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Spaulding Roundup: Push – Push – PUSH The Tempo

CRN and our football team picked up right where they left off last April when everyone understood that they were going to be operating under a “different tempo.” Dohn picks up on that note in his first report from the first day of fall practice where the pace of practice was a little different than what our players (and fans/reporters who showed up at practice in previous years) had gotten used to under the previous regime:

"These coaches are a lot more demanding," Bruins senior receiver Marcus Everett said. "(Offensive coordinator) Norm Chow demands we execute and practice at a fast tempo, and demands perfection, and that shows a lot. (Neuheisel) is a different type of coach. He's personable. He's definitely a player's coach. He jokes around with us, but when it's time to get serious, he does.

"The whole atmosphere is really positive. That's Rick Neuheisel's thing. He came in and said we had to be relentlessly positive, and that means when you face adversity you have to be positive."

Neuheisel began stressing a better tempo for practices in the spring, and it carried into the first day of training camp. Part of the increased pace was because the team was split into two groups during the three-hour practice window allotted by the NCAA.

"It was a great first day," Neuheisel said. "Now, as soon as I say that, I want to tell you about a zillion mistakes, and a zillion things we've got to get corrected. But the energy and the enthusiasm was what I hoped for."

The pace of practice was established by the coaching staff, which made sure players moved quickly from drill to drill.

There were fewer players standing around, compared to practices the past few years.

More from Terrence Austin about his impressions on Chow:

"(This staff) is a lot more chatty," Austin said. "Coach Neuheisel is more adamant about us being aggressive in practice. Coach Chow is more boisterous when it comes to us being perfect. He wants perfection. He's not really the rowdy guy, but when he wants something done right, he gets his point across."

And MLB Reggie Carter who had this to say about the pace and intensity of practice:

"It was a lot quicker tempo, and a little more intense," he said. "We got a lot of work done in a short amount of time, so that was one change. We got a lot of reps. There was no complaining about the amount of mistakes on the field. We just went to the next play and we'll fix (the mistakes) in the film room."

Carter had the same impression last April when he saw a different “quick tempo” in our offense.

Carter is well entrenched at Mike LB. The training camp could shake up the starting spots at Sam and Will. Heading into fall camp John Hale was penciled in as the starter at Sam (with Akeem Ayers expected him to push right behind) and Kyle Bosworth was slotted in at Will LB (with an injured Josh Edwards backing him up). Well according to Dohn’s notes  Edwards (who is recovering from a “stress fracture” in his right foot) might be coming back to practice this Sunday and Walker is looking forward to his return and some competiton:

"If Josh is performing better than (the strong side linebackers), you can move Bosworth back to (strong side) and keep Josh on the weak side," UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said. "We're going to find out best three guys and put them where we need to put them."

No doubt the competition is going to make these guys work harder and faster. Competition is also going to be intense and fast (can you sense a theme here?) for the starting SS spot as our cubs are already working to make a bid for Bret Lockett’s spot who has been suspended for the season opener:

Defensive backs Rahim Moore, Tony Dye and Aaron Hester will get long looks during training camp, with playing time available for all who seem ready.

"If they're 13 years old and they can play, then they will play," defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said. "I don't care about their ages, as long as they can get the job done. In college football, there are some positions where you can get away with having a freshman in the lineup. We'll look to see if they can handle it."

Cornerback Alterraun Verner is the only returning starter in the secondary, though Lockett, free safety Aaron Ware and cornerback Michael Norris all gained experience last season.

"I'm just learning, learning, learning until I can't learn anymore," Moore said. "To have a chance to play as a true freshman, I couldn't ask for anything better. I told Coach Walker if I'm not ready, I'm not ready, but if I'm ready, I want to be on the field."

Per Dohn Rahim Moore might be the favorite to land the SS starting spot right now. But he is also going to get some competition from E.J. Woods, who according to the OC Register is working through some academic issues:

Woods was admitted provisionally and missed two weeks this summer while he made up a D-plus grade from a high school class, but he said he thinks he has time to catch up.

