Switching over from Ben Howland inflicted UCLA basketball misery, let's start this last Friday roundup of a game week with two key personnel notes:
- Nick Crissman is going to be the "number 2" QB tomorrow afternoon. This means Darius Bell will be the number 3 QB on the depth chart. I think this move makes a lot of sense given Crissman has been putting in his time with the scout team all season.
- Andrew Abbot was back at practice yesterday after reportedly suffering a sprained ankle. Interim Coach Mike Johnson mentioned after practice that Abbott "just needed treatment" and was out "running around" in the practice field, adding that he will be "fine" against Illinois. So that's good news.
Johnson in his post practice presser sounded optimistic, asserting that the players have been "working hard" this week and that they will "try to end the season on a positive note" by giving their "best shot" against Illinois. You can watch Johnson's full comments on the Tube. When asked by the reporters he mentioned that younger players will use the game as a springboard for next season in effort to "get better" while the seniors will "try to go out on a positive note."
The reporters, being the concern trolls they are (you know the usual (miserable and bitter) suspects) tried hard to put Johnson in an awkward spot by asking him questions about Jim Mora, but Johnson to his credit did not take any of the stupid baits and was nothing but gracious towards Mora. Reportedly Johnson has been contacted by representatives from ASU "but has yet to speak to anyone from the university about joining the Sun Devils' staff."
While I was not too impressed with how Johnson handled the over the wall fiasco, he has handled himself really well in a difficult situation in this transition period. I really hope his optimistic notes turn into reality on Saturday with a solid performance from our offense. I will root for him to succeed wherever he ends up. At least in public he has handled himself as an all out good guy, a true professional and more importantly the offense IMO was improved this year after what we experienced in previous three seasons. More after the jump.
Some other odds and ends to pass on. Jon Gold has a post on Brett Downey. The junior OT is going to be pressed into starting role due to suspension (Albert Cid) and injury (Chris Ward and Wade Yandall) on Saturday. He will have the assignment to take on one of the best pass rusher in the game. From Gold:
"I've been hoping for a start ever since I got here," Downey said. "The fact it's a bowl game just doubles how intense it is. I'm going up against a really good defensive end - he's quite good, an all-American - so I've been watching a lot of film on him. It's going to be tough, but I'm up for the challenge."
Rosario was quite surprised by his selection as the team's offensive MVP.
"It means a lot," said Rosario of that honor. "I didn't expect it. Personally, I voted for our center, Kai [Maiava]. I'm very grateful and very blessed."
"He was deserving of that honor," said Johnson. "He was probably the guy that was the most consistent offensive player for us this year."
"He has tremendous character," continued Johnson. "He is a well-rounded person. He respects authority. If you have a daughter, Nelson is the kind of guy you want your daughter to marry. He's a tremendous person, a good teammate, a good player to coach. He has a likeable personality and is a very good person."
Hmm. I don't know. Rosario thinks Maiava was the "offensive MVP"? Something seems really odd here. Based on what we have seen all season, according to our eye test, it seemed that Derrick Coleman was our unquestioned team MVP. He seemed like the guy who brought the effort in every game. Yet Rosario picked someone who has arguably been an underachiever and let the team down off the field.
I wonder if the seniors who organized the over the wall nonsense were led by Taylor Embree, Maiava and Rosario. Was Coleman part of that group? When reading comments like the one Rosario made above, it seems there were as if two groups of players within two different mindsets last few years. You can sense the vibe of a team that was split and never came together. It is something Mora will have to address when he officially takes over on January 9th.
Going back to the Bowl game the players have been enjoying themselves in San Francisco:
UCLA Players Enjoy Themselves in San Francisco (via UCLA)
Players also attended a "Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Luncheon" yesterday during which Joe Fauria and Tevin McDonald represented the Bruin and Gold. Jet Ski gave the lowdown with Ralph here. Jet Ski mentioned that "practice went well throughout the whole week." He said they have "practiced with passion" and "intensity" and can't wait to play on Saturday. They have one more event which is to go to Glide Memorial Church today to feed the Homeless. It sounds like a wonderful event.
I will echo the Jet Ski here. Despite all the down trodden moments from this past year, I do like seeing these guys enjoying themselves. This has been one of the hardest year we have collectively experienced as Bruin alums, students and fans. There are lots of things that need to be changed and we need a total culture change. Despite all the negative vibes (and all of that is rooted in the total failure in leadership from our incompetent athletic administration), it'd be nice to see this team finish with a W, and a provide a nice spring board for Mora.