Let's start the Humpday roundup by trying to close the loop on the hysteria and feeding frenzy started by two pre-emptive hit jobs by hack beat reporters from the Trojan Times and the OC Register. Chris Foster got the UCLA bashing party started by breathlessly reporting 3 starters were getting suspended in a curiously written article on Rick Neuheisel's program without any context. Then Scott Reid from the OC Register poured gasoline on Foster's fire by posting an erroneous and misinformation riddled "report" about 6 UCLA starters getting suspended for the Oregon game. That "report" of course spread all over creating a mass confusion about the program in Bruin Nation and around the country.
By the end of the day it turned out that UCLA was suspending only 2 players - Morrell Presley and Josh Smith - essentially proving those hacks' report much ado about nothing. Still those jerks kept pressing and kept looking for a story to push their predetermined narrative that Neuheisel cannot deal with off-field issues as the head coach of a football program. None of them issued an apology or retraction for their misinformation riddled reports. Instead they came out and kept pressing Rick Neuheisel during his post practice interview here:
Coach Neuheisel to his credit kept his calm dealing with these jerks even though they kept asking asinine questions. It is a good question right now in terms of how we as a community should be dealing with these clowns beyond not subscribing to their less than mediocre work products and lighting them up here and through our social media networks. If anyone has creative ideas, make sure you post them in comment threads. There has to be ways to expose these guys as bitter, mediocre, Bruin hating tradmed hacks, who are out there with a specific agenda to launch hit jobs on UCLA's athletic programs. More after the jump (including actual football notes) after the jump.
As you can see from the video above CRN mentioned during his comments that he let the team know that at UCLA when players cross line there will be consequences and that he would use these instances as teachable moment. As for the players, Presley at least in words is taking responsibility:
"As a young man, I tend to learn all my lessons the hard way," Presley said. "This comes along with it. I made a mistake, violated a rule, and I'm paying the price right now. ... I'm going to learn from mistakes. I never make the same mistake I've made before. I'm going to take this and grow as a man."
He better get it together fast. He is going to run out of chances very soon. He has had two suspensions now due to off-field issues and one due to academic reasons. I would think if he has one more off-field related issue, he shouldn't remain as part of UCLA. That is just me.
Josh Smith appeared more than contrite. He seemed emotional during his comments after practice which you can view through this video on BruinReportOnline.com (not behind a subscription firewall). It is nice to see the kid not showing any kind of victim complex and take responsibility. Let's hope he comes back from it strong.
Oh yeah, we actually have football notes to talk about. More on that after the jump. Before the frenzy over the suspension broke out, the talk was all about QB competition. Coach Neuheisel mentioned in his video above that he is looking for "consistency" from his QBs and want a healthy competition out at Spaulding. Here is how Peter Yoon from ESPNLA saw the QB "competition" play out yesterday:
- The open competition at quarterback officially began with Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut splitting most of the reps with the first and second teams. Brehaut appeared to take the early lead after Prince had two poorly thrown passes intercepted. Neuheisel said he hoped to have a decision by early next week. "I want consistency," Neuheisel said. "I want leadership. I want management and I want consistency. I don't think any coach in the country wants anything other than that. Big plays are wonderful, but we need to hit balls that we should hit."
- Offensive coordinator Norm Chow didn't sound too thrilled about the idea of having an open competition, saying he would rather pick one and stick with him. Prince would be his choice, he said. "Right now if we had to play, I'm sure it would be Kevin Prince," Chow said. "That's my opinion."
- Prince said the competition is just part of the job, especially with an offense that has struggled to move the ball through the air. "It's football. It's a competitive sport and just that we're going to have an open competition. That's fine. Me and Rich have both been there before in competitive spots and that's what football is all about."
Hmm. Chow's comments are a little curious I hope his comments are nothing more than an effort to light a fire under Richard Brehaut. However, I am not sure if the choice is clear cut any more about Prince being the best QB in our current roster. Perhaps a healthy Prince who had been 100 percent all season and never missed any action would be clearly ahead of Brehaut, but right now the picture is not as clear as Chow's comments make it seem to be. Still, as mentioned yesterday, I think the coaches need to stick with Kevin Prince for at least one more game.
Talked to a few guys about the status of the passing game, and the one good thing is that everyone is doling out and accepting blame. This really is a team-wide issue, and you get the feeling that they ALL feel the heat. I have to say, I'm impressed by the way that Kevin Prince has handled this criticism. I'll have a good interview with him up later.
Looking forward to hearing what Prince had to say. Gold's videos are always pretty interesting to watch and add lot more context and color in our understanding of what goes on with the program.
Meanwhile, the situation at cornerback is interesting:
Andrew Abbott and Courtney Viney worked as first-team cornerbacks today, particularly of interest because only Sheldon Price is hurt, so that means Viney leapfrogged Aaron Hester. With Hester's performance, I wouldn't consider it a surprise, but I am a bit surprised that they actually made the move. Viney was great in practice last week, especially on Wednesday, and I've had many tell me they think he's the best cover corner on the team. This is a guy who started Week 2 last season before getting the one-game suspension, and he locked down Tennessee wideouts. This could be a really interesting adjustment.
Not sure if anyone has picked up on this. As much heat as we have brought on Chuck Bullough, I really appreciate the fact that our defensive coaches seem lot more aggressive in testing out different personnel and packages than our offensive counterparts. Of course it doesn't mitigate the fact that Bullough remains deficient in terms of aggressive game planning and scheming (based on what we see on gamedays). Still it is something of note.We saw this willingness to shake up personnel in their decision to give Owa and Graham starts at DEs last weekend.
Of course the latest moves at CB was brought on by injury issues.FWIW if you watched the entire CRN video posted above he mentioned that Sheldon Price's MRI came out negative and that he would "not rule him out" for the Oregon game. While I like Viney and Abbott, I still think it would be interesting to try Tony Dye out at CB. Dye started out at UCLA as a nickel back and I think could be a good option there, allowing coaches to insert Dietrich Riley at SS.
As for other personnel issues, Neuheisel mentioned Damien Thigpen will be the kick returner (replacing Josh Smith). Thigpen will also get a lot of look at F-Back and it appears that Anthony Barr (who is out with a calf strain) might be ready to get back in practice by this weekend. We will keep our fingers crossed
All of these issues and other notes will be discussed in detail later tonight when Ryan and 03rdn9 get our weekly podcast fired up at 7 pm PST. You should tune in at the time and fire away any question you might want to chat up with them. Sooner or later we will get our attention on the Ducks, once we are done cutting through all the BS flung at UCLA from the tradmed hacks posing as our beat reporters. Hopefully the podcast will be the perfect pivot point to get back to just discussion football. Tune in at 7 TONIGHT.