While our own passion buckets may not overfloweth (at least not with 'passion'), that does not mean that the team is losing their feeling, as Wednesday's practice saw a few skirmishes break out, including a battle between Cassius Marsh and Torian White. After practice, Coach Neuheisel touched upon the heightened emotions present this week.
"Another great practice where we got lots done coaching our tails off, playing hard, people angry, people fighting," coach Rick Neuheisel said. "It’s football and it warms your heart if you’re into that sort of thing and I’m looking forward to a spirited game on Saturday."
While the strategy present in the gameplan and a lack of fundamental play were the main focuses of criticism after Saturday's beatdown by Texas, during long stretches of that game, it seemed like the team was simply out of it. In the locker room after the game, the players were out of it. While those first two factors are not likely to greatly improve over one week, a change in attitude by the team in the wake of being embarrassed on their home field can rise up fast; let's hope that the emotion that the guys are showing joins them on the flight up to Corvallis at the end of this week.
As expected, Richard Brehaut got most of the snaps at practice, and according to Jon Gold's report from Spaulding, looked confident under center and performed well in drills. He connected particularly well with Randall Carroll during the session. With that said, the customary end-of-practice two-minute drill ended with the offense stagnating around the 40 yard line, with Jeff Locke missing a 57-yard attempt to close out the day. Jeff missed a couple of other FG attempts during practice; I guess he just isn't a practice player...
Kevin Prince and Brett Hundley shared the remaining snaps on Wednesday. While there was not much KP news, there was more talk about the package of plays that Neu is putting together for Brett and how close he is to being ready to run them in a game. Peter Yoon wrote on Hundley's continuing development, noting that while Brett may soon be able to run a selection of plays out of the playbook, he still has a long way to go before being ready to fully run the offense. With the need to fully prepare Brehaut for his starting role, and KP still in the picture, there are not that many reps for him to get, but still a strong need for him to work on his passing.
"There are still some things that happen in the course of practice that can tell you that he didn’t know we were hot on that guy or that he didn’t know that was the protection required here," Neuheisel said. "That’s not a knock on him. Most kids his age don’t."
Truth be told, Hundley hasn't looked all that sharp in the passing game in practice, with inaccurate throws hampering the few reps that he gets. You would expect he would improve with more reps, however.
... "If there’s things he can do to help us and dimensionalize us as an offense then you have to consider that," Neuheisel said. "But you can’t consider it until he’s ready to play. He’s getting closer."
Brett seems to be taking the uncertainty in stride. While he wants to take the field this year, he realizes that he is not realistically competing for the starting QB spot this season and that a package situation is his best chance to play in 2011. With that said, if he does lose the redshirt, he wants his playing time to be meaningful and not just a few plays here and there.
"If I have a package, I have a package. If I redshirt, I’ll redshirt. If they call my number, I’m going to be ready," Hundley said. "I would imagine they wouldn’t throw me in there off the bench and say take the offense and run with it. I mean, I’m not opposed to that, but I understand that as coaches why they would want to do that. I can’t say how many plays I'd want my package to be, but hopefully it would be a nice amount. I wouldn't want to go in for just three or four plays a game."
Yoon also wrote a piece on Inoke Breckterfield's return to Corvalis, where he played for and served as a graduate assistant under Mike Riley. Inoke is not the only UCLA assistant with Oregon State ties, as Mike Johnson got his first coaching position as OSU's WR coach in the mid-late 90's, and DB coach Tim Hundley was the Beavers' Defensive Coordinator during the 1980's. In injury news, Tony Dye sat out of practice with a Stinger, but is expected to play on Saturday. Tevin McDonald took his spot yesterday. Andrew Abbott also missed practice and will definitely miss the Oregon State game while recovering from the concussion that he suffered against Texas. Jamie Graham dressed and was able to get some running in, but is still two weeks from being game ready.
Adam Maya reported on a Q&A that he and other beat reporters had with Joe Tresey on Tuesday, trying to get his thoughts on what has gone wrong with the UCLA defense to date.
Is your system calling them to be play faster than they can play?
JT: "I don’t think so. I thought we played fast in the spring and pretty consistently, and I thought we played pretty good in camp. I’m stunned like everybody else right now. We all are. All you can do is go back to the drawing board."
Hearing "going back to the drawing board" when you are a quarter of the way into the season is not the most encouraging phrase to hear from your defensive leader.
What’s your personal philosophy on tackling in practice?
JT: "Everything we do, we do full thud in individuals and we try to stay off the ground. When people end up on the ground that’s when they have a good chance of getting injured. You hope during the season your thudded up. there probably aren’t a lot of teams in full pads at the end of the season. You know, our tackling has gotten better since Houston. It really has. Our biggest problem right now is we’re not running our feet. We’re not finishing like we need to be. That’s something we’ve emphasized this week."
Is that why opponents are getting those extra yards?
JT: "That’s exactly right. We have situations where we can gang tackle and have bodies on him, moving him back, and we’re either losing sight of him or losing control, and it’s allowing him to spin, instead of using our bodies and converging on him and making him go back. That’s probably the simplest I could make it."
While I assume that others here have a better idea of what tends to go on during practices, I take this to mean that the players typically hit during practice, but do not finish the tackles. While I understand Tresey's statement that teams do not ordinarily tackle much in-season, that normally gets balanced out by work done earlier in the year. In Westwood, Coach Neuheisel's policy has been not to tackle in training camp and in spring practices as well as the lack of in-season live tackling. The lack of finishing throughout the year has to have affected the basic ability of Bruin defenders to simply wrap-up and bring down the ballcarrier, not to mention the footwork and the acceleration into the runner that Tresey mentioned in the above quote. I really don't know if these are problems that can be repaired in one week, or even over the course of am ongoing football season.