A "Vastly Different" Off Season?

CRN is expecting this offseason to be "vastly different": 

"I think it will be vastly different," Neuheisel said Sunday. "I'm banking on it being vastly different, just because it needs to be for us to gain the kind of ground that we need to, to be competitive and have a much better chance next year."

I think in one aspect this off-season is going to be different from the one preceding Neuheisel’s first year is that he is now in control. In one sense, last year the true off-season for UCLA football didn’t really get started till sometime in January as CRN was still putting his staff together and getting his program in place. Sure, he still has work to do in terms of staffing issues, as he waits to see how Coach Walker’s job related process works out in next few days. But over all, CRN’s program in terms of weight room related conditioning and workouts are now in place. Telemachus posted couple of great clips on this aspect of "culture change" late last month. If you hadn’t seen the feature from KTLA, check them out here.
In addition to getting recruits, getting stronger is a huge priority for Neuheisel’s program (from the same article linked above):

"The weight room is going to be where the biggest change will be, where we spend much, much more time, and have to create an environment in there that's conducive to competing," Neuheisel said. "It's not just going to get a lift in. It's going to compete in the lifting areas; a lot of peer pressure, a lot of excitement, so we can get the most out of it."

Specifically CRN is looking for his team to get stronger (and in cases of players like Price more dominating) in the trenches:

"If I'm just speaking off the cuff right now, I'd tell you at the point of contact," Neuheisel said. "We have to be stronger at the point of contact on both sides of the ball. Now, for a guy like (defensive tackle) Brian Price, who has great raw strength, there's a guy when he gets stronger who's going to be a dominant player.

"But some of our guys need to get stronger, and that's especially true of everybody on offense, where inexperience is a huge factor, or at least was, but it won't be an excuse for next year because all these guys have played."

While looking for leadership from within the team who would organize off-season workouts:

During school, NCAA rules allow for coaches to dictate a mandatory eight hours a week of weight training and conditioning, but football-related activity is not allowed during that time. So players have to organize throwing drills without the aid of the coaching staff, which has no authority over the amount of work the players put in during the offseason (other than the 15 spring practices).

"The throwing is going to have to be voluntary, but we expect our players to do that as often as possible," Neuheisel said. "Anything less than four days a week, I would be disappointed in.

"The more you use the offense and defense in conversation, and have to communicate with that language, the better off you're going to be. But the training and the familiarity with one another, with running routes and where to throw the ball, is critical to your success. You can get really good at that, even against air. That's going to be an important piece to it."

I think in this area Kevin Craft could have potentially a built in advantage over kids such as Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut. Among the QBs who are coming back if anyone who would be able to do some self organizing in terms of getting his team-mates to partake in voluntary practice sessions, it seems like Craft could be the guy due to his familiarity with the first team. I am just speculating here so I could be wrong. It’s possible that Prince has same rapport with his team-mates as Craft as he has also been in the program for almost a year. Plus, it could be possible that Brehaut has the natural leadership abilities to thoroughly integrate himself with his new team and take charge following spring in terms of organizing these voluntary workouts.

Either way, spring football is going to have a lot of drama (in a very good way) in terms of competition in this program. In that sense, this off season definitely has the potential to be "vastly different" than what we have generally seen from UCLA football last few years. Here is to relentless optimism.

GO BRUINS.

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