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Something Special?

Coaches and players continue to talk about the need to work on special teams. Dohn reports on how the team is working on to improve the dismal punt returns in our first two games (emphasis mine):

The punt return competition began Tuesday at UCLA, with receivers Marcus Everett and Terrence Austin getting the majority of the work as the Bruins try to solidify that aspect of their special teams play.

The unit is under scrutiny after tailback Chris Markey and Everett both muffed punts in the Bruins' first two games, one of which led to UCLA losing the ball on its own 2-yard line.

"It's a work in progress right now," first-year Bruins special teams coach John Wristen said. "We'll be fine. We're going to continue to put an emphasis on it."

But finding a competent replacement for All-American Maurice Drew has proved difficult, so the coaching staff is using this week's bye to rectify the problem.

During the early portion of practice Everett and Austin took turn fielding punts with on-charging defenders in an effort to simulate game conditions. It is much varied from the way UCLA sought out a punt returner in training camp.

"We never did it (in training camp) with coverage coming down or anything like that, people in front of you," Everett said. "We're going to work on that for now on."
Again I don't mean to sound picky by why did wait till the bye week to work on this crucial aspect of the game. We waited for the bye week to "simulate game conditions" on punt-returns? You'd think the coaches would recognize the importance of punt returns, and what this can do to change games, given the comebacks we had last year from these situations. Sure lot of it had to do with the talent/play making abilities of MJD but surely the coaches could instill in the players situational awareness such as letting the ball go when you are trying to catch it within your own 20? Well whatever the coaches are teaching this week, hope it is evident in our performance against the Huskies.

Also on special teams lost among all the chaos on punt returning situations was the botched field goal against the Owls with time running out in the second quarter. After a bad snap, Medlock didn't bother attempting a kick. Here is KD in the OC Register on what happened and what they are doing to make sure it doesn't happen again:
"Something like that, given that circumstance, it's better to kick through it. You may not make it, but it's better to kick through it," Coach Karl Dorrell said.

Holder Patrick Cowan, the Bruins' backup quarterback, was left to scramble to his right and try a pass that was not close to any UCLA receiver.

But given the number of things that can go wrong - the pass could have been intercepted and run back, Cowan could have been hit and fumbled - the preference is to kick the football.

Medlock, who missed the Sun Bowl last year after an arrest for driving under the influence, didn't even swing through the ball.

"There was a little bit of a timing (issue)," Dorrell said. "The timing was not good. The snap was OK, but I think it was a little bit of the ball got down a little later than what he's used to and he didn't pull the trigger. The snap was more inside, and the ball didn't get down in the time that it normally does, so his rhythm was off.

"That's something where he has to trust the holder more. It is Pat's first year holding. He had Brian (Callahan) holding last year and (Chris) Kluwe the previous two years. ... I think that gets better and they'll continue to work on it."
Sounds good. BTW WTF Kuwada has to mention Medlock's DUI everytime he mentions his name. I don't see beat reporters covering Southern Cal writing something like "Maulauga, who was arrested last year for assaulting another student, beating his brains out," or "Sanchez, the Southern Cal quarterback was busted for under age drinking at a bar, and then later allegedly sexually assaulting another student," when covering that football program. Whatever. Kind of a cheap shot on the part of Kuwada to put that line. Totally unnecessary and has nothing to do with the subject matter he is covering, which is reporting on the current state of UCLA special teams.

And speaking of Southern Cal, M Zone is very amused by the name shenanigans at ... Southern Cal:

As you can gather by now we will stick with Southern Cal from now on here at BN.

Lastly there is nothing interesting in Lonnie White's LA Times report. Michael Pitre is raving about the running efforts against Rice. Lonnie noted how "It was the second time in the last three games that Markey and Bell each surpassed 100 yards." He left out that the performances came against Northwestern and Rice. We are hoping it continues against Washington and sets up UCLA for the expected start of 5-0. That will help set up for Dorrell to pull of a special season. We are pulling for him.