Kevin Prince will have his work cut out for him in the passing game this Saturday against Cal. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Bruins had their first full practice since last Thursday's horror show in Tucson, there was very little news to come out of Westwood. Coach Neuheisel, who shouldn't even have a job right now, was glad to be back on the field.
"A kind of cathartic day for us to be out her banging a little bit and looking forward to the next contest rather than talking about the disappointment of the last one," Neuheisel said. "Excited about the attitude the kids have taken. Obviously it will be much more meaningful when we see exactly how it parlays itself into the play on Saturday but it was a good start for us."
Forgive me if I seem skeptical, but I've heard this kind of talk before.
But despite Rick's relief at getting back to practice, the lingering effects of his rudderless program and his disaffected players in lat Thursday's meltdown were evident on the practice field on Tuesday. Josh Smith and Nelson Rosario were joined at the receiver position by Jerry Rice, Jr, and Jerry Johnson. Rice is being promoted from the practice squad, while Johnson will see his first action since suffering a broken ankle last season. Suspended receivers Taylor Embree, Shaquelle Evans, and Ricky Marvray all spent Tuesday playing receiver on the scout team, and Randall Carroll spent the entire practice on the defensive side.
While the WR position will be pretty thin for Saturday's game against Cal, hopefully this will not be an excuse for a further simplification of the playbook. While we have seen some better offensive playcalling in recent weeks, the offense still has a long way to go before it can be considered remotely creative. And throw in the fact that Cal has the best pass defense in the Pac-12 and the 4th best D overall in the conference, and the U.C.L.A. offense will face a difficult challenge from the Bears. The inexperience at the receiver position will only compound this. Does anyone know if we plan to throw the ball to Joseph Fauria this week?
Also, the need for Josh Smith to play more snaps at receiver will likely pull him away from his kick returning chores where he has become a valuable weapon. Of course, if the opposing team kicks off 6 times in a half, it's understandable why he might need a break. F-back Jordan James will likely get the call to return kicks this week. In turn, James should also have some help at the F-back spot as Anthony Barr is practicing again and may be available for Saturday.
One Bruin who will not be getting any playing time this weekend is freshman receiver Damien Lucien. The Bruins have no plans to remove his redshirt at this point, which is a decision that Lucien and his parents support, despite the usual concern trolling from hack Adam Maya.
Lucien has said from the time he signed with UCLA this past February he did not want to redshirt. He made it clear Tuesday he feels the same way, even after missing the first seven games.
"I’m still hungry to play," Lucien said. "I still want to play. My mom and dad wanted me to redshirt because they didn’t see the point in me playing with us not throwing the ball as much as we thought.
"If it’s in the coach’s best interest and my family’s best interest for me to redshirt, I guess I’m cool with it."
On the defensive side, things went from incredibly bad to really incredibly bad when Neuheisel announced that senior defensive captain and starting free safety Tony Dye will likely miss the rest of the season due to persistent neck pain and tingling in his arms from an injury suffered in week 2 against SJSU. Add this to a defensive unit that will be missing Cassius Marsh (suspension), which shortens an already ineffective defensive line rotation, and there are few signs that the defense is ready to bounce back from that non-performance last week. Nate Chandler will get the start in Marsh's place. Alex Mascarenas will continue to start for Dye.
Don't forget Bruins, while our players are doing their best to improve our football program, you can do your part to improve our program, too. Sign the petition. Get Neuheisel and Guerrerror out of Westwood.