Neuheisel cancelled yesterday’s evening practice to "reward" his players for working their rear ends off this camp. They got some extra hours off and Norm Chow got to throw the first pitch in the Dodger game. So the Bruins officially begin their preparations for the first game today as all practices from here on are closed. But as Dohn reports today, apparently our coaches have been sneaky by getting our guys ready throughout the camp:
Truth be told, though, UCLA's offensive and defensive coordinators have been doing some Jedi mind tricks, putting pieces of the game plan in throughout training camp in anticipation of the 18th-ranked Volunteers' Sept. 1 visit to the Rose Bowl.
"We have about 20 percent in," Bruins offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. "As coaches, we've talked about it a lot, but we haven't talked about it much with the players."
Much of the concepts UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker will employ were implemented as he tries to predict how new Tennessee offensive coordinator Dave Clawson, who was formerly the coach at Richmond, will utilize Southeastern Conference talent.
"To be honest with you, the stuff that I knew we would use, we practiced all camp against our offense," Walker said. "Now, when we start preparing for (Tennessee), it's not going to be all foreign to the players."
However, individual players have been watching film on the Vols, and middle linebacker Reggie Carter said the focus is on stopping the running game. Tailback Arian Foster ran for 1,293 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, and the offensive line has size.
But Tennessee is breaking in a new quarterback, Jonathan Crompton.
"They definitely want to run the ball," Carter said. "(Foster) is a big, fast back. They have a nice offensive line, a couple of good receivers. The quarterback has (limited experience). We have to get to him, and make him beat us."
We will get more into the Volunteers starting next week. But needless to say huge part of our game plan is going to be figuring how to stop their running game. Not only is Foster a solid back, he is going to be running behind a pretty experienced and talented OL. So it will be imperative upon our DL to continue their success against the running game from last two years. And the two guys who will be the main pieces for Walker’s defensive scheme will be Brian Price and Brigham Harwell. The OC Register has a profile on our Midway Monsters, who Walker calls "Big Daddy & Little Daddy":
"Hopefully, they'll be as good as advertised," Walker said. "We're counting on them. We need those guys to have big years."
While coaches have tried to lower expectations at other positions – quarterback, offensive line and secondary spring to mind – nobody is backing off big talk when it comes to these two big men.
"I think we're the best tandem in the country," Harwell said.
Their position coach, Todd Howard, staked a similar claim. Howard thinks he has the best defensive line since he arrived in Westwood before the 2006 season and he has had the sack leader in each of his previous two years.
"I think they should be able to play the run as well as anybody's tackles in all of Division I," he said.
Their chemistry was forged in only a handful of practices, but they swear it's tangible. They eat lunch together at midday, then watch film together, then make life miserable for UCLA's rebuilding offensive line in the afternoon. Walker calls them Big Daddy and Little Daddy.
Independently, each says the other player is "like a brother."
Can’t wait to see these two in action. It never materialized last year due to Harwell’s injury and the time it took to get Price’s paperwork straightened out the first few weeks of his freshman season. The Bruin defensive game plan is going to begin and end with those two. If they can bottle up the running game, forcing the QBs to get it done through air, it will put lot of pressure on opposing Ds, and perhaps make it easier for our young secondary to attack the offense.
Speaking of our young secondary, Neuheisel and his coaches are going to announce soon who is going to redshirt and who will play this season. Here are Dohn’s projections based on what he has been hearing:
Will play this season
DB Rahim Moore, DE Datone Jones, WR Nelson Rosario, WR Antwon Moutra, TE Cory Harkey and RB Aundre Dean
May play this season
LB Sean Westgate, DB Tony Dye, DB Aaron Hester, RB Johnathan Franklin and WR Jerry Johnson
Likely to red-shirt
OL, Connor Bradford, OL Jeff Baca, LB Donovan Carter, RB Derrick Coleman, QB Nick Crissman, DE Damien Holmes, LB Patrick Larimore, RB Milton Knox, P Jeff Locke, QB Kevin Prince and S E.J. Woods
None of this is set in stone and could easily change based on injury and performance during games/practices. It is interesting to see Dantone Jones in the top list. He must have been having an impressive camp to make his move up the depth chart. Otherwise I don’t see any surprises.
Kevin Pearson from the Press Enterprise led of his report focusing on Aundre Dean, who has been learning to "stay down" as a college running back. After few ferocious hits from Walker’s crew, suffice to stay Dean is learning lesson at an accelerated pace.
Elsewhere on the injury front, Micah Kia was back at Spaulding yesterday. He wasn’t taking part in drills, but he might be close:
One day after breaking his left hand while blocking on a field-goal attempt, left tackle Micah Kia was back at practice but did not take part in team drills.
Kia said the hand felt as good as could be expected and he did not think it would sideline him for the Sept. 1 opener against Tennessee. He was in a short cast that also limited the mobility of his fingers, which could be the biggest factor in keeping him from playing.
"Hopeful would be the (best) word," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "He's going to be able to play. How effectively he can play, we'll have to wait and see."
Micah got to listen to this from Jay Z:
The coaches opened the practice yesterday with that tune. I am sure Kia and others got the message from the first line.
Gotta love the Jedi mind tricks.