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Pushing Forward At Spaulding: Wide Open QB Competition

Before we move on to what looks like a wide open QB competition let’s make a note of Olson’s comments following another disappointing set back:

"It's definitely been tough," Olson said. "You're not able to accomplish the goals you set. It's very frustrating because it seems every year that my progression as a quarterback has been halted by injury. But whining and complaining about things and asking 'why did this happen to me?' does no good. You have to push forward."

You have to admire the kid’s attitude given what he has gone through last few years. It’s going to be difficult uphill climb for Olson from hereon out. He will have to decide whether to have a screw placed in his foot again to help it heal and it will take a while for him to get back in any kind of game shape. He sounds determined as he said that he was "definitely" coming back. For now though he needs to pay total attention in getting healthy and taking care of school work because there will be lot more to his life than college football once he has gotten his UCLA degree. Still we wish him best of luck and given the nature of this game we should never count anyone out.

As for rest of our QBs, it is on. The competition is now wide open:

Junior-college transfer Kevin Craft and redshirt freshman Chris Forcier moved to the forefront of UCLA's suddenly rekindled quarterback derby. Osaar Rasshan became a surprise long-shot option in the contest, and freshmen Kevin Prince and Nick Crissman find themselves on the periphery.

"There was competition before, but I think it just might have been kind of laid back because Ben was the older guy," Foricer said.

"Right now, I feel like it's open, and I'm going to go and try and get it. That's what I'm here for. I want to get on the field. I don't want to be sitting on the sideline, so I'm going to go after it."

A much more docile Craft said he wasn't getting overhyped about the competition.

"If you think that way, then you're not going to play to your potential," Craft said. "You have to go out and let it fly and play the way you know you can play, and not worry about anything, and not worry about the other guys. That's when you go downhill."

Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel and offensive coordinator Norm Chow agreed the competition was open, but time is not on UCLA's side.

Neuheisel and Chow will probably have about two weeks to assess the performances of their QBs before making their decision. I am assuming they will want to make a decision on their starting QB at least a week before the Tennessee game. Neuheisel could take the easy way out but as the OC Register reports he is going to make his QBs prove themselves at Spaulding before naming his starter:

Neuheisel said the easiest option is to slide Craft into the starting role because of his experience, but he said "He's got to prove it."

Craft was asked if he thought he could play well enough to keep the offense from bogging down in Olson's absence.

"We've got a ways until that day," Craft said. "We've got a lot of practices and time to put a lot of stuff in before then. We’re just trying to put ourselves in the best position to win. From now until then, it's just going to take a lot of hard work."

More from Craft in the LA Times:

"Right now the focus is on getting better every day and getting familiar with the offense," Craft said. "I need to show Coach Chow that I know where he wants me to put the ball."

As for Forcier, the kid out St. Augustine High (San Diego) who was running the scout team last season, he is all fired up about his opportunity to "prove" himself:

"This could be my only shot to prove myself," said Forcier, who played at St. Augustine High in San Diego. "It might not come back again. I've got to make the most of it."

Here are Foster’s (LAT) report (linked above) from yesterday’s practice:

Forcier and Craft shared time with the first team in Sunday's two practices. Neither was overwhelming, but Forcier's speed and agility was an added element, one that could be an asset playing behind an inexperienced offensive line.

"He's got some magic to him," Neuheisel said. "He has to become an expert on this offense. Last year he was playing off some cards [as the scout team quarterback]. Now he has to be thorough in his preparation and we need to see if he's ready to make it."

Craft, too, has his downsides.

"I think his mind knows what to do, but his body has to respond to the mind and not be jerky about it," Neuheisel said.

While Craft and Forcier are battling it out for the starting spot, coaches are working to shore up the right side of the OL. Dohn reports that Palcic is digging what he is seeing in Chandler (at RT):

"I think Nate Chandler has a real future as an offensive tackle," Palcic said. "He's athletic, but we just have to get him a little bit bigger and stronger. I think he'll be a real good Pac-10 tackle."

Chandler, a redshirt freshman who was moved from tight end less than a month ago, is listed at 6-foot-4, 275 pounds. He fared well playing against the first-team defense the past few days, but consistency and improvement is what Palcic wants.

"I'll know a little bit more in this next week, once we get in a couple scrimmage situations and stuff like that," Palcic said. "We've been going against a pretty good defensive front, and he's been holding his own."

That’s good news. And it’s timely development given Mike Harris, the backup RT had to leave practice with a right ankle injury yesterday. We will get more information today on his status. Neuheisel sounded "a little nervous" about it and is hoping for "some good news" today.

Here is one silver lining from yesterday’s sad news. With either Forcier or Craft at QB, the left side of the OL takes more importance as we will have an uber talented combination of Micah Kia and Darius Savage protecting these right hander’s blind side. Now if they can only settle down a bit, and step up to become an efficient game manager within Chow’s system taking advantage of some of the talent at skill positions, we could be all right.

One thing we know Neuheisel is the kind of coach who will not let his team get down. He is going to keep their spirits up while working with Chow and rest of his staff to draw up a plan that will make the best out of their current situation. I am sure given our current situation it is still going to be an immense challenge, but these coaches and players are not going to feel sorry for themselves, and do what they have to do to push forward and get on with the business of establishing a foundation of a winning program. I am looking forward to the wide open competition that will take place in next two weeks and the anointing of a new starting QB out of it. It is on.