Bumped. GO BRUINS. -N
I know that given the extreme frustration surrounding the Washington game and this season as a whole, a lot of people are choosing to simply focus on the remaining two games. For me however, even if we beat ASU, SC, and win the ensuing bowl game, I will still view this season as a failure and strikes one and two against Neuheisel. Therefore, I cannot help but focus on the offseason and the decisions to come. The coaching staff will certainly need an overhaul starting with Bullough, but I don't think that is the most pressing issue.
For me, the first and most important decision CRN must make will be whether or not to stick with the pistol offense. I have not heard much regarding this, both in BN and in the MSM, so I wanted to throw it out there and see what everyone thinks. Analysis after the jump...
Let's go back to the start of Spring Ball. CRN and Norm Chow started toying with the idea of the pistol, possibly as a formation set. In summer/fall, the decision was made to practice almost exclusively in the pistol, as a way to improve our stagnant running game. It's success in doing so was evident in the Houston, Texas, and Washington State games, as well as the fact that for most of the year we were a top-50 rushing team nationally. However, our improvement running the ball has been offset by a complete and utter regression in the passing game. We now rank 115th in passing efficiency, and it's not like most of out opponents are world-beaters when it comes to shutting down quarterbacks.
Against Kansas State we got a good look at the pistol, and by the next week against Stanford it was the majority of our offense. I remember CRN being asked in the beginning of the season whether or not the Bruins were going to fully commit to the pistol, and he said something along the lines of if you are going to make a change you have to go all in to make it work. This was debated in this community with the consensus being that UCLA needed to run the pistol all of the time or scrap it completely.
That is exactly what CRN did, but it simply hasn't produced results. This shouldn't be surprising, because it takes a lot longer than 6 months to master a new offensive system. Due to inexperience, the Bruins run an extremely watered-down version of the pistol, with many running and most of the passing wrinkles yet to be incorporated. The leads us to the big question. If the offensive line (and hence the running game) is supposed to be much improved next year with the return of Maiava, Baca, and possibly Hasiak, and the pistol was implemented as a short term stop gap to our O-line woes, do we still need the pistol, or should we return to the pro-set offense?
I have given this much though, and I am firm believer that we should abandon the pistol the moment the clock hits zero against SC and return to the pro set. I understand that this means we have essentially wasted an entire year of player development, and doing so would make CRN look very bad, but if he is truly committed to getting UCLA back on track it is his only option. First of all, I think it is clear that the pistol at UCLA has been nothing but a gimmick. It helped our running attack but did not help us win games, and if we continue to mask problems like our O-line and QB with fancy schemes, there will less incentive to actually develop those positions.
IMO the coaches must master a system before we can even think about the players learning it well, and the pro set is what CRN and especially Norm Chow know best. I am not excusing Chow's poor performance this year in any way, shape, or form, but he is a pro set guru, not an offensive guru in general. Whether his poor play calling has been a result of him not understanding the pistol or him rebelling against the decision to switch to it, a return to the pro set is the only way to tap his brilliance. This would also give us reason to keep him, because I don't think that we will fire Chow one year after granting him an extension, and despite all of the criticism I still think that he is a great coach.
Lastly, CRN has done a great job recruiting, but he has recruited for the pro set. Even Hundley would be just as good in the pro set as the pistol, because he is self-admittedly a pass-first quarterback. He could use his scrambling ability when things break down instead of by design like Andrew Luck does at Stanford. I am starting to believe that the biggest problem regarding player development has been the fact that almost everybody's skills are better served in the pro set than the pistol.
Now I'm no offensive expert, but it seems like the pistol experiment has failed. I would love to hear from the Xs and Os guys like 03rdn9, as well as everyone else below.