The "pass protection" from UCLA's OL this season has been non-existent
We have talked a lot about our pathetic play at QBs. We have discussed our atrocious defensive scheming to death. Yet I think we haven't really looked at the key reason our team completely imploded in Berkeley: the horrid and wretched play of the "Filthy Five." Our offensive line deservedly has gotten a lot of praise for their performance until the Cal game. What Coach Bob Palcic did with his rag tag group of seniors was nothing short of remarkable. Yet ultimately they were exposed on Saturday despite the efforts made by our offensive staff to mask their deficiencies through the zone blocking scheme underpinning the pistol offense. I think this is really the heart of the problem that ails our program and it goes back to the previous coaching staff.
Of course we are not going to shy away from holding Coach Rick Neuehisel accountable if he fails to adjust and adapt to the problems at hand and if he doesn't make moves to address issues on our defensive front and the dumbfounding personnel decisions we are seeing on the offensive side. However, we have to also recognize the cards he is playing with. The issue with the attrition of our OL is well chronicled on this blog (you can click on various tags attached to this post to jog your memory from the pre-season and off season). Ultimately it was our out-manned OL made up of bunch of rag tag seniors that exposed this team on Saturday.
The crew of Sean Sheller, Darius Savage, Ryan Taylor, Eddie William and Mike Harris were destroyed in Berkeley. Frankly they were embarrassing. Their pass protection was a joke and it brought back the horrid memories of Rick Neuheisel's first season in Westwood. They couldn't give Kevin Prince time to throw, which also had an impact on giving our receivers enough time to separate themselves. Their run blocking effort was just as bad as they looked physically overpowered. Honestly I am not sure how much of that was lack of effort or how much of it was just lack of talent that ultimately got exposed by the Bears.
Since the OL failed to anchor the offense we did nothing to control the clock and it snowballed into rest of the team and resulted in a total meltdown. The problem is I am not sure whether there is any quick cure to this problem. We are well aware of the attrition issues at OL. It is going to take another year or two before we develop a fully stocked OL roster. So the question is whether the OL can get back to serviceable level of performance. They did ok against a mediocre Kansas State and Houston front-7. They dominated an atrocious Washington State team and frankly surprised and snuck up on the Long Horns.
The question now is whether they can at least hold their own against rest of the Pac-10? If we don't have a good answer to this question, I am not sure how much it matters who leads us at QB and how many adjustments we make on the defensive side. At the very least, I think the coaches should wait another game before even deciding to make a switch to Richard Brehaut. The focus next 10 days should be to rebuild the confidence of this OL, our RBs, and then given Kevin Prince one more shot against the Ducks to put together a credible performance as our starting QB. If Prince doesn't get it done, then the coaches should make the switch to Brehaut when they come home for two games.
Otherwise for now, if we were to look into the complexities of the problems around our football program, it kind of begins and ends with our offensive line. If these guys don't get it together fast, then it is going to be a long struggle for rest of this season. Guess we weren't kidding when we used to write Karl Dorrell was setting UCLA football program back an entire decade. It is going to take a while to get out of the abyss created by his mismanagement. Of course that doesn't excuse some of the other issues that Rick Neuehisel needs to correct and address. However, it is imperative for us to appreciate the key issue while attempting to understand the complex issues around a program that had been mismanaged for almost a decade.