By now everyone should know that the fall scrimmage is set for today (5 pm PST, Drake Stadium). Looks like lot of you have already made fun plans (making the rest of us who live in exile envious). While it should be a lot of fun hanging around campus and taking in some football action after a long offseason, don’t expect any razzle-dazzle from our football team.
With just two weeks left for the season opener and a number of players nursing nicks and bruises from the training camp, we can expect Neuheisel and co. to put together a scrimmage that will be somewhat vanilla by design. As reported by Dohn, Neuheisel is hoping the scrimmage will give his players an opportunity to gain more confidence (as go through their progression), and players like Craft will be looking to minimize mistakes:
"A confidence, if anything," Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel said. "For kids we're counting on to play to feel like, `I'm gaining on this, I'm starting to feel it,' and coming back Monday with that much more excitement about getting even better. And the other thing is you always knock on wood that you don't lose anybody (to injury)."
UCLA's quarterback derby leader and clear favorite, Kevin Craft, isn't concerned about increasing his stronghold on the position by completing passes and directing a mistake-free, dynamic offense.
"We need to make sure we execute the procedure correctly," Craft said. "Getting plays in and out, getting in and out of the huddle with the right personnel, getting up to the line with enough time on the clock to run a play and getting through our checks.
"It's just making sure all our procedure things are good, and we're not going offsides and not fumbling snaps. We'll make plays, but we need to make sure we have the procedure stuff down first."
The scrimmage will be an opportunity for the young defensive backfield to get some more experience. From the LA Times:
"We're a little inexperienced, but I think we're pretty good ballhawks," Verner said. "We might even be better at that than we were last year. What we need to be better at is stopping the run, because that's where Keyes and Horton made their money."
Depth, though, is Walker's concern. Rahim Moore, an incoming freshman, will start in place of Lockett against Tennessee. Courtney Viney, a redshirt freshman, is the primary backup cornerback.
"The first group, that's an above average Pac-10 secondary," Walker said. "But we can't get hurt, you've got to stay healthy. Then we can develop these younger guys."
Right now the first group features Michael Norris, Rahim Moore, Aaron Ware, and Alterraun Verner. Brett Lockett is out for the Tennessee game and will probably look to win back the starting job from Moore after that first game. It will be not be a surprise if we get to see other freshmen like Hester, Dye and Woods get in the mix on Labor Day.
With the scrimmage set for today the local papers have some profile pieces written up. The OC Register has one on Dantone Jones, the freshman DE from Compton who is looking to follow into the footsteps of recent pass rushing success of Davis and Hickman.
Meanwhile, Kevin Pearson from the Press Enterprise has a write up on OL Sonny Tevaga, who has been working very hard to get himself in game shape and looking to establish his own legacy at UCLA getting out of the shadow of his older brother. And Dohn has a special write up on Kahlil Bell who has been impressing his coaches:
UCLA running backs coach Wayne Moses, who spent the past two seasons coaching running back with the NFL's St. Louis Rams, said Bell impressed him during a recent in-practice scrimmage period.
"He really took over the line of scrimmage," Moses said. "He attacked the line of scrimmage. I'm pleased with what I've seen at this point. He's seeing everything right now."
Bell missed spring practice because of the knee injury, but 10 days of fall practice is enough to convince UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow of Bell's ability.
"He's an NFL back," said Chow, who was the offensive coordinator for the NFL's Tennessee Titans the past three seasons. "He can play there. I really like him, the way he runs, how he sees things."
And showing leadership at practice:
During Thursday's morning practice, with Bell sitting out to keep the strain off his knee and give a sore hip flexor a chance to rest, he watched talented freshman running back Aundre Dean make a poor read. By the time Dean turned toward the huddle, Moses was shouting at him.
Bell quickly went over to Dean to explain the mistake.
Neuheisel said he welcomes Bell's on-the-edge approach.
"You need somebody who can lead you into the alley every now and again," said Neuheisel, who was asked if Bell possessed such characteristics. "Yes. Without question."
Read Dohn’s rest of piece here which chronicles Bell’s remarkable on and off field development at UCLA.
Lastly, for those who are keeping track of all the bumps and bruises here is the list:
Safeties Glenn Love and E.J. Woods, middle linebacker Reggie Carter and tight end Logan Paulsen will miss the scrimmage because of concussions. Defensive tackle Brian Price also missed time in training camp with a concussion.
"I think it's an (issue) across the country," Neuheisel said. "The test (to check for a concussion) is to count backwards from 100 by sevens. ... I'm giving everybody a chart."
Running back Derrick Coleman (right knee), linebackers Josh Edwards (foot) and Mike Schmitt (ankle), receivers Taylor Embree (shoulder) and Gavin Ketchum (shoulder), right tackle Mike Harris (ankle) and guard Jess Ward (knee) also will not participate in the scrimmage.
The list re. concussions is a little troubling and as CRN notes this is something that is not unique to UCLA. It would be interesting to see if anyone puts together a credible study on the new helmets.
Anyway, if you are out at Westwood this afternoon/evening, enjoy the scrimmage. We will put up an open thread in a bit so that you can file quick impressions directly in the comment thread. Otherwise for those with detailed impressions (we love them) and pictures etc to share, please put them up via our FanPosts and FanShots. We rather depend on you than the local reporters covering our programs. Enjoy your Saturday.