I find Ben Olson, and all the commentary that surrounds him, confusing as hell. Here's a guy who at one time was the #1 HS QB recruit in the nation. So obviously at some point, somebody thought this guy could play. But a mission, a transfer, a year as Drew Olson's understudy, and an injury later, this guy just hasn't played a whole lot of football since HS.
I've written before that HS stats aren't always meaningful since we don't know what his competition was like back then. But let's go ahead and give this guy the benefit of the doubt and assume he's got some game - some game that we've only seen glimpses of at the D1 level so far. A lot has been said about some of the problems that Ben has had this year - and he has had problems. Some put it on Ben. Some put it on KD. But I think this most recent game against OSU sheds a little light on what the problem might be.
In the first half of the game, Ben looked pretty damned horrible. He did a lot of the frustrating things that rightfully drive us nuts - he looked confused in his reads, he held the ball too long, he stared down his primary receiver, and he didn't step up in the pocket.
But then in the second half, we saw a different Ben. We saw a Ben making reads and checking down. We saw a Ben hit recievers in stride on out patterns. We saw a Ben survey the field, step up in the pocket, and hit BB with a perfect strike on the skinny post for a 30 yd TD. In short, we saw a COMFORTABLE Ben.
I don't really don't know about what kind of coaching Ben gets during the week. I suspect, as others on this site do, that it ain't great. But I don't KNOW that because I'm not there.
What I DO know is that KD does NOTHING to get his quarterbacks comfortable early in a game. Instead, KD's vaunted run-run-pass-kick offense serves one purpose and one purpose only - it forces the QB to open the game with pressure throws on 3rd and long. And guess what, coach . . . that's not going to get your QB comfortable.
Seriously, let's think about this: we have discovered that Ben has problems under a heavy pass rush and he has problems when they drop 8 into coverage. But these things ONLY happen when the defense knows a throw is coming. So you know what that means, KD? Don't put your guy in a spot where he has to throw and everyone in the stadium knows he's going to throw! I know, it's crazy talk . . .
Since I want KD fired but I want UCLA to win football games even more than that, I feel obligated to offer up some suggestions:
- Channel a little 1990s Dallas Cowboys passing offense. Give a quick 3-step drop and get the ball out right away to a guy on a slant, a hitch, or an out (I'm liking Dominique Johnson - he doesn't have the game yet but he's got the potential to be a good, physical reciever who can get himself between a DB and the ball on a quick pattern). That's a really nice rhythm throw. Do several of those, early in the game on 1st and 2nd down. Those will do a lot to get Ben comfortable and should help to get down the number of 3rd and longs.
- Mix in a little play action pass. You like to run the ball, fine, but run more play action off it. That can help slow up the pass rush if they're blitzing and can hold the linebackers from dropping quickly into coverage if they're not.
- Scrap the shotgun entirely, unless it's a definite passing down. Unless you're running the ever-popular spread-option offense, shotgun means pass and pass only. Sure, you might run out of the gun but probably not too effectively and teams aren't going to scheme for that. So keep your QB under center unless it's absolutely necessary so that the other team has to at least think about the run.