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Spaulding Roundup: Shakeup In Defensive Backfield, Competition At RG & Other UCLA Practice Notes

Bruins continue to prepare for their Arizona roadtrip with some tinkering with their defensive secondary. It looks like coaches are thinking about shaking up the defensive backfield a bit by trying out Glenn Love at strong safety.  From the LA Times:

Strong safety Glenn Love spent most of practice with the first team. Tony Dye started all six games at strong safety.

"This week we flipped them, made sure they both got time with the ones and the twos," secondary coach Tim Hundley said. "We needed competition. We need to be more consistent and to make plays. Basically it's tackling. We're capable of doing it and we've done it, but not as consistently as we need to be."

Would be interested in hearing from the guys who might have seen the replay of Cal game on this. I am speculating here that perhaps coaches are trying out Love because of issues with clean tackling and staying within assignments from our secondary. Check out what Reggie Carter told Robert Kuwada of Bruin Report Online (article not behind subscription firewall at the time of this post):

So what did Saturday look like? They had some really big plays, but also a lot of negative yardage plays …

‘’Yeah, we watched it. Jahvid Best, he had like 108 yards and he had 93 on that one. That one was a few missed tackles, which caused that one. The other running touchdown, we were in a man coverage and the safety didn’t come over to get his man. He was supposed to be the extra fitter. That one. Then it was deep balls. They had big plays and scores, never once did they drive all the way down the field and score on us. We gave up too many big plays and we hurt our offense, we hurt our team.’’

Is there any question with the scheme, what you guys are trying to do, or is it just execution?

‘’Schematically, we were supposed to have somebody to fit every gap, to fit every run. It was just missed tackles and a guy not being where he was supposed to be. Schematically, everything was fit up to work, we just didn’t execute the scheme to perfection, how we were supposed to.’’

So perhaps sitting Dye out for a bit will allow the true sophomore to get better perspective of the defensive scheme. Another thought into this. Perhaps coaches are thinking about trying out Love at SS and then sliding over Dye to the other CB slot (Sheldon Price's slot) until Hester is fully ready.

Either way, I kind of like this move on our coaches part. It is always good to shake things up just a bit to look for potential solutions. Moreover, I don't consider this as a negative slight on Dye. Again, remember the kid is a true sophomore. The growing pains he is experiencing is a natural part of college football player's development process. I think the key is for his coaches to make sure they do what they can to give him a better understanding of their defensive schemes while also making him fight to get playing time on the field. More after the jump.

Staying with the defensive secondary, Aaron Hester was back in action in terms of getting reps against the scout team:

"It felt good getting back out there," said Hester, a 6-foot-1, 203-pound redshirt freshman. "That's what I was looking for. All I asked for was some reps so I can get a chance to prove myself."

Whether Hester will play Saturday against Arizona remains to be seen, but he said, "It is the coaches' decision. I feel I got my speed and I got my aggression, everything necessary to play."

Lake said he would watch and evaluate. Sheldon Price, a first-year freshman, has started the last three games.

"I need to see more," Lake said. "Today [Hester] got more work. He's rusty on things and we've made some adjustments. He needs to catch up in that regard."

I think some of the local reporters made a mountain out of mole hill (nothing new for these guys who are always looking for easy story lines) when Hester wasn't immediately worked into action on his first day of returning to practice. It appears that Carnell Lake was easing him into the mix and taking a "cautious approach":

"His first day was (Tuesday) for him but after being off for weeks with a broken leg, I wanted to eye him down myself to make sure that he was OK," secondary coach Carnell Lake said. "The first day back, I didn't want to do too much with him. Just do some individual drills and get off the field without setting him back."

Whether that plan was efficiently communicated to Hester might have been the reason for his displeasure Tuesday.

"Maybe I should have vocalized that for him but in my mind, a good first day was to let me evaluate him," Lake said. "I did that.

"What I really want to see is for him to keep his head in and keep working and keep competing. We've got a lot of guys out there that compete and he needs to be one of them."

I don't see what is wrong with UCLA coaches taking a cautious approach when it comes to he health of our football players. Lake's approach IMHO was perfect. It was the right thing to do on his part. It's too bad the reporters made it a big deal by playing on the quotes of a 18-19 year old sophomore. Guess not a surprise considering what we have seen from the press corp. that follows UCLA over the years.

Anyway, going back to the personnel shakeups, following Eddie Williams injury it looks like Neuheisel and Palcic are making Hasiak and Ekbatani compete for the right guard spot on our OL:

"We're competing in there," UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel said. "We've had a few guys come into my office wanting a spot. The guys want to play, want to get in there and help this team."

Hasiak particularly wants to regain the momentum he built during the summer, when he worked with the first team for much of training camp. With the emergence of sophomore Mike Harris at right guard, though, Hasiak ended up in a rotation with left guard Jeff Baca.

"Now I think I kind of got my aggressiveness back," Hasiak said. "The time in between when you're off, you kind of get too relaxed. That's what I did. I got too relaxed. But I'm getting it back. I'm real confident now; I feel I can go up against any front. I wouldn't even fret - I'm confident in my skills."

He is especially confident in his abilities lined up next to fellow true freshman Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA's standout left tackle.

The two behemoths played in postseason all-star games last year following their senior season, growing a friendship that has blossomed for months.

"Me and X kind of had a natural chemistry," Hasiak said. "It was something I noticed when we played in those two all-star games together. Being next to him, I'm comfortable. I know he's got my back if something's going that way; I never have to worry about him missing it."

Hasiak was in the trenches when Jet Ski exploded for that 74 yard TD sprint. From what I have seen it seems Ekbatani brings the experience and he also provides Palcic options because he is multidimensional. But I really like the nasty streak Stan seems to bring to our OL. When you mix him up with the X man and Kai Maivia, it gives us an OL life with an "attitude" we haven't had for years. So, would love to see more of Hasiak in there.

Lastly, as we are on the topic of attitude and offensive mindset Jon Gold from the Daily News has an nice profile on Kai Forbath. He sounds like a great kid who is working his reard end off to get better  ... but really ... I hope we don't have to see his awesome kicks unless it is in a situation when we have to tie or win the game. Touchdowns not field goals will get us where we neet to go at the end of this season to call this year a successful one.