Tag:UCLA
Posted on: August 9, 2011 12:13 am
Edited on: August 9, 2011 12:23 am
 

UCLA looking for depth as team begins fall camp

Posted by Bryan Fischer

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA kicked off fall camp Monday evening on a picturesque day in Westwood and while there wasn't much to report from the no pads practice, the Bruins got off the field without any injuries and with noticeably more depth at certain skill positions than years past.

Given the Bruins injury history (which is a very long, almost comical one), escaping every practice to the nearby icebaths without a signficant injury is key as the team looks to finally build some depth in year four under head coach Rick Neuheisel.

"These are all our guys," Neuheisel said. "We recruited them, we've coached them, it's our job now to get them to where they can compete successfully."

Quarterback Kevin Price took the field without a knee brace and intends to keep things that way unless ordered to wear one by trainers. The oft-injured quarterback missed most of fall camp last year before starting the opener and sat out all of spring practice with a knee injury. He took reps with the first team offense as expected and was sharp throwing the ball out of the pocket but still seemed to be a bit rusty with his timing running the offense.

"Not once did I feel limited physically. Like I said before, I feel 100 percent physically," Prince said. "I just have to make sure I know the playbook the best and can execute it the best. I do that and I think that will get me on the field."

With highly touted freshman quarterback Brett Hundley sidelined for a few weeks following knee surgery, Richard Brehaut was the man looking to take the starting job away from Prince but looked uneven throughout the two-plus hour practice. Brehaut tossed a few interceptions - including one into double coverage - but did make a several nice throws in the pocket. He said afterwards that he believes it is 50/50 between him and Prince to start but based on the number of reps and how Neuheisel coached during individual drills, it seems as though the head coach favors last year's starter.

Offensive line depth is still an issue and the team will be without one of their most flexible players in guard/tackle Jeff Baca, who is recovering from a broken ankle suffered in the spring. At this point UCLA will mix and match with several inexperienced players and finding the right group remains one of the big questions the offensive staff is looking to answer early on in camp.

"It's a work in progress," Neuheisel said of the line. "Especially at the inside positions. We're going to have to work through that and then see which freshmen can help with depth. The next question is when does Baca get back."

Tight end Joseph Fauria stood out, literally, as the tallest player on the team but also with his play catching passes over the middle. He seemed to only have one drop and there's no question that he'll be a big target for the quarterbacks to use if they're (likely) being chased out of the pocket by a few defenders. Wide receiver Shaq Evans and tailback Johnathan Franklin also impressed with their speed and quickness.

On the defensive side, ends Datone Jones and Owa Odighizuwa both looked good and the latter in particular seemed bigger and more confident than he was in the spring. Defensive tackle remains a work in progress but the Bruins should be able to get a decent pass rush from the front four if the ends do their job. Linebacker Patrick Larimore looks a little bigger than last year but still was able to cover one of the numerous tight ends the offensive sent out during 7-on-7 and team periods. The secondary was solid but not spectacular.

All in all, it certainly appears that UCLA has their deepest, and possibly most talented, team under Neuheisel but it remains to be seen if that can translate to wins on the field. It's early and there's plenty of time to incorporate some new pieces but for day one, things were not bad at all for the Bruins.

Posted on: August 5, 2011 1:27 pm
 

DT Brandon Willis transferring from UNC, again

Posted by Chip Patterson

After a turbulent offseason that ended with the dismissal of head coach Butch Davis, North Carolina opened their fall training camp on Friday in Chapel Hill. When it came time for the players to report Friday morning for team photos, there were a few faces from the media guide missing.

The most notable name was defensive tackle Brandon Willis. Willis, a redshirt freshman, signed his Letter of Intent in February 2010 before requesting a transfer to UCLA due to family issues in August. Then in March 2011, Willis was granted a release from his UCLA scholarship so he could return to the Tar Heels. On Friday, the school announced that the defensive tackle has decided to transfer again.

The 6-foot-3, 270-pound defensive lineman was considered one of the top recruits in North Carolina's 2010 class, but his inability to stay in one place has not allowed him to showcase his talents on the field. No reason was given this departure, and it is unknown where Willis might be headed next.

Interim head coach Everett Withers also announced the departure of cornerback Mywan Jackson. Jackson's exit is unrelated to football, as it appears he will be taking some time away from school as well.

"Mywan is working through some personal issues right now with his family and he felt it was in the best interest to stay in Florida until he decides where to continue his education," said Withers. "He indicated he would like to attend a school closer to his home and we support his decision. I wish him nothing but the best."

Jackson started five games in 2010, totaling 20 tackles on the season. He, along with several other members of the secondary, saw early action while North Carolina sat Charles Brown, Kendric Burney, and Deunta Williams in the midst of the NCAA investigation.
Posted on: July 29, 2011 4:25 pm
 

UCLA's Rick Neuheisel optimistic about the season

Posted by Bryan Fischer

NEW YORK -- UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel knows what it takes to win the Pac-12. He won the then-Pac-10 while at Washington and had the team in the upper echelon of the conference annually before being fired. After a pair of rough 4-8 seasons bookending his time in Westwood however, there's plenty of work to be done if the Bruins are to advance in the conference standings. Yet the coach, who briefly sat down with CBSSports.com during Pac-12 Media Days, believes the team will finally turn the corner this year.

