I wrote in my last post about Craft needing to show leadership this off-season by taking the lead in organizing voluntary throwing drills without the help of the coaching staff. Per the LA Times report Craft “seemed enthusiastic” about devoting extra hours to passing drills:
NCAA rules allow coaches to schedule eight hours a week for off-season training, all of which will go to strength and speed work. Neuheisel hopes his quarterbacks and receivers will devote additional hours to passing drills, saying: "Anything less than four days a week, I would be disappointed."
Craft, who wore a T-shirt that read "No Regrets" in the locker room after the USC game, seemed enthusiastic about all of this, saying: "I can't wait to get into the weight room and get bigger, get film and understand the offense more."
I hope Craft lives up to those words because the team is in desperate need of leadership from the offensive side of the ball. Kahlil Bell tried his best to provided it this past season but he was rendered ineffective most of this year due to his injuries. Someone in the offense will have to provide the same emotional leadership that kids like Carter, Price and ATV bring on defense. If Craft is not the guy at QB, I am desperately hoping Prince or Brehaut will step up this spring. Frankly, I wasn’t all that impressed with what I saw from Forcier in the limited mins he showed up this season.
Also on offense, Terrence Austin will be looking to build on his record season next year:
Coming through in crunch time will be one of the keys for this football team to show improvement next year. From Kevin Pearson in the Press Enterprise:
Receiver Terrence Austin, who set a school record for all-purpose yards, also hoped that he and his teammates have learned from the tough times.
"When we get in situations like that next year, we won't panic. We won't break,"
said. "We'll be out there and we'll know what to do with certain situations and we'll be experienced." Austin
In five losses this season, UCLA was within a touchdown of tying the game entering the fourth quarter but saw things spiral out of control, mostly due to its own offensive mistakes.
"If these kids develop, and we can get these kids to play at a higher level, there is no doubt about it," defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said. "This program will get flipped sooner than later.
"We're 4-8 and maybe next year we can go 7-5. That third year, you never know, you can win 9-10 games. It's something to build on, and that's what it's all about."
I think the goal of going 7-5 is somewhat realistic provided that we get a QB to step up next year and also have a semblance of an offensive line. Like we have said many times over here on BN this season started with a patchwork, injury ravaged OL made up of players most of whom hadn’t take a snap as a lineman in D-1. We never really had any kind of continuity in this line due to injury and other off-field issues as we didn’t get to feature same starters for a long while in the back to back games until the two closing weeks of the season. As I said in the last post, the key for our success will be for these guys to hit the weight room under Coach Lynn’s tutoring harder than ever and get bigger and stronger coming into spring camp.
In terms of other personnel issues, keep an eye on Reggie Carter:
Hope whatever Carter decides is a calculated decision and the best one for him and his family. Selfishly of course I’d like to see him back and I think it serves him better if he comes back and can put together a dominating season with a defense which seems to be coming together. Yet, I will be more than understanding if he makes a well calculated decision based on his family situation. Love this kid.
UCLA LB Reggie Carter, a redshirt junior, said he will file paperwork with the NFL to have his draft stock evaluated and said that he will not make a decision until he hears back as to where he may be drafted and then speaks with his coaches and family.
Carter is a likely second day pick and has until early January to make a decision. He has said for the past month that the move would be a financial one for his mother and that he planned to take some time after the season to sort out his decision and was not leaning in either direction.
Also here are the injury notes heading into spring camp:
You gotta love Chinonso’s heart. That’s pretty incredibly courageous on his part to get into that kind of game despite being hurt (although I am assuming he played with clearance from the medical staff). Hopefully Chinonso gets fully healed heading into spring.
The Bruins should be relatively healthy going into spring training. Linebacker Akeem Ayers (dislocated left thumb) should be back from surgery. Defensive end Chinonso Anyanwu, diagnosed with Crohn's disease late in the season, played against USC but his status remained unclear.
Neuheisel said he wasn't sure when offensive tackle Sean Sheller, who injured a knee in an all-terrain vehicle accident this summer, would return.
We are also keeping our fingers crossed for Sheller’s rehab. It would be great to see the kid make a comeback. All in all lot of interesting subplots heading into this spring practice that will keep football prominently in our mind even as the Warrior season heats up. That’s the effect of having a promising coach like Neuheisel in place because during the Dorrell days we would approach spring, fall and season openers with a dreadful feeling. For the first time in a while, UCLA football is more than a little interesting.