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Spaulding Roundup: Exploring (Limited) Options

Bruins are preparing for Arizona by trying out different combinations in the offense. Chris Foster from the LA Times reports on how coaches are trying to shake things up:

Freshman tackle Jeff Baca was taking repetitions with the first team. Freshman running back Derrick Coleman was getting repeated carries at tailback. Brandon Bennett settled in at right guard. [...]

The biggest upheaval was on the offensive line, which has performed poorly through two games. The Bruins have the worst running attack in the nation, averaging 19 yards a game.

Bennett was at guard, replacing Sonny Tevaga, and Baca split time at tackle with Micah Kia.

"I'm not going to accept mediocrity," offensive line coach Bob Palcic said. "I will not accept it. I don't know how long it is going to take, but we will right this ship, through recruiting, junior college players, improving the players that we have. It will be accomplished. It's not going to be an overnight, easy task, but it will be done."

Baca, who was playing at Mission Viejo High last fall and has just returned from a knee injury, got a long look at tackle because of Kia's poor performance against Brigham Young.

"Coach told us, if you don't perform, then he was going to change things up," Kia said. "I made some mistakes during the game. That's just the way it is and I just have to accept it and work to get better."

FWIW Kia finished the day practicing with the first team. So perhaps he got the message. More from Dohn:

[T]he day ended with Micah Kia (10 career starts) at left tackle, Darius Savage (one start) at left guard, Jake Dean (zero starts) at center, Brandon Bennett (zero offensive college snaps) at right guard and Nick Ekbatani (two starts) at right tackle.

"The perfect scenario is you've got five players and they all know what they're doing and they play with one another," Neuheisel said. "That is a luxury we have not been able to have. It's certainly a concern."

As mentioned above, of the options coaches are exploring is to try out Coleman at TB. From the OC Register:

Derrick Coleman (Troy High) caught the coaches' eyes in fall camp before a knee injury required minor surgery. He returned to practice late last week, took snaps with the first unit Tuesday and now has a chance to enter into the Bruins' game plan for Arizona on Saturday.

“It's an experience,” Coleman said. “I thought I was going to come in and redshirt, then coach came in and gave me the shot. I'm trying to do the best I can with it.”

The UCLA offensive line has struggled to create holes for the running game, so the coaches are searching for a back who can gain yards after contact. Coleman is 6-feet, 218 pounds and he has an aggressive style.

“He's big, he's physical, he has good vision and he goes downhill,” running backs coach Wayne Moses said. “We like that.”

Bell, who sustained a high ankle sprain against Tennessee, went through some drills Tuesday and made a few cuts, but still has not been cleared for contact. Coach Rick Neuheisel said he is “somewhere between doubtful and probable.”

“There's going to be a certain amount of pain. It's whether I can tolerate it or not,” Bell said.

It would be great to get Bell back for Arizona game. However, if he can’t go I rather have him sit out for one more week, giving some of your youngsters opportunities to step up.

Anyway, the coaches are certainly trying everything to kick start an offensive line. But that doesn’t mean we should expect over night miracles from an OL which is averaging about 0.5 yards a carry. I will go back to the warning shot Achilles fired off last April:

I don't know what the reasons are, I just know the offensive line is easily the worst in terms of talent that I can remember. Again, I'm not picking on the kid's effort or desire -- I'm merely stating the obvious: they aren't all that good. Not only that, there is no depth at all.

It was in the same post in which he highlighted a Dohn response to a Q&A affirming the observation that this “is the least talented group of players” he has observed during his time at UCLA. It is going to take a lot of time for CRN and his coaches to turn this ship around. However, in the mean time it is comforting to see they are chipping away and are being relentless in trying to explore all kinds of  possible situations to a catastrophic mess (in terms of talent) after accumulation of 9 years of mediocrity in Westwood.