Spaulding Roundup: Working Out The Kinks

So yesterday we blogged about how much Chow is always in a teaching mode at Spaulding field. The early reports from camp on Olson are somewhat encouraging. Chris Foster from the LAT leads today’s story focusing on Big Ben. Olson is having his share of up and down moments, but he is working through the kinks:

There was the Big Ben, lofting a pass worthy of a how-to video, that wide receiver Taylor Embree snagged for a long gain during seven-on-seven drills. Later it was the other guy, as Olson forced a pass into coverage that was intercepted by linebacker Akeem Ayers.

This is the daily drill, as Olson prepares for his final season.

He is learning from a fourth offensive coordinator -- though it is quarterback guru Norm Chow -- while trying to work himself into shape playing on a sore right foot.

"Some days it feels better than others," Olson said. "You're not going to feel great playing football. It's just one of those things you got to deal with and I felt we did some good things today."

Always a glass-is-half-full guy, Olson added, "We got to work through our kinks. I am encouraged where we're going and what we're doing. We have made a lot of mistakes, but we have shown signs of improvement."

What’s important is Olson’s health. Right now from the report it seems clear (as Olson admitted himself to Foster) that he is not totally recovered yet and “not in good shape” as he works through to get back to 100 percent. And it was a little bit disconcerting when he told a reporter that he had “no plans of informing the coaches that he was too hurt to practice.” As CRN said couple of days ago Olson needs “police himself” and “has to be honest” with the coaches about his foot so that if he is feeling sore the coaches can “back him down.”

Still coaches are encouraged by what they are seeing from Olson. Here are Chow’s impressions in Dohn’s report:

"He's doing a nice job. He really is," Chow said of Olson. "When he's in sync, he's a real good player. And that has to work. Everything has to be in rhythm."

And Neuheisel gave a little hint of the matrix he is using to evaluate Olson’s performance in these first days:

"He's sore," Neuheisel said. "I guess that's to be expected when scar tissue breaks from healing, but he's pushing through it. Hopefully he'll get to be the consistent player we need him to be."

Still, Neuheisel was clear that, "I don't mind if the foot is the reason for the non-sharpness. But I do mind when it's his decision-making. The key is for him to stay as consistent as he can be in his decision-making, so we can count on where the ball is going to go and know that it is going to go in the proper place."

Reading through the lines I get the impression that Olson should not put too much pressure on him mentally. He should certainly not be paying attention to reporters concern trolling (pretending to know what is going through the minds of UCLA fans) about how he has to take total command of this offense.

As CRN laid out above he needs to be honest himself and his coaches with his health so he can look out for the long term interests of both himself and his team. So while he is working through the kinks and going through the ups and downs, he needs to make sure he is making right decisions in concert with his coaches. I think we have to appreciate the kind of trauma this kid (and all of his team mates on offense) has gone through last three years at UCLA. I still cannot get over yesterday’s story about last year’s team not varying their snap counts, tipping off the defense on pretty much every play. As one of the commentators noted the predictable offense probably led to atrocious performance of our OL which led to opposing DLs/LBs blowing through huge holes and gunning for the tackling dummies in our backfield. One has to wonder whether kids like Olson or Cowan would have been so battered and bruised up if the offensive received competent coaching last few years.

Anyway, the coaches seem to be aware of what Olson and others have gone through and they are doing everything to make sure he is not just healed up physically, but also mentally as which will hopefully turn him into a better QB and a team-mates. From Dohn:

Chow gave Olson the book "The Inner Game of Tennis," by Tim Gallwey, as a summer reading assignment.

According to the book's Web site, it is "a revolutionary program for overcoming the self-doubt, nervousness, and lapses of concentration that can keep a player from winning."

"I got a lot out of it," Olson said. "It's based on, 'You have to take care of your responsibilities.' That's what you have to understand as a quarterback. I have to execute what I'm asked to do, and you have the confidence and faith in your teammates that they're going to execute what they're supposed to do in order for you to be successful."

Chow said he became familiar with the book when one of his sons began playing tennis.

"I think it has a lot of life's lessons," Chow said. "It's, 'I can't look at my teammate and say you screwed up.' It's how to allow yourself to be successful and work hard."

I am sure all the Lakers (and Chicago Bulls) fans will automatically start thinking of a certain basketball coach after reading that story. Good stuff.

Now moving on to our defense Walker is working to sort out his secondary. According to Dohn’s post yesterday right now first team has Norris and Verner at CB, and Ware and Moore as safeties.  Norris is still holding “steady” according to Walker:

"I think (Norris) has been steady," Walker said. "When you look at a guy like him and Ware, a guy that really hasn't taken a series, they had a solid spring and are starting with a solid camp. As long as they can continue to play solid, it's going to be a big boost for us."

Walker said Courtney Viney and Aaron Hester will continue to compete with Norris at cornerback, and Tony Dye will continue to get looks at safety. And Walker added Moore was performing better than Glenn Love at strong safety.

"Rahim Moore, I think he's really outplayed Glenn Love to an extent, but there's still competition there," Walker said. "We have to get Viney and Hester and Dye, those guys are critical. We're on the clock for the first game because those guys are going to have to play."

I still wonder how long Morris can hold of a kid like Hester and I am surprised that Moore has been able to go ahead of Love so early despite the head start Love had last Spring. Would be interesting in hearing impressions from folks who have been at Spaulding because just be reading from the clips it seems like Moore is something special. Guess we will have to find out when he lines up against the Volunteers.

One kid who is not going to leave the field against Volunteers is Kyle Bosworth, whose improvements in pass defending ability as a Will LB has made him a mainstay at least in the eyes of Walker:

The weak side linebacker will be a mainstay in the lineup this season for the Bruins in large part because of his ability to defend the pass.

Walker typically runs an extreme amount of the nickel package, meaning a linebacker has to come off the field and be replaced by a defensive back. But Bosworth focused on improving his pass coverage in the spring and summer and has shown a marked improvement in the early stages of training camp.

The nephew of former NFL linebacker Brian Bosworth, Kyle Bosworth said that he focused on his footwork and hip flexibility in an effort to improve his coverage skills. Early in his career, he was frequently beaten by receivers.

"I've been working on it for a while, but over spring I showed that I knew my stuff," Bosworth said. "I think he saw that. It was a slow process for me. I felt like I should have played a long time ago, but it's all right."

Kyle and his team-mates get back to Spaulding Field today at 3 pm and they are going to be in full pads tomorrow when they practice from 4:30-6:45 pm.

Once again thanks to Menelaus for those great shots from yesterday. As always if you are out there please feel free to let us in on your fun by sharing pictures and notes on how our boys are working through the kinks.

GO BRUINS.

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