. Or can it? I'm going to send Santa a letter and see if he can make that happen. It would be a very Merry Christmas indeed!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Kelly Signs Deal with Bearcats

Just like that. I knew as soon as I wrote up something on Kelly he would be off the table. That's what happened yesterday. He signed a new 5 year deal with the University of Cincinnati that gives him $1.2 - $1.3 million a year. Now we can officially scratch him off the short list.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Coach Profile: Brian Kelly

Brian Kelly is a name that hasn't been mentioned much in the UCLA coaching search. However, he has picked up some momentum recently. With him stalled in contract negotiations with Cincinnati, he might be back in contention for the job in Westwood. So who is this guy and why are many Bruin fans excited about him?


Kelly played his collegiate football at a small Catholic College in Massachusetts called Assumption College. He was a linebacker there and after graduation took a job as the line backer coach and defensive coordinator at Assumption from 1983-1986. He eventually took a graduate assistant position at Grand Valley State in 1987.

In 1989, Kelly was promoted to defensive and recruiting coordinator. In 1991 he took over the head coaching job and spent the next 13 years leading Grand Valley. Kelly culminated his career at this division II school by winning back-to-back national championships. His final teams went on a 20 game winning streak and Kelly was twice named the AFCA Division II Coach of the Year.

In 2004, Kelly made the jump to the Division 1A level. He took over a Central Michigan team that was completely in the dumps. In the prior four seasons before Brian took over the program, they only had one season where they won more than 3 games. Kelly made an immediate impact and in his second year, leadding the Chippewas to their first winning season in over 1998. They qualified for the Motor City Bowl in 2006, but Kelly took the head coaching position at the University of Cincinnati and lead them to victory in the International Bowl instead.

Kelly just completed his first full season at the University of Cincinnati. His team posted an impressive 9-3 record, with his 3 losses coming by a combined 12 points. This was the Bear Cats best season since 1953 when they also won 9 games. He was named the Big East Coach of the Year for his efforts.

Kelly is making around $800,000 per year.

College Head Coaching Record

Year Team Overall Bowl
Grand Valley State (MIFC/GLIAC DII) (1991 -2003)
1991 Grand Valley State 9-3

1992 Grand Valley State 8-3
Conference Champ
1993 Grand Valley State 6-3-2

1994 Grand Valley State 8-4

1995 Grand Valley State 8-3

1996 Grand Valley State 8-3

1997 Grand Valley State 9-2
Conference Champ
1998 Grand Valley State 9-3
Conference Champ
1999 Grand Valley State 5-5

Grand Valley State 7-4

Grand Valley State 13-1
Conference Champ
Grand Valley State 14-0
National Champs
Grand Valley State 14-1
National Champ

Grand Valley State:

Central Michigan (MAC) (2004 — 2006)
2004 Central Michigan 4-7

2005 Central Michigan 6-5

2006 Central Michigan 9-4
Motor City Bowl

Central Michigan:

Cincinnati (Big East) (2006 — present)
2006 Cincinnati 1-0
International Bowl (W)

2007 Cincinnati 9-3
PapaJohns Bowl


Total: 105-39

Indicates BCS bowl game. #Rankings from final Coaches Poll of the season.


Kelly's record speaks for itself. He has won national championships at the Division II level and turned around two historically under achieving programs at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. He knows how to win and how to replicate his success wherever he goes. His salary was right around that of Karl Dorrell and the Bruins could get an experienced head coach for far less than what others are asking.

Even though Kelly has a background on the defensive side of the ball, he has presided over some very potent offenses. In 2001 at Grand Valley his team set 77 NCAA, conference, and school records, including setting the all-time Division II scoring record, averaging 58.4 points per game.


Kelly is in the first year of a contract at Cincinnati. If he jumps ship for UCLA then what prevents him from doing the same thing next year when a "better" opportunity opens? With all the turnover under Dorrell, the one thing this program needs is consistency.

