Spaulding Roundup: Focus On Prince, Duck's Offensive Line & Notes For UCLA Defense

Let's start our Hump day roundup by checking in with the latest on Kevin Prince. As mentioned on Monday Kevin will have x-rays taken today which according to the LA is "expected to be a mere formality." We can't take anything as a given of course until we officially get the word from UCLA.  Apparently he also underwent an x-ray on Monday too, per the LAT's report today, but "it was not seen by his doctor." Here is the latest from Chris Foster from the LAT:

"You could still see a little bit of the fracture," Prince said. "I don't know what it's supposed to look like three weeks after the fact. All I can tell you is that it's feeling better."

Better probably will be enough. The jaw, which was fractured in two places, will not be completely healed for at least two more weeks. But Prince will wear a helmet that covers more of the jaw area and was fitted for a special mouthpiece for his lower teeth.

Prince is back eating meals, with nearly all the rubber bands removed from his mouth. He lost about five pounds while his mouth was wired shut.

If you are looking for more details Gold from the Daily News has more on his meal plan in recent weeks:

"This sounds gross, and I didn't try it until Week 1 had past but ... beans, spinach, rice and salsa, all mixed up," said Prince, tongue-in-cheek for the first time in weeks after his jaw was wired shut. "I sipped it up like a smoothie. That was my lunch for four days straight."

The protein looked like it helped.

Well apparently as soon as he was given the green light to have solid food, Prince headed for Lawry's:

"It was outstanding," Prince said, "better than the beans."

I'd bet it was. As for how he looked in practice, it was somewhat of a mixed bag. As expected his rhythm and timing was a little off, but apparently he looked "comfortable" while completing three of four passes in a two minute drill. More from Jon Gold in the Daily News:

Prince was not perfect in his return, but he looked comfortable. His timing was off on select throws, but he moved well and did not appear to be skittish.

"I thought he was pretty good," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. "He still gets a little bit long in his stride and his accuracy diminishes a little bit. But I like Kevin. We'll wait and see what the X-rays say tomorrow, but I think he's ready to play."

Guess we will get the official word sometime this afternoon. Keep an eye on the news wire and blogs of local papers for breaking news. Whoever is going to be playing QB for UCLA this Saturday will surely be aware of the fact that he is going to be looking at an Oregon team, which just lost its second CB for the season. That doesn't mean UCLA's offense will all on a sudden explode against the Ducks given they have done a great job of battling through their injuries during their home stand. However, I am sure it will be a factor in the coaches' game plan as I imagine they will explore the ideas of testing out the Duck replacements. Real interesting subplots are going to be unfolding on the other side of the field. More on that after the jump.

While everyone is obsessive about QB health issues for both teams (I will end with a Masoli/Costa note below), what I am interested in finding out this week is how the Bruin front-7 handle the Oregon offensive line. On that note if you haven't done yet, I strongly recommend you listen to last night's BN podcast featuring ryebreadaz, ucla13_usc9, and jtlight from Addicted to Quack. Those guys drilled down their discussion focusing on the development of the Oregon OL, which has really come together in recent week. One of the key reason JT pointed to was the simple fact that they had the opportunity get comfortable in a four game home stand. John Hunt from the Oregonian pointed to this factor few weeks ago following their victory over Purdue:

"I know it was a big breath of fresh air to not have the crowd on our throats against Purdue and against Utah," sophomore right guard Mark Asper said. "It was real refreshing to have them behind us and not have to battle against that to start things out."

Oregon's seven-man offensive line rotation consists of three juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen. To steady the offense that has wobbled out of the gate, the Ducks have put an increasing emphasis on straight-ahead running. That simplicity combined with the comfort level of Autzen has done wonders for an offensive line that could not budge the ball in the season opener at Boise State.

After rushing for 31 yards at Boise, the Ducks ran for 193 against Purdue and, against a stronger Utah defense, rushed for 217 yards. Oregon (2-1) faces a nationally ranked opponent -- No. 6 California (3-0) -- on Saturday for the third time in four games, so it's comforting indeed the game is in Eugene.

Oregon coach Chip Kelly agrees this team benefits more than, say, last year's team and its senior-laden offensive line.

"I think so," Kelly said. "Obviously, we've played better at home than we have on the road. We'll address the road issue when we get back out on the road (at UCLA on Oct. 10)."

We all know what they went on to do to California and Washington State. More from the Albany Democrat-Herald on the Oregon OL coming together:

"We went from not doing very well at all to putting up 500 yards of offense for the past two games," Holmes said of victories against California and WSU. "We've grown quite a bit. We've gelled."

Holmes said his unit was sloppy against Washington State, with a few technique flaws. But those are easy to disguise against a weaker opponent.

With the line's growth, the passing game has benefitted as well as defenses slowly gravitate closer to the line of scrimmage in an effort to stop the run.

The Ducks averaged just 126 yards passing through three games but had 288 against Cal and another 195 versus the Cougars.

We will see how Bullough schemes against their offense on Saturday. As Rye pointed out in his podcast last night, last year Oregon did most of its damage when it racked up a ridiculous 323 yards on the ground by exploding through the middle. From what we have seen this year from our defense, they appear to be vulnerable on the other side.  Our DEs have not been completely up to speed and our LBs especially in their last two games have been finding themselves out of position from over pursuit.

It is going to be extremely important for Reggie as the defensive captain and the MLB who calls our signals to make sure he and his team mates put themselves in best position to handle the explosive Oregon running attack. We also have to worry about  senior TE Ed Dickson, who is leading the team in receptions (22), receiving yards (309) and TDs (4).  I think his matchup with Akeem is going to be very interesting to watch. Coming into this season we all have had high hopes for AA. He has had his moments. I thought he played a decent game against Stanford this past weekend. But I think this is the game in which he has an opportunity to make a name for himself and serve notice. His speed and athleticism could be the perfect antidote for Bullough against Kelly's spread offense. We will find out I guess.

Speaking of Oregon the injury of Masoli is becoming a big drama and story for local reporters to obsess over up in Eugene. However, their fans are not worried all too much. Browsing through the Oregon boards and blogs it's clear they expect Ducks to UCLA with Costa. John Canzano from the Oregonian sums it up:

Regardless, if you're an Oregon fan, you have to be happy that Costa is your back-up. He's got some experience, and some talent, and getting a good half of play against Washington State was a great tune-up for UCLA, if it comes to that.

Can the Ducks win games with Costa?

Yup.

Can they win big with him?

I'm not sold.

In other words with Costa in charge it's not a matter of whether they will beat up UCLA, it's just that they won't get to blow the Bruins out. Good to know.

On the other hand considering we are coming off a 4-8 season and got manhandled on defense for about three quarters against Stanford, I can see why folks up in Eugene are so comfortable heading into the Rose Bowl this weekend. I sure hope the UCLA defense gets that message.

GO BRUINS.

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