Spaulding Roundup: We Are Going To Be Allright

So on the second day after Ben Olson went down at Spaulding the Bruins had a sluggish day on offense (or a dominating one on defense from another pov). The sloppy offensive performance (to start the Monday of second week of Fall practice) led to Neuheisel making a comment about being “concerned” about offense, which set off immediate concern trolling by local reporters who seemed to be pouncing for the opportunity to hit the panic button. Chris Foster from the LA Times breathlessly typed up how UCLA quarterbacks are facing “rush to judgment” with “only a few weeks left” before a decision:

Basically, it's never good when the coach says, "I'm concerned" a week into training camp. But after a rough day for the offense, UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel took a breath and said just that, followed by "Our offense has to understand that we have to have tempo on a daily basis. We can't just come out here. We have some real good leaders, we need some more of them. Hopefully, we'll develop them as we get closer to game time."

Leadership would seem to go hand in hand with playing quarterback, but Kevin Craft and Chris Forcier are riding a learning curve on that, Neuheisel indicated. They are trying to fill the void created when starter Ben Olson broke a bone in his right foot and will be sidelined for eight weeks.

Craft and Forcier didn't seem to distinguish themselves with Neuheisel, as the Bruins defense dominated play during 11-on-11 drills Monday.

"Guys have to command a presence to play that position," Neuheisel said. "You can't be effective without it."

Neuheisel singled out tailback Kahlil Bell and tight end Logan Paulsen as offensive leaders, but said, "We need more of them and we're going to be demanding more of others."

Playing quarterback, Neuheisel said, requires "an innate sense of command, a feel and presence, all those things. It's like the Supreme Court said about obscenity, 'I'm not sure how to define it. I just know what it is when I see it.' It's the same with quarterbacks."

No offense to Ben Olson and everyone who reads BN on a regular basis know there aren’t a lot of strong supporters of BO than yours truly. But can some one tell me exactly what “void” has been created due to Olson’s injury? Some stark numbers on BO’s career courtesy of CPBruinFan at Bruin Roar:

If you count up all the games where Ben Olson hasn't played since high school, the number is shocking. Olson graduated from Thousand Oaks high school in 2002. He red shirted his first season at BYU, so that's 12 games there. His two year Mormon mission adds in another 24 games. In his first season at UCLA, he fractured a thumb and was sidelined early. Drew Olson took over and had a fantastic season with Ben only played in garbage time for two games, so he sat out 10. In 2006, he started the first five games but suffered a knee injury against Arizona that cost him the remaining 7 games. Last year, Olson was only available to play in 6 games. That's a total of 59 games since 2002 where Ben hasn't played. That doesn't even count the games he'll miss this year, which will likely be all of them.

So, exactly what the heck Chris Fosters of the world are referring to when they are saying Olson’s injury has created a “void” in UCLA’s offense? Somehow these guys are forgetting it was Forcier and Craft (and Rasshan to a certain extent) who ended up taking all the snaps during that first spring scrimmage under Chow and Neuheisel.

And this whole idea of Neuheisel and Chow having to “rush” to make a decision on their starting quarterback is just laughable. If anything I want these guys to be as patient as they can in gathering as much data points as possible on all of our QBs before reaching a conclusion on who will get the start. And I will go as far as saying that it might not even be a bad idea for the coaches to platoon their QBs during the out of conference games to see who reacts the best and emerge as the best game manager in actual game situations, before settling on a starter for the conference season. I find it comedic that Brian Dohn actually put up a poll on who should be UCLA’s QB on his blog with just 2 days of practices in full pads involving two leading candidates (Craft and Forcier) who haven’t thrown a single pass in a UCLA uniform. Brian must not have a lot of respect for his readers, otherwise he wouldn’t insult their intelligence with that kind of ignorant polling question.