"I have high expectations, I always start the seasons with high expectations," Neuheisel said. "When you're coming off a year like we did, you can't wait to get that taste out of your mouth."

Neuheisel is one of four coaches to be rated as having a warm coaching seat heading into the season by senior writer by CBSSports.com Dennis Dodd. The UCLA alum drew laughs at Media Day in Los Angeles when he joked about being happy to just be invited despite his status on the hot seat. He did note that he was just joking and actually hasn't felt the heat despite what some fans or media members think.
 
"I really don't feel it," he said. "It's just been brought to my attention so many times that it's like the elephant in the room so let me just talk about it so we can get that behind us. I have never been worried about losing my job, never one time in my life. I've lost my job before for reasons that have been well documented. But I've never lost my job because I wasn't doing a good job.

"I'm doing as good as job as I possibly can and working harder than I've ever worked."

This season is, of course, about wins and losses though. Neuheisel is hoping 2012 is a momentum builder for the program despite having a difficult schedule which includes hosting Texas and traveling to Stanford. Though there are five new coaches, including two new coordinators, there are several players coming back that are worth getting excited about. Running back Johnathan Franklin was a revelation last year and topped 1,100 yards rushing despite an anemic passing attack to take the pressure off of him. If the defense can be turned around and not give up 30 points per game (30.3 to be exact), you can understand why Neuheisel is much more hopeful about the upcoming season if they can stay healthy.

"I'm excited about the guys I have recruited," he said. "I feel they have confidence in me and our coaching staff. I feel like as many things that have bounced the wrong way so far in the three years, we're due some good bounces. I'm always optimistic in that regard and never been more optimistic about a year."
Posted on: July 27, 2011 8:01 am
 

Neuheisel not afraid to talk about the 'hot seat'

Posted by Chip Patterson

The college football coaching industry has become increasingly volatile over the last several years, as a failure to meet expectations is often immediately met with questions about the dreaded "hot seat." One of the Pac-12 coaches who will face those questions all season is UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel. The seasoned vet would not be caught off guard while meeting the media in Los Angeles on Tuesday, and beat them to the punch with the "hot seat" reference.

"Excited to be here," Neuheisel said as he began his opening statement. "As a coach on the proverbial hot seat, I guess you're excited to be invited to any of these things."

The crowd chuckled a bit, and then he returned to the topic in the first question when asked what it is going to take to turn this season around and continue coaching the Bruins.

"Well, we don't have to turn it around yet because nothing bad's happened yet. But I think in this business we all are on somewhat of a hot seat at all times. I mean, it just comes with the nature of the beast."

Here are some more highlights from UCLA's time with the media in Los Angeles on Tuesday:

- Neuheisel dropped the bomb that we reported earlier about true freshman quarterback Brett Hundley undergoing knee surgery to repair torn meniscus, and injury he suffered playing pickup basketball. He said that once against Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut will be competing for the position and Hundley will likely miss three to four weeks.

- For the first time since Neuheisel's arrival back in Los Angeles, he says the Bruins are two-deep at every defensive position with the exception of cornerback. After suffering from injuries defensively in 2010, the depth on that side of the ball is a reason Neuheisel says "hope springs eternal."

- Running back Johnathan Franklin is ready to step up and be a leader of this team. He was singled out by Neuheisel early in the press conference as a big reason for optimism heading into the season. The Bruins believe they are "light years ahead of where they were at this point" a year ago in the running game. Franklin also stepped up and acknowledged that when the team needs someone to make a play this fall, he is going to take that responsibility on himself.
Posted on: July 26, 2011 3:58 pm
Edited on: July 26, 2011 4:56 pm
 

UCLA QB Hundley to undergo surgery

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We don't know what Rick Neuheisel did to curse the UCLA quarterback position. Maybe he entered an NCAA Tournament pool with a coven of old gypsy women. Maybe the one area of the Bruins' practice field where Neuheisel has them warm up is a very, very small ancient Indian burial ground. Maybe he signed his UCLA contract by the light of a full moon under a ladder on Friday the 13th under the advice of legal counsel Joe Theismann.

But whatever the reason, UCLA's quarterbacks have the most rotten luck of any single position on any single college football team in the FBS--and by this point, that's closer to fact than opinion. The latest evidence? Neuheisel announced at Pac-12 Media Days Tuesday that true freshman Brett Hundley has torn his meniscus and will undergo surgery. Hundley suffered the injury playing pickup basketball.

Fortunately, the injury is expected to sideline Hundley for only three-to-four weeks, and the Bruins still have two quarterbacks with starting experience in Kevin Prince (the expected starter) and Richard Brehaut. But as a highly-touted prospect who fits the Bruins' pistol offense snugly and enrolled early for spring practice, Hundley nonethless had a shot at major playing time or even the starting position--particularly given that both Prince and Brehaut have their own injury histories to deal with.

