Since the 2011 season started, a lot of us have been struggling to figure out exactly what is this UCLA football team's identity. With the display of multiple personalities (only a few of which actually help you win games), it has been hard to discern.
Instead of guessing, let's just let the man in charge tell us exactly what he's trying to turn his team into. What is Neuheisel's vision for the future of the UCLA program (or at least this team)? Well here it is:
"Our gameplan every week has been to pound it," Neuheisel said. "That's the identity that we've chosen by going to this brand of offense. That doesn't mean we can't be explosive."
That's right folks: Rick Neuheisel wants to turn UCLA into a power running team, and that's why he went to the Pistol. Now, on the surface, that seems reasonable. But personally, I see many issues with this.
More after the jump.
I think those who know football well (which means, not me) will likely tell you that run-blocking is easier than pass-blocking. Fine then, it makes sense, given the issues with our offensive line, to use this type of offense. On the surface, it looks like our run game is powerful, second only to Oregon in the conference. But when broken down, it is not as good as we think.
You can see now why Neuheisel kept trying to put in Kevin Prince. He doesn't want a QB who's a good passer. He wants someone who will make the right reads on that zone-read play that he loves so much, so that we run the ball well.
Here is the thing with a power running game though: it is ultra conservative. It makes the game shorter, which in theory makes sense if you are in a conference with high-powered offenses. But here is the problem: it only works if you have a good defense. And UCLA does not. The good offenses in the Pac-12 will still score on us, we will fall behind as we did against Texas, and Neuheisel will still run the ball up the middle giving us no chance at catching up.
Basically, Neuheisel is telling the fans, and the team, that UCLA is just not good enough to keep up with the rest of the teams in the conference, so we'll just play keep-away. You know who used to play like that? Oregon State, until the mid-90's. The Beavers could not recruit enough talent to Corvallis, so they stuck to the wishbone, or option, or whatever it was, to stay competitive (and I remember some games against UCLA being nail-biters, because Donahue essentially played the same way despite having way more talent).
So there you have it. That's who Neuheisel thinks we are now. And it is pissing me off.
It pisses me off because we DO have a QB who can be a pretty good passer and who could make us dangerous.
It pisses me off because we DO have a good amount of talent, especially at wide receiver. By the way, Rick, did you tell Randall Carroll, Devin Lucien, Shaq Evans, that UCLA would be a power running team when you recruited them? Did you tell them that they would spend 80% of their time on the field blocking for running backs?
It pisses me off because our defense is nowhere near good enough for this strategy to work, at least not yet.
It pisses me off because our coach is a QB specialist and I just don't think he can somehow turn us into a successful power running team. Frankly I think our coach has been abducted and replaced by a clone with unclear intentions
And it pisses me off because it looks as though Neuheisel has simply conceded that we're just not good enough to compete in the Pac-12 straight up.
It could be that he is waiting for XSF to come back next year so that our pass blocking improves (it was much better in 2009 when he was with the team). But if this is not temporary, then I for one may not want him back to coach the team, no matter how successful. It is a boring, uninspired, and cowardly style of play that speaks volumes about the mindset of our coach and where he thinks our program should be headed. I am not interested in squeaking out wins like we did against Oregon State. The talent on this team is being wasted in an atrocious way and it may cause some players to transfer.
It may sound a bit selfish for me to complain about our style of play, but it's not really the style that I am complaining about. It's the strategy. If we had a LSU or Stanford caliber defense, it would make sense. We don't. Not even close. Between that fact, and the conference in which UCLA plays, I think this is an incredibly misguided strategy.
Unfortunately, it looks like that is what we should expect for the remainder of the season. Wins like against Oregon State, losses like against Texas. Oh the joy.