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Spaulding Roundup: Peace Of Mind

Thanks to Telemachus, Tydides, Achilles, and others for holding down the fort for last few days. I am traveling today as I will get back into swing of things with regular roundups and updates tomorrow. I didn’t get to watch the game last weekend. However, from what I have read it doesn’t sound like (at least to me) it was much of surprise. We can only hold things together for so long with an entire second string offense for so long against a talented team on the road. It sounds like lot of the frustrations are being directed towards our quarterback. Yet, the more I think about it, the more I am not sure whether a QB change (with this offense) will make things better.

Right now the problem with our offense is fairly simple. We don’t have a strong offensive line. There were couple of astute and pin point observations I wanted to highlight to start this week. First here is Meriones, in the post game thread from this past weekend:

Our O-line is young, green, and battered. As frustrating as Craft can be to coaches and fans alike, one can’t blame him for all of our offensive woes.

With so many injuries to our center-ready players, we’ve had the ball coming at him from willing but not world-beating snappers like a pitching machine set not on ‘fastball’ or ‘slider’ but on ‘Charlie Sheen.’

Craft’s decision-making can stand improvement, but with an overpowered line, his options are often ‘duck’ and ‘cover’ at best, or ‘throw’ and ‘oh (BLEEP)’ at worst.

A powerful O-line can make good RBs great, and make very good QBs into Heisman-winners.

But with no engine, the car won’t go.

ryebreadaz nailed the same point re. how it all starts and ends with the line up front:

How many teams that can’t run the ball are good? Then, when you can’t run the ball your D spends too much time on the field and give up chunks of yards late. On top of that, we lack a receiver to stretch the field consistently. This team lacks talent and even the talent we do have has had their growth stunted until this year by inadequate coaching. No team can consistently move the ball without a decent offensive line and we don’t have a decent offensive line. People like to talk about the flashy WR’s, game breaking RB’s or a QB who can throw the ball all over the field, but games are won and lost up front.

And right now, the stats are telling. I am not going to reiterate our running stats again, which I think provides all you need to know re. the dire straits of our line. And I hate to point to these guys up front. From what I am seeing these guys are giving everything they can and playing their heart out under Palcic. But there is not much we can to escape the reality that almost a decade of mediocrity have left our program in not great shape in terms of conditioning and strength. CRN and his S&C coach were frank just like Howland (is with his player’s conditioning) in their assessments of our current OL following last weekend’s game:

Following Saturday's 41-20 defeat to Cal, Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel talked about a need "to get stronger" so the offensive line "can move people" and create running lanes. And the only way to do that is through an offseason strength and conditioning program, which is led by head athletic performance coach Mike Linn.

"Every team we play, we've been outmatched," said Linn, who was hired seven months ago. "As a strength and conditioning coach, you go out there in warmups and take the visual test, and we don't look the part. First, you have to look the part, then you have to play with tenacity and play with your strength."

Linn said strength improvements were made during his first partial offseason, but the gap remains big.

And that was driven home when he strolled around the practice field and sized up the Bears.

"I saw a team that we need to look like next year," Linn said. "When we walked out against BYU, I saw the same thing. When we walked out against Tennessee, I saw the same thing. Stanford, the same thing. It's across the board. We have to look the part, and then after that, we have to play big and strong."

In other words, this is a long term issue, which is not going to be solved in this season. It will take at least 3-4 years for us to rebuild this offensive line, constituting the foundation of a strong football team.

So does that mean we give up on rest of the season? Hardly. Rebuilding is not fun but we knew that. We were ready for the doses of reality based on our discussions concerning the available talent on our current roster and the incredibily difficult schedule of this season. However, at the same time I am not going to concede any of the games rest of this season. I think given the kind of adversity we have faced this season (playing without our two best QBs, stating TE, starting senior WR, starting FB, a hobbled starting TB, and 4 new OL) we are IMHO a little bit ahead of where I was expecting this team be. This team still can finish on a strong note and I believe during next two weeks the coaches are going to make sure we have hard and healthy competition during practices, which hopefully will get the team ready for a good opponent in our next game at home.

As for the QB situation, CRN is sounding off the right notes by not throwing KC under the bus, while being open minded giving CF meaningful time during practices:

In the aftermath of UCLA's latest offensive stumble, coach Rick Neuheisel said a decision on whether a full-blown quarterback competition will be staged during this week's bye will not be made until after meetings conclude Tuesday.

Neuheisel acknowledged it was "possible" backup Chris Forcier could see increased practice time, but added "it's not a given." While Neuheisel added discussions will take place about changes across the offense, he also said it was possible no changes could be made from the personnel used in the 41-20 loss at California, including starting quarterback Kevin Craft.

"I feel badly for Kevin because I think Kevin has given everything to be what we wanted him to be, and he's worked real hard to be," Neuheisel said. "I think there's still some great football left in Kevin. I would tell you right now there's no one on our staff who's going to give up on him, but that doesn't mean Chris Forcier may not be part of the solution. "We have to throw that around and see what sticks."

Yet, keep in mind right now from what it sounds like Chow is leaning towards sticking with Craft. I am sure CRN, Chow and rest of the staff will be brainstorming next couple of days before coming up with a plan for next two weeks: 

Coach Rick Neuheisel said that the coaching staff would reevaluate personnel and schemes with an open date.

"Things we've been doing we've proven we have not been able to execute," said Neuheisel, whose team has a 3-5 record overall and is 2-3 in the Pacific 10 Conference. "You have to ask yourself, 'What can we execute?' "

Whether the Bruins can find the right answers, Neuheisel said, "I don't know. But it's important to have long discussions even though the discussions might lead back to where we are right now."

I like the fact that CRN is always willing to brain storm for solutions to our problems working with Chow and rest of the coaching staff. They might end up staying the course after having their discussions, but to me the Howland like candor about acknowledging our current problems head on, and giving indication that they are exploring all options to see if there is a practicable solution at this point of time is nothing short of refreshing. Right now knowing that we have coaches like CRN, Chow and Palcic in charge of our offense, gives me the same peace of mind I had while going through the growing pains of Howland’s first two seasons.