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Olson Makes His Move ...

From the headlines of two major city newspapers this morning it is pretty clear who will be starting against Utah in 13 days:

LA Times: Olson Takes Step Toward Starting Job
LA Daily News: Olson is ready to start

BO During Spring Ball - Adak Bruin

Some things to keep in mind before getting into some of the highlights from today's roundup. Usually in the training camp defense is always a step ahead of the offense, especially ahead of those Os who like ours depend so much on timing/rhythm to get going. And also we sat out a lot of guys yesterday including four of our top 6 receivers were out of action yesterday. You can't really expect the coaches to run anything but vanilla offenses during these scrimmages considering it was a given that probably lot of spies from the Utes were in attendance yesterday. And the best news from yesterday: no reported injuries, a huge sigh of relief for this Nation.

Now let's get to our Bruin roundup.

As usual let's start with Dohn, who leads off his report with the QB's performances from yesterday:

Ben Olson entered training camp as the favorite to become UCLA's starting quarterback, and following his performance in Saturday's situational scrimmage, the redshirt sophomore said he expects that to happen.

Olson, who is dueling with Patrick Cowan, completed 14 of 23 passes for 156yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Olson also missed several open receivers, and was victimized by a few drops.

Cowan completed 10 of 25 passes for 92yards and three touchdowns, but his longest scoring drive was 35 yards.

He was inconsistent in his throws, several of which he forced into coverage, and at one point had seven straight possessions go three- and-out.

Olson consistently said throughout training camp he was preparing to be UCLA's starter. He was asked after the scrimmage if anything transpired in training camp for that belief to be altered.

"No," the 6-foot-5 left-hander said. "Until I'm told otherwise, that's the approach and attitude I'm going to take."
I love the confidence in Olson. He sounds like he is ready to lead. As I have said all along it was going to be the Southpaw Jesus after everything is said and done in the camp. BO is Dorrell's meal ticket. If he cannot get it done with him this year or next, it will probably never happen. And, it is great that Cowan gave him such a spirited competition. This puts UCLA in good shape (knock on wood) should something happen to Big Ben.

Now even though defense usually outshines offense in these types of scrimmages an astute observer like Dohn was impressed with what he saw out at Drake:
UCLA's defense put forth a strong effort, limiting its missed tackles and blown assignments.

The offense's longest scoring drive was 50yards, and the defense didn't allow any points on the first eight possessions.

"The defense is a lot better this year, and they're really a fast defense," Sutherland said. "I can tell. I think the speed is a lot better, they're more sound. They're not out of position as much. I even think their effort is better."

Players said part of the reason for UCLA's strong defensive showing was a defensive players-only meeting middle linebacker Christian Taylor called Friday night to go over the game plan.

"Something we've been preaching all of camp is tackling," Taylor said. "When the defensive backs come up, they're doing a great job of taking out legs and getting guys down right now. Up front, we're working on setting a new line of scrimmage and getting the linebackers going downhill. That's how we want to play.

"Sometimes we're moving guys, and we're stunting, and allowing the linebackers to run and make tackles."
More on the D from Dohn's Inside UCLA blog.  Those are some really encouraging notes. It is good to hear so much emphasis on basic tackling after the embarrassing performances spanning almost a decade, and it is good to hear to that defense is working in a way now that players are being put in position to make those players. Add in the mix a heavy dose of blitzing. Both Lonnie White  (LA Times) and Robert Kuwada (OC Register) noted there was a heavy doze of blitzing, which threw the offense off guard and created problems for the running game. Lets hope we can see the same kind of aggressiveness in 13 days. I cannot wait.

One last note. I have read some grumbling from folks who attended the practice yesterday about what UCLA athletic department did to make the scrimmage a great experience for about the 7,000 fans who attended practice.  Apparently not much. First, there was not much promotion of the scrimmage on their official website. No information about how to get to campus, where to park. And then you have awful event management. As reportedly they were blasting (per an email I received) Jefferson Starship's "We Built this City," before things got started. That is so freaking lame I don't even know where to start. It is really a shame and travesty how this Athletic Department/Administration continues to completely fail in properly promoting the most powerful athletic program in D-1. Not only it is letting all of its diehard fans down (7,000 who showed up) but the entire community. Oh well ... perhaps this is the year there will be some signs of change (if Dorrell and co. can meet the minimum expectations this season, you can bet there will be lot more pressure on this incompetent bunch (the UCLA athletics department) to put on a better show next year).

Thanks again for all your scrimmage notes in the comment threads. We really appreciate it. As always for those of you who were out there yesterday, if the reporters missed anything, please fill in the gaps in the comment section. Enjoy your Sunday.