Let's start the Friday with a quick update on the QBs. Coaches are just being funny at this point with the curious reporters (and fans like us who are trying to hang on to their every word). First, here is Chip Kelly addressing the QB situation following yesterday's practice. Note Kelly's differing takes on UCLA and Oregon's QB's situation:
For the Ducks, quarterback Jeremiah Masoli (right knee) suited up for the second consecutive day but again participated in a limited role. Kelly said he would wait until he watched Masoli’s practice throws on film to make an evaluation on his play.
Quarterback Nate Costa worked with the first unit for the fourth consecutive day and is on track to make his first career start Saturday at the Rose Bowl. But Kelly made it a point to not name a starter, using the word "if."
"Nate’s had a real good week of practice," Kelly said. "Both Nate and Darron (Thomas) have had a good week of practice. Obviously they’ve gotten the predominant amount of reps. If Nate has to go on Saturday, I’m excited for him."
Contrast that to Kelly’s reaction to a question about the "wait and see" availability of UCLA quarterbacks Kevin Prince and Kevin Craft. The depth chart still lists the starter as Prince "or" Craft, but various reports indicate that Prince will take the first snap after being cleared to play by doctors. Prince has missed the past two games with a fractured jaw.
"Kevin Prince is going to play quarterback," Kelly said, quickly dismissing the mystery. "We know who's playing quarterback down there. He’s practiced all week."
Just like Costa has practiced all week for the Ducks.
Down in Westwood CRN had the following thoughts:
"I haven't heard Coach Kelly calling and telling me what they're going to do," Neuheisel said. "We'll prepare for Oregon, regardless of who's taking snaps."
And as for Prince?
"Norm (Chow) and I will talk about it and see exactly what we think," Neuheisel said. "I'm not ready to say, yet."
Just two weeks ago, Neuheisel declined to designate a starting quarterback as UCLA prepared for Kansas State, even though Kevin Craft was clearly in line to get the nod.
Prince, who was cleared to play Wednesday from the broken jaw that has kept him out the past two games, took the first-team repetitions for the third day in a row. The redshirt freshman said earlier in the week he felt his timing still needed work.
"I thought he was good today," Neuheisel said. "I thought he was better."
That's good to know. Meanwhile, the reporters have been really digging into Prince's eating out schedules all week. Yesterday we found out via Jon Gold that apparently he had steak at Lawry's after he was given the go ahead to eat solid food. Now Ted Miller reports breathlessly that Prince "was able to hit a local Persian restaurant for a couple of beef kabobs," in "between the doctor's appointment and a team meeting." I wonder if he went to Shamshiri (not sure if that place is still around but that was good stuff back in the day). I miss that place. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah Kevin Prince and how he is going to handle a surging Oregon defense that has been dominant the last two weeks. Let's jump over the flip.
So Ted Miller actually does provide some substance to his post beyond the report of Prince gourging down some beef kabobs. He wrote about Prince perhaps adding another dimension to the Bruin offense with a down field thret and also noted the Bruin's mindset following the loss against Stanford:
The general feeling, though, is Prince, the quarterback of the future, gives the Bruins a better chance to get the downfield passing game going, which stagnated against Stanford.
That won't be easy, though. The Oregon defense has been outstanding the last two weeks, surrendering only nine points combined to California and Washington State. The Ducks rank 20th in the nation in pass defense and are third in the Pac-10 with 13 sacks.
The Ducks like to gang up on the run and challenge a quarterback with unpredictable pressure. It's tough for any quarterback, but particularly for a redshirt freshman coming back from a major injury.
On the other hand, the Ducks lost a second starting cornerback -- Willie Gasper, who replaced Walter Thurmond -- for the season this week. They might be vulnerable in the secondary.
The more general measure for the Bruins is how they respond to their first loss. Both Prince and Neuheisel said the locker room after the Stanford game was more unhappy than they remembered it after any of the eight defeats in 2008. That might be a good thing.
"I'm pleased with the reaction to defeat," Neuheisel said. "Now it's got to manifest itself in some urgency to take care of the details so we play a cleaner game this weekend."
Guess we will see how the react on Saturday. For their part coaches are talking about the idea of working in the speed and athleticism of some of our freshmen. Chris Foster from the LA Times has CRN and Chow's thoughts on working in Presley, Carroll and Thigpen into our offense:
"I would love for them to step up," Neuheisel said. "I'm hopeful we can become a more explosive team. But we can't force that issue."
Presley has already found a niche in the offense, and has four receptions, but only for 34 yards. He remains a part of the receiver rotation, but Neuheisel said, "Carroll will be part of the plan."
Carroll is a two-time California state champion in the 100 meters, but his one reception was for seven yards. He was among the four players suspended one game for violating team rules, which set him back.
But his speed continues to tantalize coaches and he has received more time with the first and second teams this week.
"He brings a lot of quickness, he's fast," offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. "He can stretch the field. We need him to play. His understanding of what we're trying to accomplish has improved. I think that little suspension really hurt him. He's a proud guy. He has come back more determined than ever to learn the offense." [...]
"We thought Damien earned few more chances with the way he played at Stanford last week," Neuheisel said. "We're trying to try to keep the RB position as competitive as we can."
Well we certainly saw what Thigpen can do in open spaces. We will see how much in rhythm Kevin Prince is on Saturday. I think it will be a matter of getting the ball to athletes like these guys in open spaces and hitting them in stride so that they can just go. It's something that will take a while. Don't think the chemistry is going to develop right away. That is why it was a bummer that Prince went down with injury because the coaches could have used him in Kansas State game to really open up the offense. But that is college football. Injuries are big part of it and we just have to deal. Hopefully there will be opportunities on Saturday which Prince and his team-mates will be able to pounce on.
Speaking of injuries, Ted Miller has a write up on the Oregon secondary, which is dealing with it's own injury issues. Rob Mosely has more on Oregon's injury noes. Apparently number of their players have been out from illnesses this week (although none of the players have been tested positive for H1N1). On our end ATV had flu this week but was at practice yesterday and ready to go on Saturday. Also, one guy who knows all about coming back from and dealing with injuries is Oregon QB Nate Costa. Jeff Smith from the Oregonian, has a good write up on Costa's "long journey" which is well worth a read.
Hopefully, Costa's journey is going to hit a rough bump this Saturday. Akeem Ayers will have to play a major role in making that happen. The LAT has a profile on Akeem Ayers, the Bruin LB who might be the most gifted athlete in the Bruin front-7 but still needs to find a way to play within control a bit so that he doesn't pick up costly penalties. He did have a huge game against the Ducks last year in Eugene. So, an inspired performance from him this Saturday, could kickstart our defense again.
Should be pretty clear by now that the Bruins are being viewed as underdogs by everyone else outside the UCLA world. This is another opportunity to make a statement to rest of the Pac-10. As CRN said above hopefully the guys will come out and play with a sense of urgency, setting the tone early on and play a clean game for the entire four quarters on Saturday.
Lastly, how about those Dodgers and Halos! Not a bad way at all to get the sports weekend going this weekend in El Laaay. Hopefully the trend of Southern California homecook continues tomorrow at the Rose Bowl.