Friday, February 29, 2008

Blog Hiatus

Well, for anyone visiting over the last month, it should be pretty obvious that I'm not posting much these days. That's because of a busy personal and work schedule and the slow down in news since the new coaching staff was hired. I'll pickup again when we get closer to spring practice this April. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, February 22, 2008

DeShaun Foster Released

The Carolina Panthers released DeShaun Foster today. He's had a tough career that was full of injuries and incomplete seasons. Foster says he is still interested in playing in the NFL but it will be interesting to see if the 28 year old can land on a roster for next season. He was the starting running back for the Panthers last season and he does hold their career rushing total (3,336 yards).

Foster was my favorite player from the time when I really started following the Bruins. His explosive and aggressive running style hasn't been seen in Westwood since.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Where Farkin' Happens

Saw this YouTube video created by one of the guys over on BRO. It is a bit of a parody of the "Where Amazing Happens" video that went around some Bruin message boards a few weeks ago. It has some of RaulAzul's farks from this blog in the montage, so I thought it was worth mentioning. Good stuff.

Where USC Happens...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Maurice Drew Highlights

Came across this Maurice Drew highlight reel from his second season with Jacksonville. That dude is just awesome. And he's a great role model too.

(Warning explicit lyrics on the video)

Coaching Staff Complete

This past week Rick Neuheisel hired his last two assistant coaches. Frank Gansz Jr., who spent the last two seasons on the staff of the Baltimore Ravens, has been hired to coach Bruin special teams. Tim Hauck, who has spent the past four years of the staff at the University of Montana, has been hired to coach the secondary. Now that the staff is complete, the Bruins can begin preparing for spring practice.

Neuheisel has prior connections with both coaches. Obviously, he knows Gansz from his time at Baltimore. Rick had Tim Hauck's brother, Bobby Hauck, on his staff at both Colorado and Washington. It was rumored that Bobby might be up for the job as well, but he is the head coach at Montana and taking a job demotion like that to an assistant job probably wasn't an attractive proposition.

Gansz is a great addition to the staff. He has coached nine seasons in the NFL as a special teams coach. That kind of experience and specialty should continue to keep the Bruins kickers, punters, and return teams performing at a high level. Gansz inherits probably the strongest squad on the team and they should be strength going into a what looks like a very difficult 2008 seaosn.

Before his NFL career, Gansz was the tight-end and special teams coach at the University of Houston. Since the tight-end spot doesn't have a dedicated coach, Gansz could help out in that capacity. Though it is thought that offensive line coach Bob Palcic will probably cover those responsibilities along with a graduate assistant.

Tim Hauck is a relatively young coach, but he had a very long and productive career in the NFL. He spent 12 years in the league playing for Green Bay, Seattle, Denver, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and San Francisco. He has spent the last four seasons coaching the secondary at Montana where his squads were some of the top ranked units in the D-1AA level. He'll continue to grow as a coach with the assistance of Dewayne Walker. The two will definitely have their jobs cut out for them, having to replace Horton, Brown, and Keyes this next season.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Spring Practice Dates

Here is the release from UCLA about the dates of the spring practice and scrimmage:

UCLA will open its 2008 football Spring Practice on Thursday afternoon, April 3. All practice sessions are open to the public and will be held at Spaulding Field, with the exception of the Spring Scrimmage. Times will be announced at a later date but weekday practices will be in the afternoon.

The annual Spring Scrimmage will be held on Saturday, April 26 at the Rose Bowl. A time has not yet been set.

Following is the schedule (tentative and subject to change):

Week One - April 3, April 4 and April 5.

Week Two - April 7, April 8, April 10 and April 12.

Week Three - April 14, April 15, April 17 and April 18.

Week Four - April 21, April 22, April 24 and April 26 (Spring Scrimmage at the Rose Bowl).


With a new year of football coming our way in 2008, I thought I'd ask you, the loyal Bruin Roar reader, what you'd like to see more of this season. Take a minute and let me know...

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Washington To Overhaul Athletic Department

Interesting timing with us playing the Huskies tomorrow, but it looks like the University of Washington is making some major changes to their sports programs. Special thanks to RaulAzul for pointing out this article from ESPN.

