I have been getting excited every Friday morning not just for the weekend but also because of looking forward to reading ATV's weekly blogposts. We have never been shy about being (rightfully) critical about the quality and the style of content packaged on our official website. At the same time we have to give them props when do something right. Featuring ATV this summer to provide off season updates via blogposts (ok we are being charitable calling it a "blog") has been IMHO the best feature I have read on the official site. So ATV has posted his fifth update and I lol reading about his experience from his Romanian class:
Good day everyone, or in Romanian it would be, "Buna Ziua". We are rapidly approaching the end of summer and the class is starting to wind it down and keep to repetition of what we know. We have learned more verbs, the subjunctive of the verbs, clothing items, family members, and colors.
"Eu am doi surori, un tata, un mama in familia mea". That last sentence in English is "I have 2 sisters, a father, a mother in my family". I got a 29.5/30 on the midterm from last week, which I will take after thinking I had done a lot worse. We have seen many great presentations in class on the Romanian flower of love, Dacian weapons, the legend of Dracula, etc. It has been interesting learning so much history.
You can bet that's what the commentators will talk about all the time - his Romanian class - this coming season when the camera is focused on ATV. On the football side, he has couple of really interesting updates. He writes about the incoming freshmen "testing off the wall" when they were being measured for "progress":
For football, we had to do a little testing this week to measure our progress. I personally improved in everything except one thing. We had a lot of good marks in our group. Glenn Love had an amazing vertical jump. Many did well in other tests. The one surprise was the speed of some of the freshmen. They were blazing, testing off the wall, which is something that we really haven't seen in a while. Very impressive, it would take too long to list all of them, so I will just say the whole group. We still got after it in the weight room, even though we did the testing.
And then he mentioned how the offense "ran the tables" on our defense:
"7 on 7" drills have been going exceptionally well, with the offense looking better and better. They ran the tables on the defense last Thursday and made plays everywhere. It was a little shocking, but good at the same time. On Tuesday, it came back down a little to the defense doing what they do. But overall, it has been productive, as we approach fall camp.
Well. When it comes to reading off season practice reports I have become a cynic after a decade of disappointments under Toledo and Dorrell. I have told myself how I am not going to get excited from reading sunny off season stories. Still I can't help but get caught up ATV's enthusiasm and excitment when reading his updates. As we have mentioned over and over again, we have to be pragmatic about our expectations for this coming season. Still right now you can't miss the good vibes around the the team. More after the jump.
Speaking of keeping expectations in check, CPBruinFan over at Bruin Roar has followed up his offensive preview with notes on our 2009 defense and special teams. While we are all excited about returining talents such as ATV, Carter and Price, CPB smartly raises the caution flag re. depth concerns at our DL and LBs:
The biggest threat up front is Brian Price. He'll again be asked to do a bit of everything this season: placing pressure on the quarterback as well as stopping anyone coming up the middle. His quick first step and immense physical abilities will draw instant double teams.
The rest of the defensive tackle depth is a big concern. Jerzy Siewierski will lineup next to Price and the strong 290 lb senior can hold his own but after that UCLA is scary thin up front.
The defensive ends will likely see a rotation with Jones, Stokes, Bosworth, and Holmes. None of them have really emerged as a serious pass rushing threat, though I think Boswoth should be in the backfield with some consistency this season. One of these guys will need to step up and help take the pressure off of Price.
I think this might be one of the more athletic linebacking corps at UCLA in recent years. Reggie Carter is the big name in the middle, but I could see Akeem Ayers getting some press this season as well. He had a breakout true-freshman season in 2008 and that success should continue on this year. Senior Kyle Bosworth is back from injury and will anchor the other outside slot.
Depth is a concearn among the linebackers as well, with virtually no proven experience nor size among the backups.
Meanwhile on special teams punting game (even though we know Locke apparently can be faster than ATV lol) and punt returns are question marks:
The one big unknown this season is the punting game. Aaron Perez had a great career for the Bruins and his big leg lead the league in punting average last season. Jeff Locke takes over this season and reports are that he has an even stronger leg. He'll be making his first start this season and I'm sure it will take a while for him to find the consistency that Perez had as a senior.
UCLA was a middle of the pack team in punt returns. Austin didn't have any big returns but the team did block a few punts and added a couple of touchdowns. The offense will need as much help as it can get this season, so some big returns or a timely block could jump start a drive.
I wonder if CRN will try out someone like Carroll or Thigpen in punt returns and see if they can turn on their jets. That also depends on how they can handle it. It takes special fearless mindset to get out there as a punt returners.
The concerns listed above illustrate how right now it is impossible to predict the W-Ls for our team this coming season. There are number of tossup games and lot of them will be determined by how healthy we are throughout the season along with the key concerns about our OL and inexperienced QB. No wonder people are having hard time figuring out where UCLA will finish in the conference this season.
Speaking of the coming season, we will end with the OC Register's very early brief look at San Diego State (courtesy of Athlon Sports):
OUTLOOK: The Aztecs figure to be better this season. Not because things can’t get much worse for a defense that ranked last in nearly every category, but because they brought in Brady Hoke (pictured) to coach the team. Hoke led Ball State to a 12-1 record before taking over at San Diego State. Employing a get-tougher approach, he pushed his team toward an aggressive routine during spring drills and hopes that can get the Aztecs going. San Diego State also lowered its non-conference expectations by dropping Notre Dame and San Jose State from its schedule, for Southern Utah and Idaho.
BEYOND THE HUDDLE: The Aztecs are 0-20-1 against the Bruins so a Week 1 victory over UCLA would give San Diego State the confidence that it’s been lacking for the past decade.
I am sure we are going to be delving into the Aztecs lot more next month. But I would love to hear from BNers San Deigo if you guys have any early notes to share on Brady Hoke. He strikes me as one of those no nonsense coaches from the midwest, who will bring some much needed structure and discipline in that program. While we will have the advantage in term of talent, I think it will be a huge mistake to over look this team because you can bet they are going to be fired up to make a splash for their new head coach.
We should especially be aware how the "excitement" factor for a new head coach can work well for a team in his first game, given what transpired at the Rose Bowl last season:
ucla vs. tennessee 08 last play (via mjmbruin)
Here is to that home team sideline jumping up and down again in 43 days.