Kelly doesn't have any ties to the west coast. He has spent his entire career in the Midwest and the region around the great lakes. He may have no interest in coming out this way and he would have to establish recruiting connections from scratch. Since he is a defensive coach, he would probably not retain Walker, who would be a big recruiting connection for the program.


I like Brian Kelly a lot and he would be at the top of my list right now. I just don't see him taking the position in Westwood, which is primarily why I haven't written much about him until now. I thought he would go to Michigan but with that position getting filled this weekend, maybe he is still in contention? It might be too little, too late in terms of contacting him now. It looks like UCLA is going to pick a coach this week and I'm guessing Kelly won't be on that short list. Too bad because he looks like a real winner.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Big Recruiting Weekend

Today kicked off UCLA's big recruiting weekend. The program is hosting 18 of the 21 committed players on their "official" visits. They took in the practice today and will get a chance to talk with interim head coach Walker and the position coaches. The three players who won't be there are Milton Knox, Corey Harkey, and E.J. Woods.

Knox is off on a recruiting trip to Florida. Like most of the other Bruin commits for 2008, he is being heavily recruited since Karl Dorrell was fired. Knox has been to Westwood a number of times for unofficial visits, so his absence this weekend isn't something to panic about. But as the cloud of uncertainty hangs over the program, without a permanent head coach, it is hard to be sure if any of the recruits are 100% solid.

Harkey is playing basketball and couldn't attend. Woods went on a trip to Colorado. He said he plans to visit UCLA after a new coach is named.

Aundre Dean looks like he is not going to UCLA next year. All of the recruiting services removed him as a commit and his interest in the program is low. He may not take an official visit and the uncertainty of the coaching staff for next season has him looking elsewhere. The rest of the recruiting class has formed a bond, since they are all from Southern California, but Dean is the sole out-of-state player. I'm not holding my breath on him wearing the blue and gold next season.

For those attending, it will be an important weekend. Most of the players are taking a wait-and-see approach to their decision. If Walker is retained (even as the defensive coordinator) then I think the vast majority of this class will stick. If an exciting head coach is brought in, then it should keep them around. However if Walker is let go, then all bets are off. A number of schools, like Arizona State, having been pushing hard for these kids and I think a fair number would go elsewhere.

I'm sure DeWayne and the rest of the staff have quite a task ahead of them. It would have been easier if a head coach were in place already, but not much can be done about that now. I'm glad Guerrero is taking his time and interviewing a number of candidates. This is an important decision that will impact UCLA football for the next 5 to 10 years. No need to hurry up and rush it.


So the news this week is that we actually had some interviews! There are more scheduled for next week as well. Here are the candidates we have so far:

  1. DeWayne Walker (Interim Head Coach and DC at UCLA)
  2. Rick Neuheisel (Baltimore Ravens OC and former UW and Colorado head coach)
  3. Norm Chow (Tennessee Titans OC)
  4. John Harbaugh (Philadelphia Eagles Secondary Coach )
I had never heard of John Harbaugh before. The other guys on the list are no surprise, but who is this dude? Besides knowing that he is Stanford Head Coach Jim Harbaugh's brother, here are some of the relevant background from his biograhpy on Wikipedia.

He's been in the NFL for nine years coaching at Philadelphia. Before that he was an assistant at the University of Cincinnati for 8 seasons and Western Michigan for 4 years (plus a few other stops in between). Never been a DC as far as I can tell, much less a head coach. It's strange that his name has never come up before and I'm wondering why he is interviewing?

Neuheisel interviewed today. I don't see Rick getting the gig, just because I can't see Guerrero hiring someone who had NCAA problems in the past. Wasn't that one of the major reasons he fired Toldeo? The talk around the program is that this was to satisfy a very vocal and influential group of boosters and former players. Who knows, maybe he'll impress Dan. I don't see it happening.

I still think Chow is in the lead for this thing. A few other names still popping up are Brian Kelly of Cincinnati and Mike Price of UTEP (former WSU head coach). Bronco Mendenhall of BYU and June Jones of Hawaii were also mentioned this week but both have been pretty adamant (at least publicly) that they are not interested in the position.

