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Spaulding Roundup: Comeback Stories

Picking up from my last post re questions around our football team, looks like we are not the only one wondering about which Craft is going to show up at Provo on Saturday. Here is Chow in the LA Times on what to expect from his young QB following his first game as a Bruin:

"I don't think you could have written a better script," offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. "My wife said it was like a movie. The problem is the movie is not over yet. We don't know how it's going to end."

Well the good news according to Chow is that Craft has been steadier in practices since the first game:

"I've seen some real growth in his maturity," Chow said. "He's more confident in the huddle and is understanding the offense better. It's still going to take some time. It's not like he's a polished guy just yet."

Craft's play in practice since that game has been smoother, with fewer interceptions. Craft said he learned "to stick to the game plan and don't try to push the ball up the field. The big plays will happen."

The victory, though, did help Craft in one area.

Said Coach Rick Neuheisel said: "He brought us back in that game, and that will always be there. You can talk until you're blue in the face about stuff like that, but until you've done it, you always wonder."

Craft’s challenge is going to be even tougher on Saturday. And as Dohn notes it will not be Craft’s first appearance in Provo. He got in a game there during his time with San Diego State where the results (in terms of his team’s performance) didn’t go so well:

Craft's previous visit to BYU didn't go so well, despite completing 20 of 32 passes for 216 yards and an interception. The Aztecs trailed 40-3 at the half and lost 47-17.

"It's a good experience playing there. It gets loud up there, and they rock that stadium," Craft said.

"It's one of those things where you have a routine, like we do before games for the Rose Bowl, and you know what to expect and nothing will surprise you. That's kind of nice that I'll have that, but we're a new team. And they have a different team, too.”

Hopefully this time the score will be a little different. To help out Craft, he will have the support of a group of team-mates who are developing under the new coaching staff after going through some incredible adversity last few years at UCLA. He will have team-mates like Ryan Moya to count on:

A pass-catching tight end who's a mismatch for most defenders, Moya was off to a promising start to his sophomore campaign in 2006, catching 12 passes through the first six games.

But Moya broke his left leg early in the game at Oregon and was out for the rest of the season, while the Bruins struggled at his position for the remainder of the season.

Moya missed all of spring practice and more, as the injury did not heal properly. So he opted to sit out last fall and remain home in El Dorado Hills and had surgery to have bone spurs cleaned out of his ankle. He also had personal issues, which he has declined to talk about, that led him to take time off from school.

Moya re-enrolled in the winter, made an instant impact in spring ball and was expected to be used as an H-Back this season, with senior Logan Paulsen starting at tight end.

However, Paulsen broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot in UCLA's opener against Tennessee, and he'll be sidelined anywhere from two months to the entire season. That threw Moya into the spotlight in coordinator Norm Chow's offense, which features lots of plays for the tight end.

Moya responded with a career-high seven receptions for 65 yards and the go-ahead touchdown with 27 seconds remaining.

In addition to Ryan, Gavin Ketchum is back in the fold just in time to step up in the absence of Marcus Everett:

"It's great to be back," he said. "I can come to practice with a smile. I hated sitting out, and that's all I had been doing."

Ketchum, who missed most of last season with a broken leg and qualified for a medical redshirt, was sick for the first two weeks of training camp before his family doctor diagnosed him with mono. He was quarantined for a week and did some light individual drills last week before coming back in earnest this week.

A 6-foot-5, 210-pound possession receiver who also makes an impact on special teams, Ketchum has been getting extensive reps with the first-team offensive this week in preparation for BYU.

With Marcus Everett sidelined with a dislocated toe, Ketchum's return comes at an opportune time for the Bruins, who have just two available players with significant game experience at the position.

Earlier in the week, Coach Rick Neuheisel said Ketchum might play only about a dozen snaps because of conditioning, but Ketchum said he's no longer feeling winded.

"I am definitely looking forward to contributing," Ketchum said.

And those three are not the only ones with their own come back stories as Bruin football players. Brian Dohn today has a great piece on OL Scott Glicksburg’s travails in his five years in Westwood. The fifth year senior who came into the program has gone through four position changes and one physical setbacks after another, before settling into his current position as Chow and Palcic’s RG, giving everything he can to help our coaches rebuild this program.

By now it’s not a shock how these kids have been hanging in there through their struggles and doing what they can to contribute to the development of this program, remaining “relentlessly positive.”  Rhiannon Potkey in the Salt Lake Tribune has this on an energized UCLA football team:

   The UCLA players noticed an immediate difference once Neuheisel charged in preaching his "relentlessly positive" message.
    "There is a lot more energy and a lot more excitement," junior cornerback Alterraun Verner said. "He is more interactive and more into it with the players instead of being in the back and letting other people do things. He is more in your face and hands on."
    It was the minor details that impressed UCLA fifth-year senior center Micah Reed.
    "He told us he would have everyone's first and last names memorized by spring ball, and he did," Reed said. "I came here as a walk-on, and the last couple of years I don't know if every coach knew my name. But he made it a point."

Again none of this is a surprise to anyone … we had a good feeling that the original “come back kid” would electrify this program. Let’s hope we can keep building on it on Saturday.