EUGENE, OR - DECEMBER 02 : Quarterback Kevin Prince #4 of the UCLA Bruins throws a pass during the third quarter of the Pac-12 Championship against the UCLA Bruins at Autzen Stadium on December 2, 2011 in Eugene, Oregon. The Ducks won the game 49-31 to earn a berth in the Rose Bowl. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
The Bruins are in the homestretch of their final game week of the season - the Fight Hunger Bowl is now just 3 days away and the team has relocated to San Francisco for the final days of preparation. The main news is the injury-related absence of Patrick Larimore from the bowl game, in addition to the 4 ineligible/suspended players. Patrick had thumb surgery earlier in the month, missed practice yesterday and is out of the bowl game. The rest of the official injury report follows.
Doubtful: TE John Young (right hamstring)
Obviously KP will be starting on Saturday (though with Brehaut out, the depth behind him is rather questionable). Jordan Zumwalt is expected to start in Larimore's place; he feels more prepared and mentally ready to take on that responsibility than when he was forced into the starting role last last season.
"I'm way more equipped to handle it," said Zumwalt, who ranks fifth on the team with 50 tackles. "I understand how to handle situations better, rather than just going off emotion. I know the defense well, too - a lot better than last year, that's for sure - so I have confidence in my play now."
... "Now going out there, I know what to expect," Zumwalt said. "It's not just going in and playing off emotion and hype. Now I go in, I have my cool with me, calm, collected, and I'm relaxed."
Todd Golper will be backing up Jordan on Saturday. In other practice news, Phillip Ruhl has entered the 2-deep at Will-LB, and Brett Downey practiced with the 1st-team O-Line, and in making his first start for UCLA will be facing off against the nation's sack leader, Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus.
During the holiday break from practice, many Bruin players watched future UCLA OC Noel Mazzone run the ASU Offense during the Las Vegas Bowl. While the Sun Devils had their behinds handed to them by Boise State, some of our offensive players were encouraged by what they saw of Mazzone's playcalling and schemes and what may spill over into next year's Bruin offense.
"They threw to the back a lot and used bubble screens," wide receiver Shaquille Evans said. "I think that offense will help me out. I'm pretty versatile. I can play outside and inside."
Wide receiver Ricky Marvray said he played in a similar offense at Corona Centennial High.
"What I liked was how they made sure to put the ball in their playmakers' hands," he said.
... Franklin saw areas where he could be successful.
"I like how they throw the back the ball," Franklin said. "They get him in open space."
One of the storylines going into this bowl game is that both schools have fired their head coaches (with most of their staffs expected to be dismissed as well after the game). As it turns out, Morgan Center is not the only administrative entity that has raised questions with its dealings.
Pat Forde wrote about a dispute between Illinois's Athletic Department and the soon to be ex-assistant coaches hired by Ron Zook. Basically, the assistants came to Illinois in part due to being offered 2-year contracts with rolling extensions. When the official contracts were forwarded just before the 2010 football season, they included a clause allowing either of the parties to void the remaining term of the contract/extensions, starting at the end of the 2011 season.
When some of the assistants were looking at other jobs after the 2010 season, Zook and the school's then-AD assured the coaches that their contracts would roll over in convincing them to stay put. Now Zook, the old AD and the assistants have been served their termination papers, and the assistants are not happy with the shadiness (though probably legal conduct) of the school's athletic department.