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Simpler Times

Just two more days to go till our Bruins open up their 2008 preseason practice. It all starts Tuesday at 3 pm. The first practice in full pads will be this Saturday (4:30-6:45 pm) with two-a-days beginning the next day (see full details here). Obviously the biggest questions heading into this season will be around our offense. Brian Dohn gives us a little peak into our offensive mindset:


Photo Credit: hayakuneko's photostream (flickr)

Just like we heard in Spring the theme of simplicity is prevailing around our offense:

UCLA's offensive playbook no longer resembles "War and Peace," and calling a simple play no longer rivals the length of a Kurt Vonnegut sentence.

After mostly stumbling through five seasons of complicated offensive football, accomplished offensive coordinator Norm Chow brings simplicity to the fold. The playbook is much thinner, the concepts are easier to digest and a proven track record adds to Chow's appeal.

Armed with an injury-prone quarterback and inexperienced offensive line, and with little proven depth, Chow has four weeks to get the Bruins to become a functioning unit.

The season opens Sept. 1 against Tennessee at the Rose Bowl, but training camp begins Tuesday, which gives Chow little time to transform the maligned bunch into something much more.

"I think it's a big challenge for our players," Chow said. "Getting the guys to buy in, getting the guys to have a belief system in themselves, that we can get this done, is the biggest (challenge). So much about life is about having an attitude.

"This really has not been fair to the players, because some told me this is their fourth coordinator in four years. It's not the players. It's up to us, as coaches."

Dohn added a little more on the mental trauma endured by our players during last five years:

[M]uch of UCLA's offensive personnel is mentally battered by the constant change of coordinators, the complexity of former coach Karl Dorrell's offense and the consistent ineptitude in the past five years on the field.

This situation is not unique to UCLA. Nebraska’s players endured the same situation under their former coach Bill Callahan who also used a "War and Peace" playbook resulting an ineffective and mediocre offense. As noted by Husker Mike on Corn Nation:

We all saw the effects of Bill Callahan's complex offense.  Highly regarded recruits would arrive on campus to much fanfare, only to find themselves relegated to the bench as they struggled to grasp the Callahan scheme.  Football is supposed to be an instinctive game, and the 2003-07 offense beat the instincts out of players. 

So how does a coaching staff restore those instincts back into their players? Neuheisel offered up the following in the same Dohn article:

"You have to make defenses cover the whole field," Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel said. "When you do that, you have hope. Even if you don't have great talent. The more you can get people in space with exceptional talent, obviously the more explosive you can be, which is what happened with Mike Williams and Reggie Bush and so forth."

Well Southern Cal didn’t have Reggie Bush in Chow’s first season under Carroll. Even with Carson Palmer at QB (who didn’t have the injury issues plaguing Ben Olson), the Trojan offense was fairly mediocre (if not dreadful) in Chow’s first year ranked 94th in total offense and averaging a very mediocre 26.6 points per game (finishing the season with an ugly 10-6 loss against Utah in Las Vegas Bowl).

So, heading into this training camp we should be hopeful now that we have grownups with experience and proven track record in charge of our offense. The focus on simplicity is the right approach in restoring the psyche of an offense that have gone through five years of instability. We can’t ask for a better combination than what we have in Chow’s expertise and Neuheisel’s exuberance. That said we shouldn’t be expecting miracles as evidenced in what Chow experienced in his first year across town. I am looking forward to training camp. For the first time in many years the evaluations we hear from our coaches on our players re. where they are and what they need to do to get where we all want UCLA football to be in the coming years, will mean something. And that alone has me excited.