He may still have that shot, especially later in the year. But missing out on the critical first few weeks of fall camp and being forced to deal with his recovery on the fly isn't the recipe for any player to make an immediate impact, much less a true freshman.

So in the end, it's just one less option for Neuheisel to work with through the first several weeks of the 2011 campaign. If there's any silver lining, though, it's this: Neuheisel must be awfully comfortable handling setbacks at the quarterback position by now. Right?


Posted on: July 26, 2011 12:09 pm
 

Oregon, USC atop the Pac-12 Media Poll

Posted by Bryan Fischer

LOS ANGELES -- Oregon has been tabbed by the media to capture the inaugural Pac-12 championship, according to the Pac-12 Preseason Poll. The Ducks were picked to win the North and USC was selected to win the South. Because the Trojans are ineligible to play in the conference championship game due to NCAA sanctions, Arizona State would replace them in the league's first championship game.

The full poll, first place votes in parentheses:

North Division

1. Oregon (29).... 239 points
2. Stanford (13).... 220
3. Washington.... 142
4. Oregon State.... 120
5. Cal.... 110
6. Washington State.... 51

South Division

1. USC (24).... 230
2. Arizona State (13).... 207
3. Utah (4).... 170
4. Arizona (1).... 140
5. UCLA.... 89
6. Colorado.... 46

Pac-12 Title Game Champion: Oregon (28), Stanford (11), Arizona State (3).

The conference notes that the media poll has correctly picked the conference champion 27 of the past 50 years and has selected the correct champion 10 of the last 11 years. This is the third time Oregon has been picked to win the league.
Posted on: July 15, 2011 12:39 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2011 12:42 pm
 

LaMichael James headlines Doak Walker watch list

Posted by Chip Patterson

Keeping the watch lists coming here at the Eye on College Football, with the PwC SMU Athletic Forum announcing the initial list for the prestigious Doak Walker Award. The award, which was first given to Washington's Greg Lewis in 1990, celebrates the nation's top running back.

Oregon running back LaMichael James won the award last season, and he is back on the watch list for 2011. In the award's history, only two players have won in back-to-back years: Ricky Williams (1997-1998) and Darren McFadden (2006-2007).

Here is the rest of the watch list, which will continue accepting nominations through October



Posted on: July 15, 2011 12:06 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2011 12:40 pm
 

Even Neuheisel agrees: it's bowl game or bust

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The consensus has been that after three seasons with no achievement more impressive than a handful of blue-chip signings and an EagleBank Bowl victory over Temple, Rick Neuheisel must either guide his UCLA team back to the postseason or get fired trying.

One person at UCLA who won't argue with that consensus? Rick Neuheisel, as it turns out:
The UCLA football coach must win at least half of his games and play in a bowl or he's gone, and he knows it.
"I hate talking like that, but, as an alumni, I would say absolutely yes," Neuheisel said Thursday. "At the end of the day, I am responsible for this program."
That's from a conversation between Neuheisel and Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke, during which Neuheisel tocuhed on various aspects of last year's disastrous 4-8 campaign. One of those aspects was the hiring of since-departed offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who the Bruins paid some $500,000 to coach somewhere else. Despite Chow's pedigree, it's clear from Neuheisel's comments he feels he never should have hired the current Utah OC in the first place:
"I was more enamored with Norm's profile than anything else," Neuheisel says ... "I was trying to hit a home run ..."
"It just didn't work, and it's not Norm's fault. It was that chemistry thing. We didn't have the usual give-and-take that staffs need to be successful," Neuheisel says. "You have to have a staff that develops a recipe for success and stays united behind it. … I don't think that always got accomplished and, because of that, there's a trickle-down effect on your players."
The result of the Chow hire was that between Neuheisel and his star offensive coordinator, Plaschke writes, the Bruins saw their offense pulled in two different directions. He neglects to point out, however, that with neither Neuheisel nor Chow having any experience with the pistol offense installed before last season, Neuheisel also gave his team a third separate direction for the offense to juggle.

Here's how Plaschke describes Neuheisel's attempt to remedy the situation:
[H]e hired a bunch of strangers to everyone but him, coaches whose main attribute was that they shared his boundless optimism and energy. Anonymous guys. Neuheisel guys. He hired Mike Johnson to bring NFL offensive smarts, Joe Tresey to bring a Midwestern-style defense, and Jim Mastro to bring some secrets from that crazy Nevada "pistol" offense.
That's right: he hired a dyed-in-the-NFL-wool pro-style coordinator to oversee a doubling-down on the pistol ... or, in other words, he created -- on paper -- the exact offensive identity crisis that caused so many problems for his team last season.

We're wishing Neuheisel the best of luck. As good as the Bruins' defense shapes up to be, we're guessing he'll still need it.
 
 
 
 
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