Bruins had their first practice of this game week yesterday with two more coming up today and tomorrow. Let's check in with the team's state of mind and notes coming out of practices. At this point no one is going to give the Bruins much of a shot against a 6-1 Arizona team, coming in with a very good defense. In fact if you look through the numbers linked up earlier this week, Arizona is number one in scoring defense, number one in rushing defense, number two in passing defense and number one in total defense. Their offense is not too shabby with a very experienced OL that helps keep their engine running no matter who is calling the shots at QB.
Still even though the Bruins are going to be obvious underdogs, I think we could have a shot in this game if our guys rally behind our coaches, respond to the home coming game, and come out and play inspired ball with something to prove following the last two debacles. If the defense can hold the Arizona offense in the 20s, I think we could have a shot if Richard Brehaut takes another step as the new leader of this football team. That brings me to this write-up on Brehaut in the LA Times, in which Chris Foster for once wrote a profile while minimizing his usual snark (taking potshots at the Bruins):
Brehaut is no longer an understudy filling in for the short term.
"I can't be that young, inexperienced Richard Brehaut," Brehaut said. "I can't rely on, 'I haven't been in that spot before.' I have been in a hostile environment. I have been on the field when we're down.
"There is a lot going on from the time you break that huddle to the time you snap that ball," he added. "Sometimes you get a little panicked and do things that are crazy. You can't let everything be too big for you."
It will be interesting to see how Brehaut leads the team against a Wildcat defense that will be looking to swarm and rattle him early. From ESPNLA's "First Look" at Arizona:
[T]he Arizona defense creates problems. Defensive end Ricky Elmore, with seven sacks, leads a Wildcats squad that is second in the nation with 25 sacks. Arizona is also seventh in the nation with 56 tackles for a loss.
"They've got a great defensive front that creates lots of pressure," Neuheisel said. "It will take a great effort on the part of our offensive line for us to move the ball on the ground and to protect the quarterback. And those will be keys to any kind of success we'll have this weekend."
It's a tall order. Yet if Brehaut and the Bruins can find a way to hang in there against a very good defense this weekend, it could set a productive tone for him and the entire offense for rest of the season. More after the jump.
* Richard Brehaut had a good-but-not-great day as he continues forward as UCLA's starting quarterback. Brehaut still continues to hold on to the ball a fraction too long, but he moved very well today in and out of the pocket, particularly on a great mid-range throw in which he retreated three steps, felt backside and frontside pressure and calmly stepped up and delivered the pass.
* The bad side, however, came out at times. Brehaut had a mind-boggling interception late in team drills, and it just didn't even look like there was anyone around. If this was televised, there would've been no offensive player in the frame. To his credit, he shook it off and was pretty solid the rest of the day.
* Brehaut's rapport with Joseph Fauria was evident, as he hit Fauria on a couple of throws outside. All season, I've been surprised by the lack of Fauria in the receiving game, particularly given the great relationship he shares with Kevin Prince, as former high school teammates.
Not just Fauria. It was interesting to see Randall Carroll actually getting into the mix and Corey Harkey catching all his passes last weekend against Oregon. I don't know if it has anything to do with Brehaut throwing a more catchable ball, but it was certainly interesting to watch.
As for protecting Brehaut, Micah Kia will have to step up for Sean Sheller at LT:
"Assignments are the same, technique is the same, only thing is, it's the other side," Kia said. "If anything happens like this, you have to be ready to change. The only difficulty is it does change the feel going from one side to another. Your body mechanics have to adjust, and sometimes it takes a few days, but you get used to it in practice."
He'll have to be very, very comfortable before UCLA takes on the Wildcats.
Behind defensive mastermind Mike Stoops, younger brother of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, Arizona ranks in the top-10 nationally in six defensive categories.
While the Bruins are looking to get started with Brehaut and Kia, the defense is going to have a new QB at MLB. Looks like they might be looking at true freshman Jordan Zumwalt to lead the way, as Jordan got most of the time with first team in Tuesday's practice:
"I have been meeting coach Coach Lea as much as I can, and getting help from all the players," Zumwalt said of linebackers coach Clark Lea. Still, he said, "I haven't been given anything yet. We're still competing [for the job]."
The middle linebacker spot carries a lot of responsibility, especially for a freshman. He has to run the defense on the field, making the calls as well as the checks before the snap.
But Lea said, "The signals are the least of our worries if he is out there. He understands the defense." Zumwalt must show he can handle that responsibility and make plays, Lea said.
Note the other MLB - Steve Sloan - has been banged up a bit with hurt knee. I am excited to see follow Zumwalt's career at UCLA for next 3 and half years but going to keep my expectations in check for this weekend, when he goes up against a seasoned and veteran Arizona OL, that have been playing together for number of years (which has been a key to their offensive success).
Coach Neuheisel talked about Arizona, getting up for the home coming game and other issues after yesterday's practice:
As you will note towards the end Scott Reid kept asking him ridiculous questions about a new book, hashing old stories from Washington. Scott Reid from the OC Register, which has essentially launched a jihad against Rick Neuheisel (along with Adam Maya, Chris Foster and TJ Simers) kept badgering CRN why he hasn't kicked out Morrell Presley off the program, completely failing to note that Presley has been disciplined couple of times already because of infractions which other program would not think much about. Peter Yoon from ESPNLA has more on that ridiculous exchange here.
As for Marvray and Sheller, here is their apology:
"It's unfortunate," said Marvray, UCLA's leading receiver. "I decided to make a bad decision -- a couple of bad decisions and it's coming back to bite me. I'm really sorry to my parents, they didn't raise me that way. It's not something I'm proud of. I'm just trying to get this week over with as fast as possible and move on from it. I learned my lesson and it for sure won't happen again."
Sheller, who has started every game this season, said he regretted causing a distraction to the team.
"I let the fans down, I let my teammates down, I let my family down," he said. "I'm sorry."
That is nice but we are getting a little tired of these and certainly hope that we don't have to go through any more of them. Also, it is interesting to note lot of these suspensions are coming from the offensive side. It means coaches like Norm Chow has to be on extra alert in helping provide Neuheisel leadership over their respective units.
Coaching IMO entails lot more than just designing and calling plays (and in our case it hasn't been anything special on Chow's part in last 2.5 years). It is up to Chow, Bob Palcic, Reggie Moore and all members of the staff to make sure they are always communicating with their student athletes in an effective way, keeping them disciplined, engaged and focused on their respective goals. As mentioned after the Oregon debacle, every single member of UCLA coaching staff needs to be on alert from hereon out.
Lastly, we will end the note with a little funny. It looks like our friends at Arizona Desert Swarm are having their own version of a Wildcat "dread thread." Only if that worked out for us in a reverse juju way.