UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin was one of three captains selected by the team for the 2011 season. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
We're getting close, everyone.
It was a relatively quiet day in Westwood on Thursday. With the season opener in Houston just two days away, the Bruins took care of a few final odds and ends with another light practice in shells as they finalized their preparations for the Cougars. The offensive unit now has its starter in Kevin Prince, and was able to focus on the business of installing the offensive game plan for this weekend. Prince and Rich Brehaut both got reps at practice, with Prince getting special mention by Jon Gold for his improved pace and accuracy on his deep throws.
Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut looked very good in drills, with Prince's deep ball continuing to have more zip and more accuracy. He delivered some nice deep passes in drills today, as did Brehaut. A couple of drops by Randall Carroll and Devin Lucien, but overall, a good effort.
We've heard, and dreaded, the reports of drops before, but it at least doesn't appear to be as big a problem as it was early in camp and certainly as it was last year. Bottom line is that not just the QB's but the OL and the WR's must all do their jobs effectively if the offense expects to pass the ball this year. But it certainly looks as though Prince is ready to fill his end of the deal.
Staying with the offense, Coach Jim Mastro noted that if fans are expecting the same Pistol that we saw last year, then we will be surprised. Coach Neuheisel, OC Mike Johnson, and Mastro have made some significant changes to the plays and motions that will be run from the Pistol; changes they expect will make the offense much more dynamic and aggressive, which is something all Bruins fans should welcome.
"The offense is a lot different than it was last year," Mastro said. "There aren’t a lot of similarities to it other than the Pistol formation itself. We’ve added a lot to it and taken what was working and brought to the next level.
The pass game is much more dynamic with the quarterbacks taking more shots downfield, the running backs coming out of the backfield as receivers and the F-backs creating matchup problems all over the field.
I think we were all frustrated with the lack of diversity from the offense last season, and the failure to really utilize the talent at the skill positions, so this may be an encouraging sign that the new coaching staff has really developed the Pistol offense into a unique threat. You can read the rest of the breakdown as well as the defense's opinion of the changes here. And we'll expect a more thorough breakdown from 03rdn9 early next week, right?
More news after the jump...
A day after suggesting that the choice of the starting place kicker may be a game time decision, Neuheisel today officially named Kip Smith the starter for Saturday's game. His struggles in spring and preseason camp have been well documented, but he has become more reliable lately, and that trend apparently convinced Neuheisel. That pattern followed today as Smith started with a bad shank early in practice, but then settled down by knocking home a PAT and a couple short field goals, and then connected from 30 yards out later on in a 2 minute drill.
"I just believe that Kip will respond and he knows that this team is behind him and we’re going to be behind him and hopefully he’ll find that consistency and become the kicker that he’s certainly gifted enough to be," Neuheisel said.
Neuheisel said Smith would have his full confidence during the game and that he wouldn't hesitate to send Smith on to the field in a field goal situation.
Finally, the Bruins selected their captains for the season today, naming junior RB Johnathan Franklin, senior safety Tony Dye, and junior LB Patrick Larimore. This honor was bestowed by a recent team vote. In previous years, the team selected captains prior to preseason camp, but Neuheisel intentionally moved the selection back to the end of fall camp this year.
"I moved the vote to much later in the year so they could see who was doing the work in the summer time and who was providing the leadership that good team all need and require and I think they’ve made some excellent choices," Neuheisel said.
I agree that they couldn't have found three more outstanding leaders for this team. Among the many struggles the last few seasons, the Bruins seemed to have had issues with identity. I fully expect that Franklin, Dye, and Larimore will set an outstanding example of comittment and character and discipline for the rest of the team to follow.
That's that for today roundup.
And now, we're even a little bit closer.