"Right now, this spot is wide open," Woods said. "I have some obstacles, but I'm going to hopefully surpass them and be on the field against Tennessee."

Good luck EJ. Hopefully he will get his grade issues taken care of because as our staff has already shown they are not going to show any leniency when it comes to academic requirements at UCLA.

Interestingly the name I am not hearing in the mix is RS freshman Glenn Love. Although he is penciled in at FS spot, I thought Lockett’s suspension would allow him to make a dash for the SS spot. Per practice reports last April he was “beginning to make an impression” on Walker. Perhaps Walker wants to keep him at FS behind Aaron Ware for now.

Shifting our attention back to our offense, for it to be truly efficient and operate with a fast space on game day they will need to have their OL issues taken care. And all eyes are going to be on the RT spot where Nick Ekbatani is getting the first shot:

Ekbatani, who played tackle in high school and for a year in junior college, said he feels at home at right tackle, although he admits to being rusty because he spent his first two years at UCLA playing guard.

"I'm glad to be back home, but I just have to get back on the horse," said Ekbatani, who was injured much of the spring. "I'm a little surprised because I didn't play tackle in the spring, but I'm happy and I want to keep it and play."

Ekbatani said he needs to improve his footwork, and understand he needs to move his feet more because he is playing on the edge of the offensive line.

"I'm playing too wide (with my feet) right now," the 6-foot-4, 295-pound Ekbatani said. "Pass protection-wise, I felt pretty good. I just have to be a little more consistent. Initially, I'm pretty good, but then I stop because I'm used to playing guard. As a tackle, you have to keep going."

Mike Harris, a redshirt freshman, is Ekbatani's main competitor.

"Coaches want to see how much I improved since the spring," said Harris, who is 6-foot-5 and 305pounds. "They want to see if I'm their guy. They know I have the size and the ability. I feel if I have a good camp, the coaches are going to give me a chance."

Hopefully Mike and Nate Chandler (who was moved from TE to RT) will give Nick everything they have and make each other better through competition.

Also on offense according to CRN, Kahlil Bell was the “stand-out performer” from Tuesday’s practice:

"I was a little nervous, but once I got my first few carries, I made some cuts and then I realized there's no pain, no anything," Bell said. "I was like, 'OK, let's go. I'm good to go now.'"

Bell said he expects to wear a knee brace all season. Behind Bell, another player recovering from a major knee injury — Raymond Carter — could eventually push him for the starting job this fall.

Neuheisel singled out Bell as Tuesday's stand-out performer.

"It was fun to see him with burst," Neuheisel said. "I've never been on the field when he's been full speed."

That is good news. Other guy who is also making a comeback from injury is of course Ben Olson. According to Dohn Olson was a little “winded” after yesterday’s practice however there were no complaints from BO and Chow was pleased:

"We were huffin' and puffin.' We were moving," Olson said. "It's good. It's good to work that hard in practice so when you get in a game, it's a lot easier. I like this way. I probably threw a lot more balls than I usually do."

Chow is a proponent of practicing "fast and smart," and his philosophy was on display as many of the veterans went quickly through plays and drills.

"We made a million mistakes, but that's what you expect," he said. "Ben did pretty good. He did a nice job, and hopefully, he'll take this thing and know that he's the guy, and know that he's the leader."

Let’s hope it gets better for Olson and everyone from here on out. BTW huge thanks to Menelaus and Bruins102NCAA for their pictures from first day. Please keep it coming guys. Can't tell you how much it is appreciated by those of us exiled out of LA.

Lastly, Cowan had arthroscopic knee surgery yesterday and CRN told the press (linked in all the reports above) that he will be with the team with “student assistant.” That is really good news because Cowan’s infectious personality and spirit will only bring more good vibes to Spaulding Field. He will only help CRN and his coaches to push the tempo.