Sunday, April 20, 2008

One Step Back

Well, spring practice is rapidly come to an end and the Bruins had their second scrimmage on Friday. With the new offense being installed, you knew the defense was going to dominate... and they did. It seems like this offensive unit it progressing but there are a lot of kinks that need to be worked out. A lot of kinks.

You know things didn't go well when your two offensive coaches have this to say about the scrimmage: Coach Rick Neuheisel said "we need to improve dramatically in the throwing game." Offensive coordinator Norm Chow said, "we couldn't run the ball a lick.


Bruin Gold's Jeff had a more optimistic assessment in his report of the scrimmage. On Thursday, he reported some noticeable improvements over prior years. So like many Bruin Gold participants, I was hoping to read a glowing report of continued development on Saturday morning. Well, it didn't quite come out that way. Things got off to a good start and the passing game looked pretty good in 7-on-7 drills:

The first part of the scrimmage was 7-on-7's. Both Cowan and Olson were HOT during this session. Cowan was 10 of 12 for 78 yards and he hit 7 different receivers. Olson was 4 of 7 for 25 yards, but all three incompletes were due to dropped passes. He hit 4 different receivers in his time. Both of them looked crisp and accurate. Naturally, no pass rush, but throws on time and accurate count in my book. The only other QB to get snaps during the 7-on-7's was Craft, who was 1 of 3 for 3 yards.
Coach Neuheisel echoes these comments in his post scrimmage interview. Even going so far as to say that it was the best 7-on-7 performance by the offense to date. That's encouraging news and it shows that our QB's are starting to really get a feel for Chow's scheme. It also tells me that our skill guys are getting into sync and the timing on throws is improving.

Unfortunately, that success didn't translate into the full 11-on-11 scrimmage. With a full pass rush and our O-line in the mix, the results were a step back from the first scrimmage. Ben and Pat, who were in tune during the passing drills went for an anemic 8 of 20. The running game was no better and it left a lot of coaches scratching their heads.

It is pretty obvious from all accounts that our offensive line is going to be a liability this season. The reports above bare that out in black and white. Our skill guys, without the o-line, have their best practice of the year. When you throw in the big uglies, the offensive momentum comes to a grinding halt. Some of that can be attributed to our stellar defensive tackles. Brian Price and Brigham Harwell will be a force to reckon with come September. Still, this O-line has struggled from day one and they'll face some pretty good defenses in addition to the one they see on Spalding field every day.

The problem isn't that our offensive line doesn't have any size or athleticism. They're not a star-studded group by any stretch of the imagination and we definitely need some infusion of talent there, but they are a serviceable group. No, the problem is the lack of experience and, probably most importantly, the lack of continuity in the coaching staff. Bob Palcic is the fourth offensive line coach in as many seasons and Chow the fourth offensive coordinator. These guys have been starting from scratch every April since they came to Westwood. That has to take a toll on your confidence and your ability to progress from season to season.

I'm sure, like most fans, I was hoping for some quick turnaround with our dream team coaching staff. I know it is still early, and I don't want to get too down on them, but this offense needs a LOT of work to become productive in time for the season. The stark truth is that I don't see any coaching staff, no matter how experienced or talented, being able to turn this offense in just one season. There are just too many holes and too little experience on this team to be successful this year. Especially with this offensive line where they don't even have enough bodies to patch together a third unit that can practice with Kevin Craft as the QB.

(photo credit: Michael Chen / Daily Bruin)


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