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Spaulding Roundup: Competition, Details & Artwork

We have talked a lot about our offense last couple of days. So it’s time we start a roundup on a defensive note. We have read a lot about the competition between Craft and Forcier. Well there is some fierce competition going over at the defensive side where players are locked in number of positional battles in DeWayne Walker’s unit. One of them involves the battle for the starting sport at SLB where John Hale is going at it with Akeem Ayers. According to the LAT, right now Hale is a little head after two “solid” weeks:

"The one thing that he brings to our defense is that he knows what he's doing," UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said. "We play an assignment-type defense where we try and stay disciplined. It might not be right to throw Ayers in there right now. He's still a kid and he has to catch up a little bit.

"Ayers needs to learn the other intangibles that are important to our defense and right now, John gives us that."

More on how this “competition” is helping the team out:

"The term 'competition' really helps," said Hale, who has played both inside and outside linebacker at UCLA. "It makes you improve your game every day. . . . Competition is something that helps everyone's game. From the starter to the guy who is second team to the guys who are third and fourth. Everything is geared to help the team."

The battle between Hale and Ayers has been noticed by Coach Rick Neuheisel.

"Position battles are usually enhancers to your team because you are going to need everybody," Neuheisel said. "When people are fighting to see who is first string, they usually come out ready to play and you'll find out how competitive they really are. I think it helps us . . .

"I just know that they are both flying around and that's great for our football team."

Speaking of flying around, Dohn reports on how UCLA’s special teams coach is changing our team’s attitude:

Gansz [Frank Gansz Jr., UCLA’s special teams coach, BN Ed], who spent the past two seasons working with Neuheisel on the Baltimore Ravens' coaching staff, is transforming the attitude of UCLA's special teams players.

"Before, people didn't want to be on special teams, but now they want to get out there," Forbath said. "His meetings are really focused and he has everyone's attention. If you (aren't focused), then he'll pick you out. He checks people all the time. Everyone is paying attention a lot more in these meetings than in the past."

And if someone blows an assignment on special teams?

"You'll be yelled at and you'll have to give a reason why you did what you did, and why it was wrong and what is the correct thing," UCLA safety and special teams player Aaron Ware said. "And you have to use all the correct vocabulary words. It's like an L-SAT class. It's crazy."

L-SAT class? When I think of L-SAT class it reminds me of Robin Singh’s “Testmasters” drills in Beverly Hills (always interfering with “Pint Night” at Strattons). That’s the first time ever I have heard a college football player referring to his special teams meeting as Testmasters classes. Hopefully it is just as effective as Singh’s drills because it sure worked out for all of us (well speaking for experience of yours truly and friends). Sorry for that tangent … just brought back some amusing memories. Going back to the original point though special teams is going to be a huge deal this season. Given the uncertainty around our offense and also inexperience on our D, we are going to have look for edge anywhere we can. If we can combine our good kicking game with some great special teams play in coverage and return situations, it might allow us to steal wins here and there. So yeah more than ever all of us will need to appreciate what Ware and co are doing when the special teams is on the field.

It’s pretty fun to finally read football related articles on a day to day basis. Isn’t it? I will leave you with this from CRN re. Chow coaching our offense:

"It's beginning to take shape," Neuheisel said. "It's almost like sitting there watching someone create art. You kind of now know what he's building. But it still has a lot of polish still to go."

Can’t wait for the gallery to open up.