The panicking among local reporters/columnists doesn’t end there. Another line of concern trolling is how Chow doesn’t have any Heisman caliber QBs to work with. Steve Dilbeck from the Daily News today dismisses Craft, Forcier, Rasshan and Crissman into walkon caliber QBs:

Chow's remarkable quarterback resume includes Steve Young, Jim McMahon and Ty Detmer at BYU. Philip Rivers at North CarolinaState and Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC.

Huge names, great college quarterbacks, NFL first-round picks.

Only this time he is operating with holdover quarterbacks from the Karl Dorrell era. None who have been confused as an NFL prospect. Maybe not even a starting college quarterback.

But somebody is going to have to take the first snap in three weeks when UCLA opens with highly regarded Tennessee.

"It's not a problem," Chow said. "It really isn't. We'll find someone. One of these two guys, three guys will step up. There's no question in my mind."

It's one thing to groom a future Heisman winner, a talented quarterback coveted by every program in the country.

It's something else to be down to the third- and fourth-string guys on a list that was borderline suspect to begin with. There's no obvious "guy" who's been waiting in the wings, no next superstar ready for his close-up.

Oh God! What are we going to do?! We don’t have any Heisman contendahs on our roster! Chow and Neuheisel must need to have 4 5 star/top-5 recruits at QB position to make this a powerhouse.

I mean these guys are a little too much. Where were these guys during last five years? They are pushing the panic button on third day of full pads, while they were mostly missing during all those years of Karl Dorrell.

Uhm, someone should clue these guys into the fact that there are lot of good programs around college football who get their program started (or restarted) with serviceable quarterbacks. If anyone has followed this program closely (and we expect all of our readers to be some of the most informed when it comes to UCLA sports) know that kids like Forcier, Craft, Rasshan and Crissman are not just bunch of walkons. They received scholarships for a reason. They can play.

Also I think its a little presumptuous to think that Brehaut is going to come in here and vault over all the current kids next year and emerge as the starting QB. People should not make any assumptions just by reading some press reports or watching highlights on the youtube. No one is going to present Brehaut the starting job on a silver platter. He well need to come in and compete and earn it. Otherwise it will be the JP Losman fiasco all over again. And I am sure our coaches will make sure that doesn't take place by communicating to all parties involves exactly what is expected from them.

As for the kids we have now, no one here is expecting any of our QBs to win the Heisman trophy. No one here is expecting them to go undefeated this regular season or go to the Rose Bowl. What we are expecting them is to hang in there and take in (as much as they can) everything they are getting from Chow and Neuheisel. They need to keep at it, compete against each other, and support each other as they learn to play college ball from two of the best in this game.

There is no doubt given the depth issues at our OL, it is going to be a rough going and there will be lot of tough moments in what we are expecting to be a rebuilding (and possibly gloomy W-L wise) season. But they just need to bounce back and come right at day after day. Lot of us remember Cade’s first two seasons. There were lot of memorable moments during those two years but in terms of W-L they were forgettable and not pretty. They were dotted with some heartbreaking losses (still remember how we choked on a 5TD lead against Jake the Snake at the Rose Bowl) and some humiliating ones. But Cade never got down on himself. He just kept coming back for some more.

All of our guys (here a little primer from Foster for those who still need to get caught up on our QBs) need to hang in there and not get discouraged from practice “reports” coming from the local scribes who have consistently missed the mark on so many UCLA related issues over the years.

Elsewhere, in terms of injury Mike Harris (the backup RT) is going to be out “few weeks” due to a “high ankle sprain.” This sucks but again what are we going to do? We just have to deal with it and hope for the best. UCLA is not the only school in the country that is dealing with injury issues. It happens at Fall practice camps all over the country. The question is how our coaches and players deal with it. This is where players take their cues from their leader. Luckily for us we have someone in charge, who will remain relentlessly optimistic no matter how adverse situation he finds himself in. So don’t let all the concern trolling by the local media (and some fans) get you down.

We are going to OK.

GO BRUINS.

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