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Roundup From The BN Walk: News & Notes

Our stroll around the BN walk is going to be heavy on football.

We will start with the WWL where Ted Miller put together his own roundup of Pac-10 spring football action. Ted spots the obvious issue at UCLA: a thin and inexperienced offensive line:

It's a good thing that Norm Chow is an offensive genius because UCLA is going to need one this season.

While that observation at first hangs on the Bruins' top two quarterbacks getting injured two days before the spring game (including a knee injury to star-crossed starter Pat Cowan that ended his 2008 season before it began), the most glaring weakness that Chow and first-year head coach Rick Neuheisel have inherited is a thin and inexperienced offensive line.

While it would be nice to believe the line has struggled because the defense -- particularly tackles Brigham Harwell and ready-for-his-close-up sophomore Brian Price -- would make life hard for anyone, it's clear that the Bruins lack difference-makers up front. Of the five topping the depth chart -- tackles Sean Sheller and Micah Kia, center Micah Reed and guards Darius Savage and Scott Glicksberg -- only Kia and Reed own starting experience. And Reed is a former walk-on.
As troubling as the situation looks at OL, I think it may not turn out to be as bad as people think. From what I have seen last few years the OL have struggled because of bad schemes and horrific play calling that bogged down our offensive time after time. I think the combination of Neuheisel, Chow, and Palcic will bring some modicum of stability in this unit, which could settle down due to the simplification of offensive schemes. Perhaps that’s why CRN was "surprisingly upbeat and optimistic" while talking about the OL in San Diego this week.

But before you all get too excited read Jason over at What’s Bruin Dawg, where he crushes any reason for hope wrt our offense:
Olson is also perhaps the worst possible choice of quarterback for this offense because Olson requires about 5 minutes in order to complete his release and fire off a pass. This is unfortunate, because he is going to have about .25 seconds, given our offensive line.

Our offensive line is terrible. Awful. It's so remember that State Farm commercial with Matt Hasselbeck and the little cute pop-warner offensive line that gets run over? Yeah, we'd be that little pop-warner offensive line. And it's not because the guys don't try. But they're just not very big. And they're all inexperienced.

So you want my opinion? We're not going to be very good next year. But again, it's all a process. And frankly, I just like being able to tailgate on Saturdays. So I'll be there, and I'll be looking for effort. But I gotta' admit, I'm not going to be looking for a ton of results.

What I will be looking for? You've heard it from me once, you'll hear it one-hundred times: consistency.
Ouch! Before anyone get too upset with Jason, read this from the same post:
It's going to be a long slog this year, folks. That's alright, though. USC won 6 games the first year Pete Carroll was at the helm. Hell, Alabama lost to Louisiana-Monroe last year.
Honestly given Olson’s track record and the reality around our OL situation (and the schedule for next season), I don’t blame him for posting that kind of brutal take. The best case scenario right now is for the light bulb to go on in BO’s head so that he can come into the Fall camp, totally prepared and in the right mindset to play in Chow’s quick strike offense. And if BO can’t do that may be it will be Craft or Forcier who might pick it up a little this August. What are the chances of those scenarios taking place? I don’t think it’s very good. But I am not going to let that tamper my enthusiasm for the season. I am going to stick with this process, which will be a "long slog" and often painful, just like it was during Howland’s first two years at UCLA. What I will look for is to see whether the team sticks with it, keeps fighting, and hopefully improve as the season goes along.

Now staying over at Jason’s blog, he also put up a good post on why CRN have been talking so much about beating the renegade program from cross-town. Jason compares Neuheisel’s current situation at UCLA with that of Tressel when he took over for Cooper in Columbus:
Ohio State was not a relevant national player until Jim Tressel showed up. Cooper was hated at Ohio State for focusing on Michigan as 'just another game'. Tressel got it. Unless Ohio State beat Michigan on a regular basis, his tenure was not going to be a success. In fact, it was the only way his tenure was going to be a success. To pretend that Ohio State football existed in a vacuum, and there was no need to pay attention to Michigan was ignoring reality.

