Let's get right to it. The Bruins returned to practice yesterday and it sounds like the tone Dietrich Riley and Jordan Zumwalt set against Oregon State, carried into the bye week. It's telling when beat reporters and bloggers are posting fired up practice reports:
It was one of the more spirited and intense practices of the season, with loud yelling, trash talking and intense play. Although it was not a live hitting practice -- the players were in shorts and shoulder pads -- there were some solid hits. A couple of minor skirmishes broke out but no punches were thrown. [...]
The defense seemed to instigate the intensity, with the defensive players celebrating every good play they made. The offense responded by doing the same. Several times, players circled around each other yelling and screaming and jumping up and down in unison.
"I think defensively after setting the tone against Oregon State we wanted to keep that going and keep that fun and excitement going," defensive back Sheldon Price said. "It's good to see that we're real excited about coming out to practice because a lot of times guys come out flat and stuff like that. But to have this type of practice is good for the program."
I still think the way Richard Brehaut has been leading this team has had a powerful impact on both sides of the ball. I don't think I saw the defense play so inspired in the way they responded following Brehaut's TD drive in last weekend's second half. That drive and the plays Brehaut was making with his athletic ability and sheer will injected all of us with a much needed dose of adrenaline. We could all feel "it" while watching the Bruins, and it was evident that the entire stadium and the team was feeding off it as well.
We haven't heard about this kind of energy around out team in a while. We will have to see if the guys maintain that kind of intensity for next 8 days. They are going to need to stay excited and fired up for Washington Huskies, who will come in with a desperate mindset to save their slipping season.
Coach Rick Neuheisel not surprisingly was pretty excited about the energy level during first practice of the bye week. When he met with the reporters after last night's practice he talked about "capitalizing" on that kind of energy to use it to put together a "successful season":
Neuheisel gave his update on various health and injury related issues. He was of course asked the obligatory question about his return to Seattle, but he not surprisingly downplayed it keeping the focys on our opponent (also still in a fight for a bowl game).
Speaking of our opponent, Steve Sarkasian has nothing new on Jake Locker:
Sarkisian said again of Jake Locker that "he's going to need to practice to be able to go against UCLA.''
He said that Locker will be held out "at least until Saturday, and when we will assess it Saturday, Sunday and Monday'' and see where Locker is. So if Locker really does need to practice to play, the reality likely is that if Locker doesn't practice by Monday he may not play against UCLA. Monday would be UW's last pads and contact practice with the game on a Thursday.
Sarkisian said further that "right now we are preparing as if Keith (Price) is our starter, and if we get Jake back we will prepare accordingly.''
Hey, he sounds just like Neuheisel (and Norm Chow) heading into our games against Kansas State and California (hopefully this time the results will favor us). As for Neuheisel, he is not worried about who is going to start for the Huskies:
Said Neuheisel: "Jake has boatloads of experience and has been in these kind of games, and been successful. But, he added, "Both are mobile guys, so I don't see a difference in how we will approach defending their offense."
This of course means Chuck Bullough's defense is going to be on the spot again. Our guys haven't had a lot of success with mobile QBs this season. We got burned by Matt Scott two weekends ago and throughout last couple of seasons, mobile QBs have enjoyed decent amount of success against our defense with tackling issues.
Against Oregon State's drop back QB - Ryan Katz - we enjoyed some success and it will be interesting to see if the defense can maintain its form next Thursday night. Jon Gold explored the issue whether UCLA's defensive success had something to do with opposing QBs or our guys getting better. From the Daily News:
"That's the million-dollar question; I don't know if it was the quarterbacks or if it was us," UCLA defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough said. "We didn't get the guy down against Arizona, same plays, exact same thing. Got him this week. It's hard to say as a coach - maybe it's the player.
"Whatever it was, it worked out for us this week."
Bullough rejected the notion that he made a complete overhaul of the Bruins' tackling technique, but he said he certainly emphasized the idea of not only meeting the runner, but being focused on the takedown.
"We talk about tackling all the time, it's not like it changed from last week to this week," Bullough said. "Tackling is about will.
"Will to get the guy down. Grab something, and just hold down until your buddies come or you get him down. Against Arizona, they didn't get them; against Oregon State, they got 'em."
Well, no matter who is playing QB for the Huskies, we fully expect Bullough's defense to exert pressure against their OL. They have had issues with protecting their QB all season long, and the Bruins will need to continue that pattern either against a banged up locker or a redshirt freshman getting only his second start of his Husky career.
Elsewhere, interesting note on Malcolm Jones in Yoon's practice bits on ESPNLA:
Running back Malcolm Jones has looked as good as he has all season the past couple of weeks, showing the type of burst and quickness that made him the Gatorade national high school player of the year last year. Neuheisel said Jones might have been hiding an injury. "I don't know that he was totally healthy," Neuheisel said. "I think he was kind of nursing an ankle back to health and I think you can see a little more bounce in his step right now." Jones said he was not injured, just that he's figuring out how to practice at the college level. "I'm going full speed every single play," Jones said. "Over the season I feel like I've picked up my practice habits a lot."
Really hoping for good number of carries for Jones in the next game. I realize it is difficult to get everyone carries given both Jet Ski and Derrick Coleman are having productive season but coaches have to figure out a way to get Jones some more touches. With a game coming up against the second worst rushing defense (Huskies are giving up about 220 rushing yards per game), hopefully Jones will get an opportunity to build momentum to close out his freshman season.