Spaulding Roundup: Fire/Weather Updates, Borges' Balance & Other Bruin Notes

Bruin defense needs to be ready for SDSU's power running game. Photo Credit: dabruins07 (flickr)

We should find out sometime today whether we will have a game to play this Saturday. I started my morning by checking the AQMD website. It looks like the air quality around Pasadena is still in the "unhealthy for sensitive groups" category. However, the AQI value keeps dropping. It is around 117 as of right now. It was around 135 yesterday afternoon and actually somewhere around 340 2-3 days ago.  FWIW per the 10 day forecast on weather.com, the temperature projection for Pasadena area is trending downward (oh oh ... this weather forecasting gig seems to be just as easy as writing columns for the LA Times). Also, note this game is scheduled for late afternoon/early evening. We are not scheduled for a noon time kickoff. Remember the Michigan game from few years ago when everyone baked for few hours in the hot Pasadena sun in near 100 degree temperature? It can't be that bad on Satuday. Can it?

Anyway, it seems to be getting better. For purely selfish Bruin reasons, I want this game to be on. However, we will leave it up to the pros to make the right decision that is in the best interest of the greater Los Angeles. On to notes around this game.

We have talked a lot about how Prince and co. will handle Rocky Long's 3-3-5 defense. Don't forget about the other former Bruin coordinator who was here during the good times of that 20 game winning streak. Borges is leading Brady Hoke's offense down in San Diego and he is going coming in with a balanced approach on offense:

Like the Chargers, who had nearly a 50-50 run-pass ratio last year, Borges wants to be equally strong running and throwing. Last year, the SDSU quarterback usually lined up in a shotgun formation and passed the ball on 63 percent of its plays. This year, SDSU has emphasized a power running game. It's nothing like his offense at Portland State, where he ran the ball far less often.

By being able to pound the ball on runs, SDSU and new head coach Brady Hoke hope to avoid the "finesse" reputation the 49ers earned with frequent short passes underneath defensive coverage.

"We have to think aggressively," Borges said. "Coach Hoke is a tough guy who wants a tough defense and a tough offense. I'm the same way, but by the same token, we know we're not going to live every game by trying to run everybody over. So there has to be a certain part of finesse to our offense too."

He says the perfect offense has a delicate balance between "physicality" and "finesse." The goal is to run and pass well enough that the defense can't gang up on either. That way, the defense won't know what's coming and might be caught lead-footed on fake handoffs.

The task for Borges is to be able to do many things well in order to increase his unpredictability. The risk is trying to do too many things and not being very good at any of them. More importantly, none of it matters if the offensive line isn't good enough to give time and room for the quarterback and running back.

"The main base of everything is the line," Lindley said. "That's where it starts."

Hmm. That approach doesn't sound much different than the discussions we have had wrt to UCLA offense for last two years. More on the SDSU offense and other notes after the jump.

You think Kevin Prince is going to be under a lot of pressure. I think we can say the same about Ryan Lindley. The sophomore QB might have to carry the Aztecs offense on Saturday. With their starting tailback out, they might be looking at a running back rotation featuring a freshman tailback:

Freshman running back Anthony Miller has a chance to start at tailback for San Diego State in Saturday's season opener at UCLA. Head coach Brady Hoke said yesterday he's one of three candidates to get the call, including juniors Brandon Sullivan and Davon Brown.

Hoke said SDSU could have a rotation of three backs, with the starter being the "bell cow" of the group unless another back gets hot and earns more carries.

Miller's status as a possible starter signals that he at least will be part of that rotation while senior tailback Atiyyah Henderson remains sidelined with a fractured bone in his back. It also shows Miller has emerged among the three true freshman running backs. The other two — Walter Kazee and Ronnie Hillman — also are expected to travel to the opener and play this year.

Miller "probably at this time is the most polished of the younger guys," Hoke said. "He's not the fastest of them, but he is a tough runner with the ball. For a bigger guy, he has the ability to make a shadow cut and has good balance."

Two things might work in Miller's favor for the starting job against UCLA: Sullivan has been limited in practice recently because "bumps and bruises." Miller and Sullivan also are considered the team's two best "power" backs — big players who can drag or run over defenders. SDSU has been emphasizing the power running game all preseason.

Having a power back "is a position we need right now in this offense," quarterback Ryan Lindley

I am sure Price, Jerzy, Jones, Bosworths, Carer and Ayers have been taking notes over Sullivan and Miller. The problem is they probably don't have any game tapes on Miller, who was at Dallas Carter High School in Texas last year. Then again going up against someone like Derrick Coleman at practice every day might also serve as pretty good preparation for getting ready for a big, brusiing power running back.

Speaking of practices, despite the tough weather conditions, apparently UCLA had a solid practice out at Spaulding yesterday:

"I have a routine of what we call the perfect Thursday," Neuheisel said. "For the first game of the year, I always plan two Thursday practices. This was my best first Thursday practice. Hopefully (today) will be indicative of where we are. I just thought that concentration was good and guys were on it and into it."
Surprising, because a cloud hung over their heads Wednesday.

A cloud of ash.

While not nearly toxic as the air directly over the Los Angeles fire, Neuheisel made mention of the poor practice conditions during the hot, muggy day.

The players knew about the possibility of a postponement of Saturday's season opener against San Diego State at the Rose Bowl. They played throughout practice wondering if they were even preparing for the right team.

Still, Neuheisel said the players were entirely focused on San Diego State, pushing thoughts of a postponementto the back of their minds.

"We're 100 miles an hour going toward game day," Neuheisel said. "I think our confidence level is where it ought to be. A lot of nervous anxiety, guys playing for the first time. It will be here before we know it."

That's encouraging because in last two years I haven't ususally heard CRN satisfied with practices all the time as he has complained about lack of intensity and sloppiness (that was especially the case a lot this past season). Keeping fingers crossed for some good news wrt to game decision today.

With season around the corner the local rags have come out with their season previews. You can check out the previews from the LA Times and the Daily News here and here.

Lastly, speaking of the Daily News, they have made Jon Gold (who I think has done a great job to date as Dohn's interim replacement) their regular beat write. He is very excited about it and has some fun things planned for the "Inside UCLA" blog. Our hope is Jon Gold's long term performance is much better than last UCLA athletics related figure who shed the "interm" tag to become a permanent fixture (I won't mention his name). Good luck Jon.

GO BRUINS.

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