What does success against your rival bring? One thing, and one thing alone: Recruiting success. And UCLA needs to begin recruiting at a consistent Top-10 level if they're going to be successful in years to come. The only way they can accomplish this task is if they regularly beat Pete Carroll. And the more you beat Pete Carroll at the recruiting game, the more obvious it will become that Pete Carroll is not that much of a genius of a coach.

The deification of Pete Carroll is a bit absurd. He was a .500 football coach in the pros. It does not take rocket science to figure out what he has been so successful at the collegiate level. It is not a 'life's work of philosophy' - it's being the 4th choice in a coaching search, some dumb luck, a gangbusters recruiting philosophy, and football acumen. I will repeat: Pete Carroll is not a genius. College football is not terribly difficult to figure out: recruit well, don't try to invent complex schemes that take four years to learn, and let the athletes out-muscle the weaker, slower, and smaller team.

Pete Carroll is a genius? Their general offensive philosophy is not complex: there's no 'spread the field' formations, there's nothing exotic about any of it. It's line up, hit the other team, and run. This is not Urban Meyer or even Mike Leach we're talking about here. There's nothing about USC's philosophy that 'changes the game'. All they do is open up 10 yard holes for their running backs to plow through, and give their quarterback the literal equivalent of a year-and-a-half to complete a pass. Given that much time, my one-armed uncle could successfully complete passes. A genius? Maybe on a recruiting basis, sure - but the offensive and defensive schemes are not rocket science. USC does not disguise blitz packages, they do not line up in exotic offensive or defensive formations. They just beat you off the ball. That's it. It's not genius. It's called executing with better players.

And yet, we all talk about Pete Carroll in hushed tones as though he discovered a way to desalinate water, solve global warming, and feed seals. Carroll is good at two things: recruiting, and motivation. You know who else is great at those two things? Mark Richt. You take away either one of their recruiting advantages, and guess what? They're both not going to be very good coaches.

I agree, focusing on only beating USC gets UCLA nowhere. However, short-term, it generates enough recruiting interest in the school that the natural advantage that USC has experienced over UCLA vis-a-vis recruiting hopefully starts to even out. We can all assume, based on reports - that Neuheisel should be a good motivator. If he can close that recruiting gap, the rest of the pieces will fall in place.
One thing to keep in mind. The program Neuheisel has taken over is nowhere close the program Tressel inherited from John Cooper. Tressel took over a program at the end of 2000, that had won the Sugar Bowl in 1998. Sure they had two lackluster seasons following 1998 which featured losses to the Wolverines, but they were nowhere close to the mediocre product (with not a lot of talent) that we have seen in Westwood last five years under Karl Dorrell.

But going back to the point Jason brought up I do agree with him about the importance of that last game of every football season. That is simply not just another game and no UCLA head football coach cannot take a luke warm attitude about that game. That said I don’t believe our season should be defined by what we do in that game. Yes, two years ago that game became lot more significant than it always is because of the streak. However, as we said consistently over through the years winning or losing that game doesn’t define our season as successful. We were going to call for Dorrell’s removal last season even if he pulled off a fluke win this past December.

Yes we are all going to be fired up for December 6th. But right now we are just fired up about Fall camp and then give all our attention to the Tennessee Volunteers. We are going to approach next season game-by-game just like we do all the time here on BN in both football and basketball.

As for Pom Pom being a "genius" we have already offered our thoughts here and here on the famed Humanitarian from South Central. No doubt the guy is a superb recruiter/"salesman" and a good defensive coach. But as for being a great coach, you can email Bill Simmons or any die hard New England Patriots’ fan and ask for his or her opinion.

And speaking of New England, there is lot of buzz around the Pats’ drafting of Matthew Slater. Here are the write-ups from the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald for those who are interested. I think given the work ethic and dedication we saw from Matt during his time at UCLA, he has chance of shining in Bellichek’s program. We wish him luck.