So training camp opens today (3 pm PST). If you want to get one last primer on the post spring depth chart before you head out to Spaulding Field this afternoon here are our notes we have been posting in last few weeks:
Obviously OL is one of the two biggest question marks (besides QB). Dohn has a profile on injured RT Sean Sheller who suffered an unfortunate injury this off season resulting in more turmoil on the right side of our OL:
Sheller was hurt when the Polaris Ranger - in essence, a supped-up off-road golf cart with a roll bar - he was driving tipped during a right turn and landed on his leg. He suffered torn anterior cruciate and medical collateral ligaments and meniscus. He also sustained nasty scrapes to his ankle and foot, in which so much gravel was imbedded, he said it took doctors and nurses at a local hospital hours of squirting water into it to get it clean.
"It was the worst pain I ever felt," Sheller said. "I went to one hospital, and it was too small and couldn't handle my injury, so I went to another. No painkillers for six hours. Man, that hurt."
Almost as much as telling his father, or UCLA's coaching staff. "I thought my dad was going to be (pissed)," Sheller said. "Coach Neuheisel was like, `You're going to come back,' but coach Palcic was mad. I kind of feel like I let him down. Everybody was counting on me, and I let them down."
Sheller underscores the plight of UCLA's offensive line. He had no playing experience, but Palcic said Sheller had quick feet, a long reach and possessed the athleticism to play tackle.
For his part CRN is doing what he can to keep Sheller’s spirits up and diffusing speculation that his career might be over:
"I think that's pessimistic," Neuheisel said. "There's always a chance guys don't respond to surgeries. How much weight he can put on, because he's a growing kid when the injuries took place, but I remain optimistic he will be back for spring ball."
As do we. I am sure Sheller will be missed. But the best thing he can do right now is to take it easy, listen to his doctors, while do what he can to enjoy his experience as a student at UCLA and encourage his team-mates. Reading the whole interview he comes across as the kind of kid who will do just that.
Sheller and his returning team-mates will have a lot of new Bruins joining the team this season. We have all heard about the blue chip recruits. Yesterday, UCLA released a list of the new walkons. Considering we are being coached by an individual who achieved ultimate Bruin glory by brining it to practice every day, I am sure it will not take much to impress upon these kids how everyone of them will have a shot. Among the names that stick out: Tyler Tuiasosopo, a 6-10, 210, “Athlete” from Everett, Washington who happens to be nephew of former Bruin great Manu Tuiasosopo and cousin of Washington star Marques Tuiasosopo. Also interesting to note from the list of new walk ons, there are couple of Mater Dei kids in the team: Andrew Abbott, DB, 5-10, 170 and Carlo Valdes, WR, 6-0, 182. I would think having these two kids in the team will not hurt the prospect of strengthening relationship with that legendary OC high school program.
Speaking of freshmen all eyes will be on Aundre Dean. Dohn shared his notes on an interesting drill Dean was taking part in during 7-on-7s:
While Dean was running pass routes out of the backfield, two balls were thrown his way. One came from the quarterback, and the other was thrown at his feet by a helping teammate. The idea was for Dean to keep his eye on the pass from the quarterback, and not be distracted by anything else.
Dean and our RBs will get a lot of opportunities to catch short passes out of the backfield in Chow’s quick fire offense. And given the uncertainty our OL it might happen more frequently because coaches will probably emphasize the QBs getting rid of the ball quicker dumping it off to RBs/TEs at proper spots so that they can have some space to work with the ball and move the chains. It will be interesting to see how Dean adapts to it because not sure how involved he was with the passing game during his brilliant prep career down in
We brought up the topic of recruiting above. Neuheisel provided some interesting comments on the subject to Brian Dohn:
"Recruiting is crazy now,'' he said. "Guys are committing way early. It's bizarre. All the information out there, which you can't combat because you can't call (a prospect at certain times) is maddening. The guy hears this, the guy hears that, and you want to get on the phone and say, 'hey, let me tell you,' and you can't get on the phone. You have to hope he'll call you.
"And then if you miss the call, you have to wait for him to call you back. You gotta have your cell phone strapped to you at all times."
Are players being offered earlier than what you were used to?
"Offered indiscriminately, and I think (schools) come from far away and offer indiscriminately, knowing that they can always back out. Just to get in the game, they throw offers out there. As I said to (former coach) Karl (Dorrell), you have to be careful because of who you didn't get. You lose because you get players that can't play. Because you're not going to lose them once you get here. Who wants to leave UCLA?"
I think it makes sense that Neuheisel and his staff hasn’t gone out of their way to offer everyone under the sun. It’s not a bad idea for him and his coaches to proceed judiciously and make sure they get the athletes that specifically fit into their schemes. Because if we need another reminder on what he has inherited in his first year at UCLA here is one of the lead grafs of a primer on UCLA’s training camp in the OC Register:
Outgoing coach Karl Dorrell left him with less than a dozen returning starters, an offensive line that leaves his coaches clueless, a quarterback who inspires less confidence than the current economy and a proud tradition wandering lost in the desert.
But no one should feel sorry for us here on BN … and I will leave with these words from CRN (from Dohn’s article on Sheller linked above) heading into this afternoon:
"Cautiously optimistic. That's how I'm going to say it." Neuheisel said. "What choice do you have? At the end of the day, do you want cautious pessimism? That's an easy choice and you might be right more often, but with an unhappy result. I know (offensive line coach Bob Palcic) is looking forward to the challenge."
If you are out there at Spaulding this afternoon (or next couple of weeks) … as always feel free to share your thoughts/impressions, pictures, anything you want (long or short form) via the FanPost and FanShots section. This is going to be difficult season but as I have said many times before I haven’t been this excited about UCLA football since 2001.