We will get to practice notes in a bit. We will start with Ralph's chat with Rahim Moore yesterday after practice. The junior and defensive captain of the UCLA football team shared his thoughts on practice and also on the news on Datone Jones (his room-mate) in perspective:
I will admit that the news on Datone was a bummer. The disappointment for me was more for Datone than our team. I can't imagine how someone like him, who has been working so hard through last couple of years and this off-season feels inside after going through a freak injury like that. Yet after listening to Rahim, once again it's obvious how he was chosen as one of the four captains of this football team. I think it's pretty reasonable to guess that as tough as Datone's injury news for Datone, his spirits are up because he has Moore around him to lift him up and raise the spirits of the entire team.
Listening to Rahim, it is also easy to get the sense how loyal he is to Coach Rick Neuheisel's program and how determined he is to continue to reverse the downward trend in UCLA football started under previous two coaching regimes. I believe Rahim just like I use to hang on to every word coming out of AA, when he talked about "motivation" and bringing UCLA back to prominence.
Speaking of Coach Rick Neuheisel, he provided more details on Datone's injury after yesterday's practice:
CRN echoed the same messages coming out of Rahim about the defense stepping up in absence of Dantone Jones. CRN also gives a nice little summation of who has been shining during practices. It's good to hear Malcolm Jones, Jordon James, and Cassius Marsh enjoying solid starts to their camps. It is also nice to hear about Jet Ski and Ricky Marvray leading the offense in matching the intensity coming from Ayers/Moore led defense.
Speaking of the defensive Chuck Bullough noted in Jon Gold's report that the defense's approach is not going to change much without Datone:
Even with the loss of Jones, Bullough and defensive line coach Todd Howard said the defensive approach would not change, particularly with the hybrid abilities of linebacker Akeem Ayers. Bullough dabbled with Ayers at defensive end last season with positive results, and if UCLA can shore up its linebacker corps - the Bruins must replace Ayers' cohorts Kyle Bosworth and Reggie Carter - then Ayers could provide increased relief off the edge this year.
"Our playbook is going to stay the same," Howard said. "We have a lot of smart defensive linemen, but if you look at the group, only one guy has starting experience, and that's Reginald Stokes. The whole process will be an evaluation in training camp to see who the top four guys are."
The biggest wild card? Freshman defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, who was rated the No. 2 defensive end and No. 8 overall prospect by Rivals.com out of Portland's Douglas High, and has shown great ability.
The difficult part will be absorbing the playbook, and that doesn't just mean the words on the page.
"Anybody can read a play and know you're supposed to go here or here or here, but in a game situation, the tempo is a lot faster, things are moving quicker," Odighizuwa said. "Your mind is moving a million miles an hour, and you have to just slow it down in your head. It will all make sense and look like what you're drawing up on the board. The more experience you get, the more similar it gets from the page to the field."
Listening to CRN though made me a little more at ease about the move of Nate Chandler to DE. If you listen to him closely, he referred to Chandler being in the "defensive front" without compleltely pigeonholing him into the DE spot.
I have a feeling that the coaches are going to find a way to move Chandler around on the front to keep the opposing Ds guessing. With the kind of size (almost 300 lbs) and speed (4.6) Chandler has it kind of makes him sense to move him around, keep the opposing lineman always wondering where he is. Coach Howard is certain that Chandler is now at an "ideal spot":
Chandler, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound junior, has been shuffled around the Bruins' depth chart since he arrived in Westwood. But defensive line coach Todd Howard is certain he has found the ideal spot.
"Athletically, you have a guy who is 6 feet 5, almost 300 pounds and runs a high 4.5 40 [-yard dash]," Howard said. "He has all the tools."
Chandler as usual is not all that worried about the moves:
"I don't really see it as that big of a deal," Chandler said. "You need people that can move around and help the team toward the common goal of winning. I'm glad my versatility has come in handy."
And he is even willing to adjust his body frame a little heading into the season opener:
Chandler played last year at 270 pounds, but weighed in at 303 on Wednesday, he said. Now that he's moving to defensive end, which requires a bit more quickness and agility than a hole-clogging defensive tackle, he plans to lose about 15 pounds before the season opener Sept. 4 at Kansas State.
"You've got to do what you've got to do," he said. "That's what the team needs and I think I've shown I'm willing to do whatever the team needs."
Chandler talked about all that and some more to Jon Gold:
Chandler's comments on Bullough's approach to defense and how that fits into his own mindset is pretty interesting to say the least (really good stuff from Gold).
Speaking of body weights, Blair Angulo on ESPNLA did a stand alone post on weight gain by various players on our team. It's something we took note of when rosters were updated in July and during spring.
As for eligibility issues, CRN gave a pretty clear briefing on Anthony Jefferson in the video above. In case you haven't read Bruin JD's post, here is the latest on Baca:
With Baca, apparently he dropped a class in the spring that he was not doing well in. It left him short on units for the year. The team was aware of the issue and he loaded up on classes for the first summer session to bring his progress back up. It still required an appeal to the NCAA though, but the team is hopeful that he should prevail.
We will keep our fingers crossed instead of freaking out in the comment threads. Again if the worst case scenario comes into fruition, we will have to see how the coaches deal with the situation with personnel available on OL. It sounds like Micah Kia is feeling good about pre-season camp early on:
"It feels really good," Kia said. "It's never easy being on the sideline watching everybody else doing something you love and being so close to something you love without being able to do it so it's nice to be on the field now."
Hopefully he is making Coach Palcic feel good too.
Lastly, we couldn't have a roundup without sharing some concern trolling from the LA Times. Chris Foster labored to write up a huge piece on UCLA's turf out in Spaulding (making the case injuries in college football only happen to UCLA). CRN LOL at Foster:
Neuheisel was emphatic that there was not a problem with the synthetic turf, which was installed during the summer of 2006.
"These fields have a life span and we're not even half through the life span," Neuheisel said. "It certainly gets a lot of use. We work out on it all year long. We're talking about replacing it."
But Neuheisel said, "We're well within the life span" of the turf and said there is no "scientific evidence" that shows the Bruins' turf is different from other synthetic fields.
"I do not believe these injuries are because of the turf," Neuheisel said. "I believe that these are fast players who get a little out of control."
He should have just said it's the concern trolling and ignorance in the "reporting" of the Trojan Times that is completely out of control.