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Spring Football News & Notes

Unfortunately we have to start this edition of spring football news and notes some bad news. Bruins are losing Aleksey Lanis, one of the better athletes from their OL due to injury related issues. Dohn listed the following factors behind Aleksey’s decision to retire:

First, he had three significant injuries in his two years as a starter, including two knee surgeries. Also, he was married and had a son in the offseason, and wants to do this for his family. His plan is to finish his degree in the fall and then go to graduate school while pursuing a career in business.
Lanis said he recently had his application to UCLA's graduate school turned down, so he will look elsewhere. I'll have some comments from Lanis in Tuesday's paper.
I asked UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel if he tried to talk Lanis out of retiring.
"It was clear in his face that he wasn’t ready to go on,'' Neuheisel said. "If I thought there was hope, I probably would have pushed harder and harder, but he was pretty set in his decision, and you have to respect that.’’
We wish Aleksey the best of luck. Although I am intrigued about the decision making process of our grad school admission staff, who decided not to admit Aleksey into their program. I guess it all depends on the grades Aleksey had. However, I would like to think if Aleksey had decent grades, given his contributions to UCLA as a student athlete, he would have gotten a special consideration by the graduate school programs. I would certainly like to think if AA2 is applying for graduate school programs, given what we have heard about him being a great student, it would be a no brainer for the staff of whatever UCLA graduate school he is applying to admit him into the program. Anyway, let’s hope everything works out well for Aleksey.

Aleksey’s departure means other youngsters in the program will have the opportunity to step up. That means Sean Sheller, 6-foot-5, 282-pound high recruited soph will get his chance. From the LA Times:
"I looked at that spot as my spot," said Sheller, who played at Walnut High. "Nobody was going to take it from me after spring. I wanted this spot for two years now. Now my youth is gone, so it's time step up."

As a high school senior, Sheller was ranked 18th among tackles nationally by His progress was slowed by a knee injury his freshman year at UCLA.

"He's just needs to get a little stronger and a little bigger," Neuheisel said.
In addition to Sheller, Micah Kia, another highly recruited OL will have the opportunity to fill the leadership void at OL (from the same article linked above):
Kia, who started eight games as a sophomore, saw his value to the offensive line unit increase with Lanis' departure.

"He's going to have to be leader," Palcic said. "It's time for him to step up."
More from the LAT on how Palcic’s scheme could help this young OL core:
Palcic's philosophy could help the group. The Bruins are expected to zone block the majority of the time.

"I'm not saying that we'll do that exclusively, but the majority of our concepts will be zone," Palcic said. "I don't think you can give an offensive lineman too many concepts to master, because there are too many defensive variations. Therefore you can be the jack-of-all-trades and master of none. I'd rather settle down into a few basic concepts and be very efficient at what we do."
Well we are going to keep our fingers crossed. However, at this point I am operating from the mindset that it will take at least two or three years to rebuild this line. Let’s hope our coaches can bring in some quality recruits in next couple of years to add much needed depth in the trenches.

While CRN and Palcic are working through the issues at the OL, DeWayne Walker is encouraging competition to improve our young secondary. From the Daily News:
Returning starter Alterraun Verner has one of cornerback spots nailed down and fifth-year senior Michael Norris is the leader at the other corner, although incoming freshman Rahim Moore could push Norris, Bruins defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said.

At strong safety, Walker said senior Bret Lockett has done well to solidify his spot as Chris Horton's successor, but junior Aaron Ware is competing to win the free safety position.

"I think Lockett is fine," Walker said. "We just want to make sure he's consistent. I think that will be a spot where we definitely need depth behind Lockett, and Ware, that job is going to be hot."

Walker said incoming freshman Tony Dye could compete for playing time at free safety.

"He's an IQ guy," Walker said. "He's smart. He's a quick learner. And you still have Glenn Love, but I'm not going to give up on him.

"Right now, Ware, I feel more comfortable with him. He's just going to have to be a guy that doesn't make mistakes. If he doesn't make mistakes, he'll be fine."
Can’t wait to see what kids like Rahim Moore will have to offer this fall. Also we have been hearing lot of great things about the athleticism of Glenn Love. Hopefully the intense competition for these spots will lead to Walker putting together a ferocious secondary who will emerge as worthy successors to the legends of Easley, Darby, Turner, Henderson, Grey, Goodwin et al. Lastly, it’s the off season. So sooner or later we will be writing about scheduling future road trips. Kyle over at Dawg Sports is already waging a campaign for a UCLA-Georgia home and home series. Given the fantastic experience many of us had during the UCLA-Alabama series, I would love to see CRN lead our boys between the hedges going up against Marc Richt and legendary Georgia football program sometime in the coming years. A Georgia-UCLA series is a no brainer to me. I will write more on that topic sometime this summer. But no one should wait for my thoughts on it.