Well here we go. The day is here. Just hours to go till the start of Spring Ball in Westwood. The practice gets started around 4 pm PST [See schedule on official site]. If you are on and around campus or live around Southern California, definitely drop by and check out how the team is looking.
This has to be the most highly anticipated Spring practice in Westwood for number of reasons. We were all filled with optimism at the end of our Bowl game, got a huge rush out of the Chow drama in January, and then got even more fired up on signing day. BTW it is April 1 and it is not an April Fool's joke that Chow is now poised to collect a cool $250,000 bonus according to his K since he is still on the staff on first day of spring practice in his third year in Westwood.
Anyway since singing day the Morgan Center have has kept us plugged in through a steady stream of video blogs coming out of Morgan Center. The videos give the impression that the guys have been coming together, developing chemistry, and have been pretty focused and locked in. In terms of the state of the program, Rick Neuheisel provided the following over-view in the latest video coming out of Morgan Center:
He sounds off the same broad strokes he shared with the press earlier in the week. It is still nice to hear his thoughts directly from him, instead of having to decipher it via the traditional media. More on their coverage and other notes after the jump.
Speaking of the traditional media all the outlets have their spring overview pieces out today. The LA Times lists "five things to watch" in the world of UCLA football which includes figuring out who will emerge at Mike LB:
Sloan, a redshirt junior, is smart and has experience that gives him a leg up. He started nine games in 2008 - but made only 29 tackles that season.
Larimore, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound redshirt sophomore, is the more physical player.
The Times forgot to mention red-shirt freshman Todd Golper could be one of the youngsters who also might emerge as a factor at MLB. Here was the depth chart we played around with late last month. At the time we included Taniela Maka in it. Well Maka is not in the program yet (and will probably not get here before Fall). We should also keep in mind that Anthony Barr, who will probably try out as a RB, could emerge as potential factor in the LB corps or as a SS.
LB will not be in the only position that will be interesting to keep an eye on this spring. Jon Gold's overview in the Daily News lists other key positions where coaches will be measuring for progress:
First and foremost is quarterback, where redshirt sophomore Prince will look to fend off hard-charging sophomore Richard Brehaut. Prince enters spring camp as the clear-cut starter, but after an up-and-down freshman season he most certainly will be under the microscope.
"There's a moment in every quarterback's life where you stop running plays and you start figuring out ways to win," Neuheisel said. "If he hasn't had that epiphany yet, he's close to it.
"That is what's going to be exciting, when he figures out how to go win, how to beat them."
Running back Johnathan Franklin also will be under a watchful eye to see if he can regain some of his early season form before a fumbling issue caused him to lose time to graduated senior Chane Moline and junior Derrick Coleman.
At left tackle, Nik Abele will be scrutinized heavily as he attempts to lock down a position thought to be under the tight grip of Xavier Su'a-Filo, who instead chose to embark on an LDS mission that will keep him away for two years.
For more on the OL situations make sure to read our notes here. Coaches are high on Nick. If he can show discernible progress this spring, it will open up number of options heading into Fall camp.
Meanwhile, the OC Register assigned Trogan alum Adam Maya to write up its UCLA overview and he wrote up a snark filled, misinformation laden piece on what UCLA will be looking out of its QBs. Adam went out of his way to attack the performance of Kevin Prince, without mentioning how he actually came along pretty nicely during the last few games of the season. He then "reports":
One of Neuheisel's biggest critiques of Prince has been his lack of accuracy. The third-year sophomore completed only 56.2 percent of his passes, misfiring on what his coach deemed "a number of balls that should have been completed."
How does a red-shirt sophomore become a "third year sophomore"? My understanding is that Prince is a second year player who will be a redshirt-sophomore next season. As we detailed few weeks ago Prince's performance this past season as a red-shirt freshman was pretty good and stacked up with pretty well compared to previous UCLA QBs considering all the circumstances. It is too bad Maya can't help getting snarky against a young kid, who started his first game after staying away from the football field for almost two full years as he got injured early in his senior season at high school and then red shirted his first season at UCLA.
He then came back and got injured in his second game at UCLA which caused him to miss 2 more games. He also missed half the action against Washington and Southern Cal. So over all he put up pretty decent numbers despite missing almost 3 games this season. Sure Prince has to improve on his accuracy. That is not unusual since number of good UCLA QBs had to do the same after their first year as starter. To just cherry pick one category (efficiency) and then concern troll over it without providing any kind of context is just ridiculous. Then again we shouldn't be surprised to see this kind of BS from Maya. We will probably see it for rest of the year.
Anyway, as CRN mentioned Prince has put in the work this off-season in the weight room. It will be interesting to see how he looks out in Spaulding along with Richard Brehaut. Both of those guys should have increased confidence with another year in Chow's scheme. Our entire team should be a little more confident after taking a step forward in CRN's second season.
The challenge for our players now will be to live up to incremental expectations and take advantage of the opportunities they will get from their coaches this spring. In addition to all the reasons we are feeling giddy about this spring, our guys should remember this:
The coaches won't have to play that video. Those images are burned into all of our brains and I would think it is one of the factors that kept our guys motivated this winter and will keep them going through Spring Ball and rest of this off-season.
So enjoy the day out in Spaulding. As always if you are out there taking pictures and notes on our guys, please consider sharing them with rest of us who are spread out all over the nation.