Before getting to Thursday's (mixed bag of) notes, I wanted to share with you an interesting development I heard about the football team. Apparently, the players had a "players only" meeting after practice on Tuesday night. Let's just say one side of the ball may be a little concerned about carrying too much of the burden, while the other side's not doing as much. So the players got together and the veterans wanted to make sure that the team stays together. Apparently, the Arizona Wildcats also had one of these "players only" meetings before they came to the Rose Bowl and you know what happened. After all the happy talk we heard about "character" and "chemistry" during the pre-season, it will be interesting to see how during the rest of the season the offense/defense and Cowan/Olson dynamics develop in this team. Is Karl Dorrell a strong enough leader to make sure the whole team stays together? We will find out this Saturday when the whole team will have to step up following the devastating loss of last weekend.
As for today's note, the theme as usual is about how the players are developing. One kid who is feeling good about the progress he is making is backup QB Osaar Rasshan:
"He progressed a lot from spring to fall camp," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jim Svoboda said. "He worked on his decision-making, his accuracy and his mechanics - all phases really. And then, coming into the season, he's the third guy, which is a difficult spot (scout team) to come from.
"You don't get a lot of reps and there's a lot of rust to knock off. He's done a good job, though."
Rasshan, a sight unseen to most UCLA followers, is a tall, rangy athlete (6-4, 210 pounds) with a good arm. The former three-sport standout from Garey High in Pomona still needs to work on his accuracy and reads before he can succeed in UCLA's complex, West Coast offense.
"I'm ready and I'm comfortable with what we're running," Rasshan said. "I want to make it to the next level. I'm going to have to learn it (the West Coast offense) eventually."
But for now, it's still just baby steps.
Besides Osaar, another kid who will probably get the ball more this weekend (thank God) is backup RB true frosh Chane 'the Train' Moline:
Moline has 10 carries for 23 yards and two touchdowns. He scored both times he got the ball in goal-line situations against Stanford. Moline is 6-foot-1, 240 pounds. He said this week he's getting used to running behind fullbacks Michael Pitre and Dan Nelson.
"I've been waiting for an opportunity," Moline said. "I've just got to dot the I's and cross the T's. I need to make sure I have a good week of practice and be prepared. I'm excited. Obviously, I want to earn some respect and get out there and prove myself. I'm a bigger back and I have to have that extra burst."
I like what I have seen from the Train in his limited action this season. The Train runs with gusto. Kahlil Bell could turn out to be a good back for us in the long run, but, at least this season, it looks like Moline brings more to the table. Hopefully, Moline will take advantage of this opportunity and step up huge this weekend.
Speaking of Moline and true freshmen in the UCLA roster, the Times has an article of how Dorrell's best recruiting class has been fairing this season. Most of them have seen very limited action (unlike their counterparts from cross-town who adhere to the shocking philosophy of getting the best talent out on the field). Many of them are red shirting, hoping to make an impact down the line.
One athlete who is making a huge impact this season is Bruin defensive end Justin Hickman. The Daily News has a profile of the quarterback killer of Westwood, who is leading the Pac-10 with 10.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. Hickman is getting so much attention now with double teams that it's freeing up his team-mate Bruce Davis to turn loss, who himself has racked up 6.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. They need to have a huge afternoon this weekend right out of the gate making sure Washington State QB Alex Brink doesn't get on track.
Lastly, some disconcerting news from practice yesterday. Per Daily News notes Aleksey Lanis, the Bruins' strongside tackle, was helped off the field yesterday with a right ankle injury. The extent of his injury is not known, but it looks like junior Brian Abraham will be starting this Saturday. We expect Abraham to step up and fill in, helping the Bruins get back on track against Washington State. In a good program, a talented backup should always be ready to step right up and fill in for an injured starter. And since Karl Dorrell has already said this his best and deepest team yet, injury should not be an excuse this Saturday. They will need to step up and get us a big win restoring the modicum of momentum the team head going into the Oregon game. If they don't step up this weekend, the season then just may be on the verge of a total meltdown. Don't blow it Dorrell.