Spaulding Roundup: Starter Edition

jlegs already blogged the story early this am. We have a starter and the news is not a surprise to anyone who has been following our practice reports on a day to day basis:


Craft during scrimmage action. Photo Credit: dabruins07's photostream (flickr)

Neuheisel and Chow are going with Craft. Lonnie White (the former Trojan alum/UCLA beat writer who must have been subbing for Chris Foster out at Spaulding) from the LAT has comments from Neuheisel and his new starting QB:

"Kevin has earned it with consistent play," said Neuheisel about Craft, a junior college transfer getting his opportunity after senior Ben Olson suffered a foot injury at the start of training camp. "He has the best mastery of the offense at this point. The kids took it well, and they are all in his corner pushing for him."

Craft, who began his college career at San Diego State and then played at Mt. San Antonio College before transferring to UCLA in the spring, did not seem surprised with the news.

"Obviously, I'm real excited, but I understand that we still have to work hard," said Craft, who passed for 4,231 yards and 44 touchdowns last season playing for his father, Tom, at Mt. SAC.

For his part, Forcier is taking the news in stride:

"I'm not reading anything into it," Forcier said. "I'm trying to keep getting better every day. Kevin's doing a good job out there. I'm going to keep proving myself. We're battling out there. It doesn't mean the job is closed. Competition is a good thing. Anything can happen. You saw that with Pat (Cowan) and Ben (Olson). I have to be prepared."

Craft is UCLA's third starting quarterback for the 2008 season, and the Bruins have yet to play a game. Cowan was named the starter, then suffered a season-ending knee injury in the spring, and Olson is on crutches and out with a broken right foot. Craft will take the majority of the snaps now as UCLA begins its preparations for Tennessee on Thursday.

Forcier needs reps for improvement, but his reps will be curtailed.

"I was very impressed with (Forcier) and continue to be," Neuheisel said. "I won't bat an eye if I need be to put him in the game, because I think he'll make something good happen. I just want him to know more. I want him to be an expert. I want him to be able to teach a class on UCLA offense. I don't think he's ready to do that."

Reading between the lines, I get the sense Neuheisel sat down with both of these guys before going public with the announcement, and explained to them the thought process behind the coaches’ decisions. From their comments it sure sounds like all of them are in the same page as they know what coaches are expected from them and how they can’t afford to relax because the formality of announcing a starter, doesn’t mean competition stops at Spaulding.

As for Craft’s immediate guru – Norm Chow – he laid out what he is expecting from his young QB in the coming weeks:

For offensive coordinator Norm Chow, the goal is to now get Craft ready to lead UCLA's young offense against the Volunteers on Sept. 1.

"I think that [Craft] has known since Ben went down, that the job would be his if he performed as he should," Chow said. "Hopefully, he'll step up and do what he has to do."

And where does Craft need the most improvement?

"Making quick decisions," Chow said. "He has to get the ball out to help the offensive line a little bit. . . . You don't have to throw a touchdown pass on every down. He's improving in that area."

And more from CRN on how Kraft has a "long way to go" to turn into a "finished product":

"He's got a nice command of the offense, and given his experience - since he's been under the lights before - the effort he's put forth and the throws he's made," Neuheisel said. "That doesn't mean he's error-free. It doesn't mean he's a finished product. I think he has a long way to go. I think he's capable of getting there."

While the coaches are methodically sorting out the QB situation, Bob Palcic continues to look for the best combination among the guys up front:

Nate Chandler was back from a foot injury Monday and worked out with the first team at right tackle, while Nick Ekbatani moved from right tackle to left guard.

Offensive line coach Bob Palcic is still tinkering with the line since he hasn't found a combination he likes.

"I'm still looking for the five best players," Palcic said. "That may continue to change until I feel totally comfortable that the five best are out there. It could be any time. I just really don't know. We'll keep the competition level high and keep working these guys hard. Eventually, we'll develop into a cohesive unit."

In addition to developing them into a cohesive unit, Palcic is also looking for a leader:

Offensive line coach Bob Palcic said his unit knows its assignments but has yet to consistently carry them out. He is also looking for a leader.

"I can't create one," Palcic said. "Someone has to take the bull by the horns and become the leader."

Hopefully someone will step up as they continue to grind it out every day. This is not going to happen over night. It’s going to happen through repetition, dedication, commitment, and total focus and attention to some of the best coaches in the game.


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