Soft & Confused: The State of UCLA Football

Bumped. While we don't agree with couple of specific points in this post (as noted by Captain Leebeard), as alums we do agree with the underlying sentiment in this post. -BN.

"Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."

- Red Sanders

"Beating SC isn't a matter of life and death. It's more important than that."

-Red Sanders

"You win any way you can, sometimes it's with special-teams play. Sometimes it's with a defensive play, an interception return. And sometimes you win with your offense. But any way you win, you take it and you go back and try to figure out what the hell's wrong."

-Terry Donahue

My family and I have been watching Bruin football for many, many years now, and I keep up with this forum from time to time. I haven’t had the heart to post anything about the state of our program until now.

This is the first time since good old Red Sanders passed on that it seems many UCLA football fans, myself included, are genuinely puzzled about the direction this team is taking. I’m burnt out. Over the past decade, UCLA has proven itself time and again to be an entirely insular and irrelevant program both nationally and in the PAC 10.  I think many fans, myself included, are confused. The program, and UCLA in general, is too gifted to suffer through seasons like these year after year. The current UCLA football program doesn’t have an identity.  At the very least, there is a clear lack of leadership in coaching. Something is seriously wrong.

I hate to delineate the shortcomings, but it serves as something of a catharsis to me, and I feel partly obligated as an alumni. I know much of this has been said before.  

The problems begin with our player’s fundamentals. I’m talking about the simple points of the game that must be executed to have a fighter’s chance at winning: Making a tackle, maintaining a block, protecting the football on a run, reading the defense, throwing a tight spiral. Aside from special teams, which doesn’t exactly require the most prolific coaching, our team isn’t getting it done. If this was a problem with one or two players, we could say it’s an individual player’s problem. But in this case, it’s the total opposite, with only a handful of players doing what they are supposed to consistently. This is a reflection of the coaching, not the players. Our team is soft.

Our team has no philosophy of their game plan; they possess no idea of what they want to do on the field. This reflects in our team’s lack of discipline and poor attitude. Players confused about what play they are running, receivers dropping passes delivered right on the numbers, blockers blatantly missing assignments. It’s hard to watch sometimes. And then there are the "hotshots" (I won’t name names) that are still beating on their chest and prancing around on the field after making a routine stop while we’re down by two touchdowns and our record is well-under .500. Players ditching practices. It’s a sad state of affairs. Absolute nonsense.

I’ll leave the discussion of on-field strategy, and things like the pistol-offense, to people who understand that aspect of the game better than myself. I will say, however, that I think the line of coaching under Rick Neuheisel is misguided, much like it was under Karl Dorrell. A good head coach is compulsive. He knows and controls every aspect of the team inside and out, from designing the playbook, to making the calls on the field, to teaching a quarterback how to sense pressure in the pocket. His team does what he says, period. The job of the offensive and defensive coordinators is simply to coordinate the team. Does anyone think that it’s Saban’s, or Belichick’s, or Spurrier’s coordinators that make their teams great year after year after year? Does anyone still think Chow was the reason that USC’s offense was prolific 5 years ago? These guys do what the head coach says. I’m not saying the coordinators don’t play a part, but the HC and his attention to players, his game-day preparation, and his strategy are really what decide the ballgame. Currently, Neuheisel is leaning too much on his coordinators.

Our recruiting is subpar, and is certainly nowhere close to where it was in the 80s and 90s. We are not recruiting players for positions where we are seriously deficient. We are not recruiting nationally; I think we have 3 or 4 people on the team from outside of CA, if that. We are not recruiting team players. And all we hear are excuses, from the administration and from fans. Excuses about Southern California’s dominance, about our academic standards, about our lack of "tradition." Enough with the excuses. Southern California only gets so many scholarships. Other schools have stricter academic standards (case in point: Stanford). Our tradition includes numerous PAC 10 titles and a national championship. We were recruiting well before the Toledo incident, and we can recruit well now.

Our team is not making progress, not in terms of fundamentals, not in terms of strategy, not in terms of recruiting, not in terms of heart. Our team is clearly misguided and mismanaged. The coaching staff is not up to par with our expectations. In particular, Neuheisel is a great guy, but we need a coach who is going to shut up and get down to business. There has been 0 progress under Neuheisel. He’s even more confused now than when he started. He doesn’t even believe in his offense or defensive scheme anymore. "We need to reevaulte the pistol." It’s time for a change.

It starts with the administration. Dan Guerrero and the rest of the people in charge need to get serious about football if we want it to become a priority. They can’t just find a head coach and then ring their hands of anything that happens. They need to be responsible.   

<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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