Friday, April 4, 2008

Spring Practice Begins

Yesterday was the start of spring practice. It always takes a few days to work out the kinks and with an entirely new offensive staff, it will likely take a bit longer this time around. Still, the promise of a simplified offense and a focus on fundamental football, should pay some dividends over the next few weeks.

The coaching staff is going to have a lot to evaluate this spring. UCLA loses 23 seniors from a team that underachieved last season. Add to that very little depth or experience on the offensive line and coach Neuheisel has an up hill battle ahead of him. The highly rated 2008 recruiting class isn't on campus yet, so the depth chart could change considerably by September.

Here are some online practice reports that give you a fans-eye view of what transpired on day one:

Terrance Austin and Glenn Love received praise from realbruinfan at Bruin Gold:
WR Austin looked good. Austin turned Viney and Norris around in circles a couple of times. Austin looks like he has added some muscle and looks quick.

Glen Love looks the best in shorts of any of our DB's. Love looks like he is 4 inches taller than every DB. Love moves well and has plenty of muscle on him. I wouldn't be surprised if he starts over Ware at free safety.

LB Ayers looks good in shorts. Unfortunately I saw linebackers yelling at him repeatedly for lineing up in the wrong spot. It looks like Ayers is still trying to learn the defense.

DB Viney is a mini corner to put it kindly. Viney is very small. He is quick and covers well but I don't see Norris or Viney holding off Rahim moore for the corner spot opposite Verner.
Love, Craft, and the O-line were the key topics for so_cal23 at Bruin Gold:

Glen Love is going to be a stud, and D Walk totally loves him. He's 6'4 and is fast. Norris was looking better than he had been and was getting praise repeatedly.

OL Mike Harris looks like he will also be good, he's a redshirt freshman and is 6'5 315 or so, and was working with the first team. Adam Heater, who was just recently converted to center had problems with exchanges.

Also Craft looked like the real deal. He is much more athletic than Olson is, and he has a better arm and better accuracy than Cowan. I think he can be very good for us.
Some more about Kevin Craft and Glen Love from Jigs823 at BRO, as well as a note about new WR Taylor Embree:

One Kevin Craft will be a factor in this years QB race. I dont know if he will get it, which i think will ultimately be Ben Olsons to loose, but the coaching staff is definitely giving him an opportunity. Even though no one is "ahead" in the depth chart per say, there was a definite devision as Olson, Cowan, and Craft threw to receivers, and Forcier and Rasshan threw to others way at the other end of the field. Craft has a beautiful arm, it looks pretty, although Ben Olson's deep ball is a think of beauty.

The second thing i noticed it Glenn Love is huge. He, literally stand head and shoulders above the other DB's. I don't know if he is going to stay there or move to LB but i would not want to be the WR running over the middle of the field with him lurking. He is definitely a big kid and the coaching staff was always praising him (Mike Norris was also getting a lot of praise and looked really good; ATV is the veteran of the group, really the coaches leave him alone because he is just that good)

On a small note, Taylor Embree is good. I do not know if he possess the speed to really be a player at UCLA at the WR position, but he runs routes nicely and is a big body. (Ryan Moya seemed to be playing the slot in many formations so i expect him to play the 'Dallas Clark' role)

matsumoto at Bruins Nation had some notes about the running backs along with some details on how the passing game is shaping up:

The running back situation may be okay. Khalil Bell was in gear, catching punts, and looking a lot better than someone coming off a torn ACL 6 months ago. Raymond Carter looks FAST as well; he was out there in the red non-contact jersey but he looked pretty good.

All five QBs were rotating evenly throwing some of Chow's basic routes. He started with the WR screen that USC always loved to run, and of all give, the only one who didn't botch a throw was Cowan. Second was the 7-yard curl, and i'd say Olson threw these the best. All five QBs threw pretty good curls but it's hard to mess that up.

Next they threw slants, and all five were mediocre...great. Chow's offenses love the slant, and so we'll need to get this one right quick. Same can be said for the look-in route (5-yards) as the curls: all give QBs threw pretty well.

Finally the go route: Patrick Cowan was all over the place; short, wide, etc. Chris Forcier and Kevin Craft weren't much better. Craft looked rusty, consistently under throwing the receiver. In all honesty, Ossar Rasshan was throwing the best deep balls, with Ben not being too bad. Then we got into what I'm sure is the first half of Chow's 9-10 passing plays. I saw the USC FB Wheel, and a lot of simple plays that attack the cover-two...good stuff.

Since we're rotating 5 QBs until we learn the offense, the tempo was tremendous today. We would have two formations going at once to speed things up.

I'm expecting big things from Glen Love and it appears that he is already turning heads. We'll see if that continues throughout the spring. It is good to read that Carter and Bell are actively participating in drills and that their recovery from knee surgery hasn't hit any snags. The real tests for them will occur this fall. Of course, with the new offense being installed, I'm anxious to hear any news about how the quarterbacks are looking. Sounds like, from the first day anyways, it's going to take some time for them to settle in, which is not entirely unexpected.

(photo credit: CSTV)