Crazy huh?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Grading the 2008 Recruiting Class

Let's take a look at this 2008 recruiting class, position by position, and hand out some grades.

Quarterbacks: B+

Nick Crissman (QB)
Kevin Craft (QB) JC
Kevin Prince (QB)

Nick Crissman's stock went up this year, despite the fact that he missed a big chunk of his senior season due to injury. He has gained a good reputation as a tough competitor and someone who has a lot of heart and guts. There are some knocks on his mechanics (namely that he doesn't release the ball high enough) but I'm sure, under Norm Chow, this kid can develop into a pretty darn good quarterback. He has been a consistent performer in high school and he strikes me as smart and intelligent player. He won't be able to play very early, with two seniors ahead of him, but after a year or two of development in UCLA's system, he could be a serious candidate to start.

Kevin Craft was a surprise addition to UCLA's 2008 class. He was nowhere on our radar during the season, but Norm Chow and Neuheisel snatched him up from Mt. SAC. Craft is a nice stop-gap quarterback because the Bruins will be sorely lacking experience in 2009 after Olson and Cowan graduate. Craft will be a 23 (going on 24) year old senior by then and have a year of experience under Chow. I'm not expecting him to set the world on fire, but we've learned the hard way that you can never have too many quarterbacks. Craft is a solid find and a smart move by Neuheisel to fill a position of need.

Kevin Prince was a very late addition and I don't know if he factors in much. If he goes on his mission then UCLA will have to recruit him all over again in a couple of years. He is also coming off a bad knee injury and surgery, so he may gray shirt and not enroll until 2009. With so many unknowns in Prince's future status, I can't say if he really helps this class.

Running Backs: A

Milton Knox (RB)
Johnathan Franklin (RB)
Aundre Dean (RB)
Derrick Coleman (FB)

This was a very contentious position for the Bruins. They were locked in a number of recruiting battles with some high profile schools like Notre Dame, Florida, USC, and Oregon. At the end of the day, UCLA came away with a very impressive group of tail backs.

Milton Knox has garnered comparisons to Maurice Drew because of his short stature and explosive running style. He has great vision and can change direction on a dime. Milton leaves Birmigham High School, and the Los Angeles city section, with a host of rushing titles. I'm really high on Knox and I think UCLA got a very good running back with this kid. He was heavily courted by Notre Dame and Florida, so you know he projects well to the college level.

Aundre Dean is a power running back who also brings some good speed. Dean is a real gamer and I think this kid could contribute right away. His final decision to attend UCLA came right down to the wire, but Neuheisel was able to swing Dean back into the fold by signing day... a real coup considering that many had written Dean off months earlier. It will be awesome to watch the one-two punch that Dean and Knox bring with their contrasting styles.

Johnathan Franklin is a great athlete and this kid was all over the field at the high school level. He projects in at either running back or safety and he definitely has a the talent to play either position. Derrick Coleman was recruited as a full back but he is a strong and powerful runner in his own right. In Chow's offense, he could see a lot more touches and passes than the full back received in Dorrell's system.

Tight Ends: C

Cory Harkey (TE)

Harkey is the only tight end to commit to UCLA in 2008. I don't think he is someone to get too excited about. He looks like a solid guy and someone who, given time, could develop into a contributer on offense. He doesn't bring any of the "wow" factor like Marcedes Lewis did back in 2002. The Bruins got a very good prospect, Nate Chandler, in the 2007 class. So this wasn't an area of need for the team. I'm sure coach Neuheisel will look for some more prospects to fill this position in 2009.

Wide Receivers: B-

Jerry Johnon (WR)
Antwon Mourta (WR)
Nelson Rosario (WR)

This is an area where many Bruin fans will lament over "what could have been". Kemonte Bateman was one of the first casualties for this class and an unfortunate loss for the Blue and Gold. It was well publicized that he was going to be a difficult one to get past admissions and I'm sure that was a factor in his decision to choose ASU over UCLA. Kevan Walker, DeWayne Walker's son, was also a late defection. He wasn't that highly rated, but being a coach's son you know he has a great football IQ. He ended up at Oregon State, so he'll get a chance to go against his Dad's defense sometime in the next few years.