(photo credit: Ghetty Images)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Do You Want Walker?

There is a blog out there that does. Just came across it this week. We Want Walker is a site dedicated to promoting DeWayne Walker as the head coach. There is some good information in there and I think they do a pretty good job of detailing and defending the accomplishments of Walker as a defensive coordinator (make sure to read the comments). I also like Walker a lot as a defensive coordinator and I think he'll just continue to get better in that position as he gains more experience. He's not a great DC right now, but a good one, and I think his recruiting accomplishments speak for themselves.

As of today, I didn't see much on their blog stating why he would make a good head coach, though. It will be interesting to see why they think he would be a better candidate over guys like Mike Leach, Norm Chow, Chris Peterson, and others. I stated in my coaching profile that I would be OK with Walker if these other "first tier" candidates don't pan out. He is definitely a second (or third, or fourth) choice for me since he doesn't bring head coaching experience to the equation.

I do think he will, one day, be a good head coach. He just needs some more time to learn the ropes. He has only been a defensive coordinator for two seasons. Not too many D1-A programs take guys with such little experience. Well, besides UCLA, anyways. It would be nice to actually get a guy who has been there before so we don't have the inevitable learning curve and early mistakes. Even a guy like Walker, who I think has a lot of great qualities, will have to navigate his way around for the first few years.

Do we really want UCLA to be a training ground for first time head coaches? I would prefer they learn somewhere else (Moutian West, WAC, D1-AA, etc.) and then translate that experience into results in Westwood. This is a football program that has had historical success (though not much in the last few decades) and it is time that we start seeing ourselves as a program that deserves top notch coaches, not as a program that has to gamble on unknowns.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

You could be the next Head Coach!

With so many arm chair coaches in the Bruin online community, I thought I would give you all an opportunity to apply to be the next head coach... at Duke University! All you have to do is go to their HR website an apply for the job. Here is the link to the job description. You'll have to compete for the job with Karl Dorrell, but that shouldn't be much of a challenge. Good Luck!

Chow Interview Confirmation

Rumors have been flying around all week that Norm Chow would be considered for the head coaching position. Some were even speculating that he had already interviewed and others saying he was on campus to accept an offer. All of that was pure internet-driven rumors but it looks like UCLA and the search firm have now officially made contact with Chow.

The LA Times is stating that Chow is expected to interview sometime this week. From what I'm reading it looks like Norm is probably the leading candidate so far, though I'm sure UCLA has its eye on some other candidates.

One More Honor

Thought this was pretty cool. Matt Slater made the Sports illustrated All American Team as a KR. The Only Bruin to make the list. Bruce Davis did get an honorable mention at DL.

(photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Brian Kelly

An interesting note. Brian Kelly of Cincinnati is having a hard time getting a deal from the university. I'm starting to see his name mentioned more and more recently. I'm going to have to write up a profile on him. I assumed he would return to Cincinnati after being there only one season but maybe that isn't the case.

Coach Profile: DeWayne Walker

DeWayne Walker is currently the interim head coach for the Bruins. His dramatic turn around of an abysmal UCLA defense and the huge upset victory over the Trojans in 2006 have catapulted him into the national spotlight. Is he the right man to lead this program next season?


Walker played his college ball as a corner back at Minnesota. He played one year in the Canadian football league and then two in the USFL before hanging up his cleats. After completing his bachelor's degree at Regents College in New York, DeWayne went into coaching.

Walker began his coaching career at Mt. San Antonio College. He served as the secondary coach for four seasons before becoming defensive coordinator in 1992. He bumped around the college ranks coaching at Utah State, BYU (where he worked with Norm Chow) and California (where he worked with Steve Mariucci).

In 1998, Walker jumped to the NFL as the secondary coach for the New England Patriots. He spent three seasons there, two under Pete Carroll as a head coach. In 2001, Walker joined Carroll's staff at USC for one season before returning to the professional ranks in New York. Walker was the secondary coach for the Giants for two seasons and then held the same position with the Washington Redskins.

