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Spaulding Roundup: Culture Change

As Bruins get set for their next game, Rick Neuheisel and his players directly addressed the need for changing a culture that has sustained the mediocrity of this football program last five years. Given his pre-existing friendship with Karl Dorrell, CRN addressed the issue in a diplomatic way:

"I'm careful, because when you change the culture, it is as if you don't think the one before was good enough," Neuheisel said. "I'm sensitive to my friend Karl Dorrell. But we've got to get an expectation level that we're going to play to, and that doesn't happen by talk but by working toward it."

However, Brigham Harwell, who has emerged as the key leader of CRN’s first team at UCLA was lot more direct:

"Before if we lost a game like this, on the plane ride players would be joking, acting like we won," senior defensive tackle Brigham Harwell said. "After this loss, the bus ride and the plane ride, everyone was quiet."

Harwell called for a players-only meeting after Neuheisel spoke to the team Sunday night. Harwell and other seniors spoke, stressing greater commitment.

"When I was a kid watching the Bruins on TV they had great teams that played great games," Harwell said. "I think it faded away a little bit in the four years I've been here. You could sense that the players were not into it, and we were taking tough losses. This year, it's a different feeling."

If that is not a direct indictment on the prior regime, I am not sure what is. Kevin Pearson from the Press Enterprise has more on the player only meeting:

"Guys spoke up and said what was on our minds," Harwell said. "Yesterday, it was a good feeling.

"If you saw how hard we worked in the offseason, you would think we should be the best team in the country. We worked too hard. This is my senior year, and I won't let this happen again. We came too far, we have the staff, everything is supposed to be perfect.

"I am going to make sure this team won't fall off."

Harwell said that the focus now needs to be on Arizona and having a good week of practice, something that the Bruins certainly didn't do a week ago in preparation for the BYU game.

One of the ways to change the previous culture is for both coaches and players sharing responsibility when results don’t break they way. In the past we have had lot of consternation here on BN when we have seen football coaches call out our players without taking any responsibility. After the BYU game (judging from our comment threads here and elsewhere), few folks were a little uncomfortable concerning Walker’s comments on ATV’s failure to provide tight coverage on Collie. Well, it looks like folks can rest easy, because from the comments today it is clear that following the game, Walker took the Howland route of staying up to watch game films (and taking responsibility) instead of infamous KD route of "sleeping well":

When the Bruins returned from the 59-0 trouncing at BYU on Saturday night, Walker went straight to the football offices to watch film. He stayed there until 1 a.m.

Walker wasn't alone. Carter and strong safety Bret Lockett each headed straight to the film room.

"The first thing I'm going to question is the scheme, and what could I have done differently," Walker said. "As a staff, we've kind of reverted back to our first year. We've cut back on some things, because you've got a young group."

Walker added the defensive staff will get back to basics in preparation for Arizona (2-1), which is coming off a stunning 36-28 loss at New Mexico.

"You kind of get sucker-punched a little bit because no one expected (the BYU loss), but you still have to counter-punch it," Walker said. "The defensive staff is all about `What can we do to help them, even more so.' "

Needless to say that is very encouraging to hear from DW. Also wrt to the defense due to injury issues we are going to see some shuffling around in the LB core. Due to Kyle Bosworth’s injury (who has a partially torn ligament and could be out for couple of weeks), Walker could move Carter to Will LB and have red shirt freshman Steve Sloan start at Mike. The other possible combo is to have Josh Edwards at Will and keep Carter at Mike. Should be very interesting how it plays against Arizona on Saturday.

Going back to the topic of culture change, as we have said here on BN, it is unrealistic for all of us to expect this to take place within just one year. However, we can certainly expect CRN to chip away in making his players believe the program is heading towards the right direction:

Asked whether he could change that culture, Neuheisel said, "They have to buy into it. Results are the easiest way to be all in, but results aren't always guaranteed. . . . You have to believe we're on the right track and we're going to continue in that direction."

As for those who have been snickering at the "relentless positive" mantra of CRN, well he let the press core know about one of the main sources of his inspiration:

" 'Long before any championships were won at UCLA, I came to understand that losing is only temporary and not all-encompassing," Neuheisel said, reading from the letter Wooden wrote him. " 'You must simply study it, learn from it and try hard not to lose the same way again. Then you must have the self-control to forget about it.' "

So CRN is leading this program through the words of John R. Wooden. I for one cannot think of a more appropriate approach for any leader a football coach at UCLA.