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Spaulding Roundup: Instilling Toughness

If there were any doubts about whether the new coaching regime would tolerate lolly gagging out at Spaulding, Rick Neuheisel put an end to that this week. Since the euphoria of Monday, RN has been emphasizing how there is a long way to go and that there is no room for letting up. Apparently couple of the kids didn’t get the message and CRN didn’t waste any time sending the message that there will be no room for lolly gagging under the new staff:

A day after holding a team meeting to warn UCLA's players about complacency after a big win - a bugaboo during the Karl Dorrell era - new coach Rick Neuheisel had harsh words for some unnamed players about a lack of effort during Thursday's practice.

"We have to make sure we're into the toughness part of this game," Neuheisel said. "It looked to me like there were a couple of culprits of tuning it down, not really wanting the contact piece of it.

"As we were going through some of the drills earlier, I wanted to make sure that they understand that's part of the game, and they can't play here if they're not going to get through that.

"But for 98 percent of the guys, it was a good practice." […]

"If we don't understand what has to be done in anticipation of a top-ranked opponent, then we didn't learn anything from what we just went through," Neuheisel said. "It's why we have an experienced coaching staff, and it's why we are pushing them, getting them to where we need to be. Hopefully, we'll come out (today) and have a good practice."

Needless to say this is pretty good news (if accurate) considering the word of RN’s practices up in Washington (via UW Dawg Pound):

One critic of former UW Rick Neuheisel used to tell me that his practices looked like a pillow fight. That was an obvious reference to the lack of structure, hitting, and tackling going on during practice not to mention the rock music and Popsicle breaks. Teams eventually play like they practice and Rick's teams were on a downward spiral when he was fired. Rick actually recognized the problem and was about to correct it because he felt his team was beginning to lack toughness.

Well if it was a problem up in Washington, in the early going doesn’t seem to be the case. Not only CRN hasn’t waste any time in making sure he is running a well oiled, disciplined practice (which was evident in the near flawless 2 penalty performances against Tennessee) he and his staff have made sure they are physical and tough. That is why as disconcerting as some of the injury news has been this off season, we have seen the results pays off in one of the more impressive physical performances by a UCLA team against a tough opponent in recent years.

Staying on the injury front, Ryan Moya stepped up huge on Monday night after Paulsen went down. Chris Foster from the LAT reports how coaches are now working with Moya and Harkey to improve their overall games at TEs:

The first issue about UCLA's paper-thin depth has been presented to Bruins coaches, who are trying to plug the hole created by the injury to tight end Logan Paulsen. […]

It leaves the Bruins crunching numbers at tight end. Ryan Moya, who plays the Bruins F back -- a receiver/blocker who is moved around -- and true freshman Cory Harkey will now try to fill that void.

"Out of Harkey and Ryan, we got to get one guy," offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. "Ryan is a little better receiver, and Harkey is a little better at the point of attack."

Moya had seven receptions for 65 yards and one touchdown in the 27-24 overtime victory over Tennessee. Yet he was less of a physical presence lining up at tight end, as opposed to working out of the backfield.

"Ryan had a good game, at least the pass receiving part of it," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. As for Moya's blocking, Neuheisel said, "He needs to work on it. In his defense, he was playing the F position, our moving tight end. It's no excuse, you have to know all your assignments. But he didn't get much practice time at tight end going into the game."

Playing Moya at tight end takes away from the depth at the F back spot, though Chow said running backs Trevor Theriot and Chane Moline can play that spot.

Harkey didn’t have a catch last game. But given his size (6-4, 240) and the skill set he has, you can expect coaches looking to him lot more in the coming weeks. The bye week after that physical game against Tennessee was absolutely crucial because it will allow RN/Chow to coach Harkey and rest of the youngsters up for an additional week.

Also speaking of injuries, Reggie Carter is “feeling better” (he had suffered an “MCL sprain”) and is hopeful about being back in practice next week to get ready for Tennessee. Nelson Rosario also suffered a “mild sprain of the medial collateral ligament.” Dohn reported last night that he is going to have an MRI. So keep an eye on that. Hopefully Nelson and Reggie are going to be ready next week.

We know the coaches will never make any excuses from these nagging injuries. In a way the injury issues in the early going and how the coaching staff have been dealing with it without making any excuses is very reminiscent of how CBH deals with the injury issues often arising from the Ben Ball workouts at Pauley Pavilion.