The last two seasons he has been the defensive coordinator at UCLA. He helped turn the UCLA defense from one of the worst in the nation to one of the best in the conference in just one year. Walker has coached UCLA to the 2nd best scoring defense in the PAC-10 for two consecutive seasons and one of the top 40 defenses nationally. He managed to accomplish this with virtually no offensive production from his counterparts on the other side of the ball.

Walker currently makes around $330,000 as the defensive coordinator.

College Head Coaching Record



One of the best things Walker did with this defense was give them a sense of toughness. They play like a team, swarm to the ball, and attack. That is in stark contrast to the soft defensive image UCLA has fostered over the years. He transformed a team that was ranked 113th in the nation, that was losing a number of senior starters, and couldn't tackle into the strength of the program.

Walker is a dynamic recruiter. Rivals named him the PAC-10 recruiter of the year in 2006. He is the primary reason why UCLA's recruiting the last two seasons have been dramatically better. One of his first recruits, Brian Price, is already making a significant contribution to the team as a true freshman. Right now Walker is the primary lynch pin in the 2008 recruiting class.


DeWayne is still adapting to the college game. His defenses have struggled at times against more athletic, pass-oriented, spread offenses. It is early in his career as a coordinator and he still needs some time to learn and adapt from the professional version of the game.

Walker has no head coaching experience. Sometimes good coordinators become good head coaches and sometimes they don't. UCLA has rolled the dice a number of times now on coaches with no prior experience and the results haven't been particularly good.


I'm really high on Walker as a coach. His defenses have been good and his recruiting is fantastic. I believe that with a few more years of experience, he'll develop into a top notch defensive coordinator, especially when he can start playing guys he has recruited. I really hope Dan Guerrero does everything he can to keep Walker on the staff. I think he could be a great head coach one day.

All that being said, I'm not too excited about Walker being the head coach right now. I would really like to see somebody with some head coaching experience get the position. If we can't land anybody with significant experience, then I would be open to selecting DeWayne as the new coach. But it would definitely be a second option.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Post Season Awards

Here is a summary of the major awards given out to Bruin players for the 2007 season:

  • Chris Horton was named first-team All PAC-10. He also received first team All-American honors by the Sporting News.
  • Bruce Davis was named second-team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation. He was also given second-team All PAC-10.
  • Trey Brown was named second-team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation. He was a PAC-10 honorable mention.
  • Kai Forbath was named a second team freshman All-American by the Sporting News. He also got PAC-10 honorable mention.
  • Matt Slater was named first team All PAC-10 as a Kick Off Return Specialist.
  • Brian Price received an honorable mention from the Sporting News.
  • Kevin Brown was a PAC-10 honorable mention.
  • FS Dennis Keyes was a PAC-10 honorable mention.
  • Aaron Perez was a PAC-10 honorable mention.
  • Alterraun Verner was a PAC-10 honorable mention.

UCLA also handed out it's own awards. Here is the break down:
  • Dennis Keyes was defensive MVP
  • Brandon Breazell was offensive MVP
  • Nate Chandler was Scout Team player of the year on offense
  • Courtney Viney was Scout Team player of the year on defense
  • Chris Joseph got the Academic Player of the year
  • Pat Cowan was named offensive best leader
  • Christian Taylor was the defensive best leader
  • Dominique Johnson won most improved offensive player
  • Kevin Brown won most improved on defense
  • Kai Forbath was offensive rookie of the year
  • Brian Price was defensive rookie of the year
  • Matthew Slater for outstanding special teams play
  • Bruce Davis was named outstanding senior
  • Dominique Johnson was named best offensive players against USC
  • Dennis Keyes was named best defensive player against USC
  • Brandon Breazell was named best receiver
  • Chris Joseph won for All Around Excellence on offense
  • Chris Horton and Trey Brown won for All Around Excellence on defense