Spaulding Roundup: Jumpstarting The Ground Game, Locker's Readiness & Other Notes

JetSki is looking to replicate the performance in his last appearance at the Rose Bowl. Photo Credit: Telemachus

Let's start today's roundup with a focus on our offense. We have talked a lot about Kevin Prince and our passing game getting it going in the fourth quarter of Oregon State game. While we are all anxious to see whether or not Prince can pick up where he left off, we hope the ground game gets back in the groove after having a big day against Cal two weekend ago at the Rose Bowl. For Norm Chow's offense to really get going in Westwood, we will desperately need balance. So far this season we haven't had a game during which both the running and passing game are clicking on all cylinders.

Bruin offense will get that opportunity against the Huskies, who are bringing a defense that is second worst in the conference in stopping the rush and 7th in pass defense. JetSki and his team-mates know that they need to show more consistency. From the Daily News:

"Definitely we need to establish the run; it tires down the (opposing) team, it opens up the pass, it makes the holes a lot bigger in the third and fourth quarter," Franklin said. "Just moving the ball positively is always a good thing, whether it's a long run, short run, whatever."

The problem with the running game hasn't been the long runs.

Last season, behind a shoddy offensive line, the Bruins had just two long runs, one for 44 yards by leading rusher Kahlil Bell and a 40-yard gain by then-freshman Derrick Coleman.

UCLA has four long bursts this year, with Franklin's 74-yard dash against the Bears being the benchmark.

What hurts the Bruins are the difficult short gains, articularly the inability to convert the crucial third-and-short.
"We just have to produce more," senior fullback Chane Moline said. "When our number is called, we have to put confidence in our coaches to call more, especially on third downs and fourth and inches. We can definitely improve on it week to week."

The running game has been an emphasis in practice throughout the week, with coaches trying to get the team to be more physical. 

As Neuheisel noted in the same piece it will take a total team effort for our offense to kick start the running game on Saturday:

"Part of it is because of the good defenses we're playing, part is because we've been behind in games and haven't had as many opportunities to run the ball," Neuheisel said. "But also, we have to face the facts that we have to block better and set up the run better. It's a total team effort to correct the running game."

In terms of blocking keep a close eye on our recievers. I don't believe they have given us a consistent effort this season in that department. I am hoping this area will get better in our last four games.

The best thing that can happen for our offense on Saturday is if Prince and co. can come out and get a get in a rhythm early. I think that will soften up the defense, allowing Chow to try stretching them out with the speed of JetSki, Knox and Thigpen. The hopeful part of me thinks that we will be able to pick up where we left off on Sat. We will have to wait and see. More after the jump.

Meanwhile, up in Seattle it looks all but official that Locker is going to be ready on Saturday. From Bob Condotta in the Seattle Times reported that the Washingotn QB "looked just fine" as he "took every snap" during Wednesday's practice. For some reason Sarkasian is still trying to be coy about who is going to start:

UW coach Steve Sarkisian said he was still not ready to say Locker will start or play against UCLA Saturday.

Said Sarkisian: "I thought he moved better today. My big thing with all injuries, especially with something like this, is how they respond. We asked him to move a little more today than we did yesterday. The key for me is how he responds tomorrow. I'll be able to make a better assessment Thursday in how he responded from today.''

Asked about Locker's workload, he said it was "pretty much'' the same as normal. "We put Ronnie in for a few more plays than normal, but for the most part, it was about the same.''

Asked if he was surprised by Jake's ability to move around, he said "No. Like everything, I don't try and make expectations based on hope. I just go with what I see and the facts. I don't try and expect things in hoping for them. I kind of wait and see what they look like.''

Asked how his recovery is going, Sarkisian said: "He got through yesterday fine with a little bit of movement. He came back today and moved better, which was encouraging. We asked him to move more, he moved better. Now the key is going to be tomorrow to see how he responds.''

Asked if he still intends for it to be a game-time decision, he said: "I'd rather it not be. I'd rather, for the sake of our football team, to be able to make that decision so everyone know where we're at, one way or another. If it comes to that, it comes to that.''

Yeah, Ok. Whatever. Obvious no one is going to buy those public comments. I think we can reasonable expect UCLA coaches to totally disregard that kind of coachspeak.

As for other injury related knows Morrell Presley suffered a shoulder sprin after getting lit up free safety Dalton Hillard. Randal Carroll also left the practice with a groin injury. No updates on those guys. It looks like Aaron Hester is going to be out for a while after making his attempt to come back last weekend. From the LA Times:

Hester is expected to have an X-ray today.

"It doesn't feel broken, it's just real tender," Hester said. "I can't do anything explosive off it.

"They told me if I didn't practice [Wednesday] that I wouldn't play this week. It stinks, but I don't want to shatter my leg."

Well at this point I rather have the coaches use as much caution as possible with Hester. They were doing it to begin with yet the beat reporters were playing up the stories about Hester's frustrations from being out and how the coaches were not working him back into the mix. It sure looks like coaches in this case were doing the right thing by taking the cautious route all along.

Lastly, Jon Gold has a a huge story on ATV missing out on a potential game winning interception (potential pick 6) last weekend in Corvallis.  Not sure I want to dwell over it. ATV is a great Bruin. I really believe he will have more chances to do something special during the last 4 regular season games of his great Bruin career. He is just one of many reasons to stick with our team during this month of Novermber. Hopefully it will be one we remember (for all the right reason) for a long time.

GO BRUINS.

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