There are no super-stars in this group, though Rosario could emerge as a key impact player. I think the Bruins may have found a real gem in this kid who is a giant target with a humongous wing span. He stands at 6' 6" and he was an elite jumper at the national level in track and field. He'll be an ideal red zone target for Bruin quarterbacks.

Offensive Line: D+

Jeff Baca (OG)
Connor Bradford (OT)

OK, so not everything is peaches in this class. The offensive line was a real let down. Not to say that all the players are bad, they aren't, but the small number of commits and the lack of overall talent was a big disappointment. What makes this hurt even worse is that the Bruins really have a glaring need in this category.

What's kind of scary is that UCLA didn't pick up many guys in the 2007 class either. Only one kid committed last season, Mike Harris, and he wasn't that highly rated. The Bruins did pick up a number of guys in the 2006 class, including Micah Kia and Nick Ekbatani, but the other guys in that class (including Jake Dean, Sean Sheller, and Sonny Tevaga) haven't stepped up as serious candidates for starting time.

The absolute #1 priority in the 2009 recruiting class has to be offensive lineman, just to make up for the last two classes.

Defensive Line: B+

Dantone Jones (DE)
Damien Holmes (DE)

UCLA picks up two exciting defensive ends in Jones and Holmes. Both are strong and athletic and the Bruins definitely need a talent upgrade at this position. There is really no heir apparent to Bruce Davis, so Jones or Holmes could step into the rotation as true freshman. Jones is a big bruiser and he brings some much needed size to the line. Holmes is very athletic and explosive and he'll be tough for opposing tackles to contain on a pass rush.

What could have made this score better was a top-notch defensive tackle. The recruiting staff didn't pick one up before the season started and with the coaching shuffle, UCLA missed out on getting some big players.

Linebackers: B

Patrick Larimore (LB)
Donovan Carter (LB)
Sean Westgate (LB)

The first two linebackers UCLA picked up in this class are a very nice duo of bigger, more athletic guys. The Bruin defense has been undersized in recent years and both of these guys come in, as true freshman, weighting closer to 230 lbs. That is definitely a step in the right direction. Sean Westgate is a bit on the smallish side and he may end up moving into the secondary as a hard-hitting strong safety. What he lacks in size, he more than makes up for it in aggression and smarts.

What could have made this group even better was Uona Kavienga, who ended up signing with USC. He had a strong performance in the Under Armor All American game and his stock was through the roof right before LOI were signed. The Bruins really missed out on a good one.

Secondary: A+

Rahim Moore (S)
E.J. Woods (S)
Anthony Dye (DB)
Aaron Hester (DB)

I don't think the Bruins could have asked for a better secondary than what they got in this class. Rahim Moore is a huge impact player for this team at the safety spot. He had an outstanding effort at the Army All American game and I could see him getting into the rotation as a true freshman. His tag team partner, E.J. Woods, is another highly regarded player. These two should carry on the tradition of UCLA as "Safety-U" for the next four seasons.

The defensive backs, Anthony Dye and Aaron Hester, are also great pickups for the Bruins. I don't know if either will see playing time really early but both are talented, quick, and intelligent players. When you factor in Courtney Viney, form the 2007 class, you have a threesome of defensive backs that should form an outstanding nickel package for years to come. All of this with Coach Walker teaching and developing these guys ala Alteraun Verner. It is very exciting.

Overall: B+

When you consider all the staff changes that occurred this off-season, it is impressive that Coach Neuheisel managed to pull out the class that he did. Unfortunately, a few key players jumped ship, and I can't give this class an A because of that. I also wanted to see much more in terms of offensive lineman and that didn't materialize.

At the end of the day, however, the Bruins got a very good class. It is definitely loaded more on the defensive side than on offense but there are quality guys on both sides of the ball. Make no mistakes about it, this is a group of players that are a big step-up over prior classes in terms of size and athleticism. With the coaching dream team recruiting hard for next season, expect even more talented kids to come to Westwood in 2009.

