Why the Bruins Are Still Young and Inexperienced

Bumped. GO BRUINS. -N

I saw lots of posts this weekend blaming CTS for leaving the cupboard bare, and a lot of posts condemning this view because that was 2007 and this is 2010.  I also saw lots of posts stating that UCLA fans have been using the "we are young" excuse for 3 years, and a bevy of other posters opining that this is no longer a valid excuse.  I respectfully and wholeheartedly disagree that these are no longer valid excuses. 

This team is still very young and inexperienced.  Combine that with our usual plethora of injuries (which hurt even more in light of how thin the program was after 2007), a couple of suspensions (does this show discipline or a lack thereof???), and a tougher than usual PAC 10, and it is not unforeseeable that the Bruins would be where they are this season.  I did a little research this morning, looked back at our roster last season, looked back at our spring depth chart, looked at the players that were playing yesterday/who will be playing going forward, and the changes are startling, especially on D.

The Offense - Last Season

Line (from left to right): XSF, Baca, Kai M., Eddie Williams, Mike Harris
Skill Positions: KP, Jetski, Moline, Rosario, Embree, Harkey

The Offense - Spring Depth Chart:

Line (from left to right): Baca, Ryan Taylor or Hasiak, Kai M., Eddie Willians, Mike Harris
Skill Positions: KP, Jetski, DC, Rosario, Embree, Harkey

The Offense - Most of Yesterday:

Line (from left to right): Micah Kia(mostly Sheller going forward), Savage, Ryan Taylor, Eddie Williams, Mike Harris

Skill Positions: RB, Jetski, DC, Carroll, Embree, Harkey

The Offense - Analysis:

The line has been completely overhauled not only from last season but from what we expected from last spring, with the exception of the right side.  No surprises there as this has been discussed ad naueseum on BN.  Sheller had no starts before this season, Savage was coming off a missed 2009 due to back surgery, and Taylor had played in three games last season, none at center.  The loss of KP and the threat of running the ball out of the pistol has neutralized the progress of the line through the first five games, although the pass blocking has improved.  Big props to Coach P for keeping this part of the unit together.  From a personnel standpoint, the running backs have held true to form from what we expected.  Same with the tight end, but Harkey hasn't caught the ball very well.  The receiving corps is very thin.  Rosario has missed a significant portion of the season (although he had not played well), Marvray's suspension hurt (hopefully he'll come back with a vengeance), Jerry Johnson's injury looked to be significant.  So, other than Embree on one side, the Bruins were using our 4th and 5th options at WR yesterday, with Carroll and Smith on the other side. After their performance, maybe we are questioning WHY those guys were lower on the depth chart.  Hopefully the return of Sheller and Marvray from their suspensions will get the offensive moving better for the rest of the season.

The Offense - Conclusion:

There has been significant turnover on this side of the ball, which would be tough for any team to overcome.  (Ask the University of Miami fans about how they feel after losing Jacory Harris yesterday)  Jetski, Embree, Harkey, Harris, and Williams are the only guys who played significantly last season.  Although the other guys who are playing are not necessarily young (especially on the line) they are inexperienced.  Some of the replacements on the line next season will still also be young (Yandell, Ward, Hasiak), although Baca and Kai M. will bring some experience to the table.

Bottom line: It is tough to be a well oiled machine on O when you are mixing and matching parts on the fly, and when many of those parts are young or inexperienced.  That having been said, the changes to the defense are even more significant.

The Defense - Last Season:

Line: Datone, BP, Jerzy, Bosworth
LB: Akeem, Carter, Bosworth
Secondary: ATV, Rahim, Dye, Hester/Price

The Defense - Spring Depth Chart:

Line: Datone, Carter, Chandler, Holmes
LB: Ayers, Sloan, Westgate
Secondary: Hester, Rahim, Dye, Price

The Defense - Most of Yesterday:

Line: Owa, Carter/Marsh, Chandler, Graham
LB: Ayers, Zumwalt, Westgate
Secondary: Hester, Rahim, Dye, Abbott / Viney

The Defense - Conclusion: Akeem Ayers is the only player from last year's front seven who is starting.  (Side Note: I am not sure if Akeem is worn down from having to carry the front seven, injured, or trying to keep as healthy as possible to salvage his draft stock, but he didn't look himself yesterday.  I hope that it is not the latter possibility).  For much of the day yesterday, UCLA was playing three true freshman in the front seven.  Not to mention a converted tight end. Undersized (but big-hearted) Westgate and Graham are the others.  With this young and inexperienced group, is it really that much of a surprise that the Bruins are having trouble getting a consistent pass rush?  Or that they are having trouble stopping the run?  Or that they are having trouble tackling? The safeties have generally played well but the loss of ATV is glaring.  Hester and Price have been picked on. Abbott was a walk on last season. Depth is thin with injuries to Jefferson, and several players leaving the program (Sermons comes to mind).  I hope the coaches continue to develop and play guys like Marsh, Owa, and Zumwalt.  I'd like to see more Riley too.  They need as much experience now to pave the way for the future.

Final Conclusion: For much of the game yesterday, UCLA played 5 guys on offensive who started last season and 3 guys on defense who started last season.  3 true freshmen played significant time on defense.  Only one defensive player (David Carter) is a senior and he was not a starter last year.  UCLA's best players on offensive yesterday, Smith (junior transfer), Carroll (true soph), and RB (true soph), are all young and/or inexperienced.  Their career numbers at UCLA show this.  This team is STILL very young and inexperienced.  This is not an excuse--it is reality.  If you disagree, go pull up the spring depth chart ( PDF), go the the "Key Returnees" section, and look at the names of the players that are playing now, and what UCLA's thoughts were with respect to those players in the spring of 2010.  Lots of the guys who are playing significantly were almost afterthoughts in that chart.

Disclaimer: This post has focused solely on the personnel.  This is not to exonerate the coaches from their performance, just to show that coaching isn't everything.  It is much easier to coach players in a system when those players have the experience playing in that system, whether it is on offense or defense.  Even the best sculptor needs a great chunk of marble from which to carve his David.

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.</em>

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