Well it looks like the needless worrying can stop at least for a day. Kevin Prince was back at practice yesterday. Even though he is not fully 100 percent yet, judging by reports and his comments, it appears that he is making tangible progress.
Prince came back to Spaulding to take part in 11-on-11 and one on one drills. He completed 6 of 8 passes during the one on one drills throwing passes between 10 and 20 yards. Most of the plays called during 11 on 11 were running plays (per ESPNLA) as Coach Rick Neuheisel had him "on a pitch count." Peter Yoon from ESPNLA reported that Prince is "back to full speed":
The best news, Prince said, was that the pain no longer lingers and therefore it doesn't affect the rest of his game.
"Before, the pain would be there and kind of stay around and affect my running," he said. "[Today] there would be sharp pains when I'd throw, but it wouldn't stay around and I could still go run around without any pain. I saw that as a plus."
Norm Chow sounded hopeful about Prince too:
"He looked like he could have played today," Chow said.
So, I think at least for a little while the freaking out can stop among the hyper worriers among us (it's kind of annoying). I am not all that concerned at this point in terms of who gets the start. If we have to go with Richard Brehaut, so bet it. If we get Kevin Prince back, awesome. Either way, I doubt Norm Chow will be changing up his game plan all that much.
Moreover, if we are in a situation we have to play both QBs, I am not going to be second guessing the tandem of Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow, who contrary to all the BS reports in tradmed have a great working relationship with each other (proof at this point is in the pudding as Chow is going to be at UCLA for at least two more years making this his longest stint at one place since leaving BYU). So everyone should settle down a little and let this all play out. More after the jump.
As for practice, Coach Neuheisel sounded positive (from Gold):
Ha, wonder what was all that commotion all about in the background. That sounded pretty lively and yet CRN talked on like nothing unusual was going on.
If anyone thinks CRN is relentlessly positive about these practices, he or she should look up his comments after practices in his first year when he would sound down right annoyed about "intensity" and "effort" coming from practices on a regular basis. It's interesting you don't hear him talking about the need for "culture change" any more in Westwood. Don't think we need to make too much out of the change in that tone but it is something worth noting.
As we write about taking note, huge congrats to Andre Abbott. As CRN mentioned above he was awarded a scholarship yesterday, which is a huge deal. The kid from Mater Dei has been superb in terms of the effort and dedication he has brought to UCLA. It is great to see him get rewarded like this. It will not only fire him up even more, it will excite all of his team-mates.
Jon Gold posted more quick notes from practice, which also included the following little detail:
A minor spat erupted between Mike Harris and Reggie Stokes, but the inspiring thing was who broke up the fight: Prince and Dietrich Riley. Prince actually pulled Stokes aside - and you don't see that happening between a QB and a defensive lineman often - and Riley jumped right into it. Good leadership out of the young man.
The way Riley is going, it seems like he is taking the early lead in emerging as the face of UCLA football, after Rahim Moore moves on to the NFL (hopefully at the end of next season). That is really cool to hear.
Speaking of face of the program, Chris Foster FINALLY wrote something nice about the UCLA football program with a cool profile on Akeem Ayers:
"He can do the wrong thing on a play, but he'll end up right where the action is," defensive tackle David Carter says. "It'll be the wrong assignment, but coaches can't yell at him because it was an interception and a touchdown.
"That's a real football player, where your heart tells you what to do. He has the football gods in his corner."
When he got started at UCLA, Ayers needed to work on staying within his assignment and working within the team frame-work. Yet I think the hybrid DE/LB has been the perfect fit for him because it has allowed coaches to unleash his skills within a team structure without compromising his unrelenting energy. Although he is the only returning starter in the front 7 at this point, I am excited to see what he can do with infusion of talent and athleticism around him.
Lastly, Pete Yoon reports that decision on starters are "coming soon":
Running back and F-back are among the most tightly contested spots on offense. The running back spot figures to go to either Johnathan Franklin, Derrick Coleman or Malcolm Jones while the F-back spot is a battle between Morrell Presley, Christian Ramirez and Anthony Barr.
"We're close on those," Chow said. "By the end of the week we'll have a real good idea. But keep in mind, we are going to do a lot by committee. Just because one guy starts, doesn't mean the other guys aren't going to get chances."
Guess we should get better ideas about the depth chart by the end of this week.