In terms of Rivals and Scout rankings, the Bruins fared very well:

Scout: #9
Rivals: #13

Here is the final recruiting "snap shot" that lists the final rankings by player and the class as a whole.

Click on the image and make sure you 'zoom in' to see the full thing.

Kavienga A Trojan?

Scott Wolf is reporting that former Bruin commit Uona Kavienga will sign with USC after he announces it live on FSN Prime Ticket at 6pm. Based on Wolf's past track record with rumors... the kid's a lock to BYU.

I guess we'll have to wait and see... even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Neuheisel Press Conference at 3pm

Coach Neuheisel will have a press conference at 3pm to talk about the recruiting class. You can watch it live on CSTV with a paid subscription.

Twenty Two Down, One to Go...

It looks like Everyone has signed that was expected to sign with the Bruins... except for one recruit. Milton Knox is still outstanding on his decision. Knox will announce tonight at 6pm on FSN Prime Ticket.

Hamani Stevens announced that he is heading to Oregon.

Once Knox's decisions comes in, I'll post my thoughts on the entire recruiting class.

National Signing Day

Today is the big day for college recruiting and while there are usually very few surprises, there might be a twist or turn as they day unfolds. The last few hold-outs for UCLA are Milton Knox, Datone Jones, and Hamani Stevens. All three are expected to sign with UCLA but you can never be 100% sure until that letter of intent gets faxed over to Neuheisel's office. Milton Knox won't likely announce his decision until later tonight. Prime Ticket will have a show covering the local recruiting at 6:00 pm PST and it is anticipated that Knox will publicly announce his decision at that time.

On the recruiting front, the Bruins picked up another quarterback last night in Kevin Prince. He was leaning toward UCLA this past summer but he ended up switching his commitment to Washington. I guess with the addition of Norm Chow to the staff, the Bruin Dream Team was too good an opportunity to pass up. So the Crespi High signal caller will be Westwood bound. The only question is when? He may go on a Mormon mission and not enroll for another two years. He is still recovering from reconstructive knee surgery after tearing his ACL during the season; so a gray shirt is another possibility with him not enrolling until January 2009 (and thus not counting toward UCLA's 2008 total count).

I'll have more on Signing day later.... stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

For the Kids

I saw this great picture on the Daily Bruin website today.

It is of Brian Price (No. 95) and Trevor Theriot (No. 31) interacting with some kids at this event held during Super Bowl weekend. From a prior news release:

The Bruins participated in the school's Super Bowl School Spirit Day to celebrate the young students commitment to academic excellence. Students were treated to an afternoon of football activities and games. Bruin student-athletes talked with students, signed autographs and handed out books to reward the students for their excellence in the classroom.

Some more pictures from prior Super Sunday events:

Sunday, February 3, 2008

All Hail The New York Giants!

What an exciting game. I don't normally watch the NFL, but I couldn't help but watch and cheer for the underdog Giants in this game. They remind me of the Bruins, scrappy, unpredictable, and prone to baffling loses. The Patriots are much like the Trojans. Undefeated, chocked full of talent... cheaters. So watching Eli Manning and his team pull out the miracle upset over those no-good dirty Patriots made my Sunday!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Lean Mean Dean Machine

Aundre Dean confirmed all the rumors this week by re-committing to UCLA on Thursday night. Dean will always have a special distinction on Bruin Roar because the very first post on this blog was about his original verbal commitment to former coach Dorrell. This comes on the heals of Dean be named to the Parade All American team.

In other recruiting news: Hammani Stevens is leaning toward UCLA again. Stevens had committed to UCLA back in the summer but he quickly backed away from that after one day. He would be a great addition to the team because offensive line is a position of considerable need. Another former commit, Uona Kaveinga is also rumored to be back in talks with UCLA. He changed his commitment to BYU recently, but the high profile linebacker is looking to maybe change that back to the blue and gold.

There is only a few more days until letters of intent (LOI) are signed. The coaching staff has been pushing hard to shore up this class while still seeking out other high profile players. It remains to be seen if any last minute surprises will happen on February 6th, but if anyone can pull a rabit out of his hat, it is Rick Neuheisel.