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Spaulding Roundup: Practice Puzzles

Pieces of Bruin Puzzle. Photo Credit: Jack Rosenfeld
Pieces of Bruin Puzzle. Photo Credit: Jack Rosenfeld

Now why is this title making me think of pizza early in the morning. Anyways ...

So the first day of practice is in the books. And the best way to get a sense of what kind of mindset the team is coming out with and what to expect over next three weeks, is to hear out the thoughts of Norm Chow and Logan Paulsen. Both of them seem to be talking out the exact same script, which is already a pretty good sign. Here is how Coach Chow described where the Bruins are going into training camp:

If the UCLA offense is a puzzle - and I think we can all agree it was a bit puzzling last season - Norm Chow agrees that there are several steps before this thing is ready to hang on a wall.
First step, open the box.
Step two, pour the pieces on the table.
Three, four and five: Separate the pieces, turn them rightside up and start on the corners.
That's where the Bruins are at, Chow said.
"That's a good step, but those are the easy ones, right?" Chow said. "We're a long ways away. We're awfully young still. But if the guys are willing to work hard, we're going to be fine. You want the results at the end of the day on the scoreboard, but if you're guys work hard and whatever happens happens, you'll be OK."

One of Chow's major pieces struck the same note:

"Right now, we've got the puzzle on the table, and we're kind of putting it together," Paulsen said. "We kind of see where everything is going, but we're not 100 percent sure yet. That's what camp is for, to solidify that puzzle and make sure it holds true during the season."

Well luckily for Chow and rest of us UCLA will have some new pieces to work with this season, which we didn't have last year. More after the jump.

Well one of the keys to solving the UCLA puzzle will be the play of Kevin Prince. Logan Paulsen was asked about Prince yesterday and his take was encouraging:

"You have to get to know him," Paulsen said. "He's a very poised person, very mature guy. He's 18, 19 years old, and I forget it all the time. His locker is near mine, and he acts like a grown person. For him to come out here and bark and be assertive, I think he's just being himself. He's a natural leader, and obviously his youth played a bit of a factor in spring, but now I think he's stepping into who he is and who he can be."

It helps that Prince will have athletes like Morrell Presley to throw to this season. Per Jon Gold in the Daily News, Presley was off to a good start in the first day of the Fall camp:

Working with both the first and third teams, freshman tight end Morrell Presley (Carson High) was one of the surprises of Day 1. While there are plenty of tight end options, Presley appeared to be in the mix to at least see some time, based on three or four nice catches from Kevin Prince.
Presley had one particularly impressive grab near the end of practice, leaping to catch a ball before falling out of bounds, right over the outstretched arms of a leaping Kyle Bosworth.

Presley, on his status with the team:
In some parts of the program, I'm really not even considered a freshman," Presley said. "They don't treat me like one. They've thrown me in with the older dudes. I eat with the older dudes. I even grew up with a couple of them, went to middle school with them."

Presley wasn't the only freshman feeling comfortable (although Morrell like Brehaut got a head start coming in this spring) yesterday out at Spaulding. Chris Foster from the LA Times took note of couple of large figures lining up on the left side of the UCLA OL:

They fit the profile of "poster boy" for what UCLA's football needed most. They came in "as advertised," according to Coach Rick Neuheisel. They even went to dinner at the starting quarterback's house.

It can't be that easy for freshman offensive linemen Stanley Hasiak and Xavier Su'a-Filo. Or can it?

At the Bruins' first practice Monday, there was Hasiak at left guard and Su'a-Filo at left tackle.

"We just wanted to see what we had," Neuheisel said.

Even more to the point, it was a chance for other offensive linemen to see what they had.

And it looks like we might know by Friday where do they fit in the rotation:

Where Su'a-Filo and Hasiak fit in that plan is to be seen. Neuheisel said, "We'll see where we put everybody when we get to Friday."

Both Hasiak (6 feet 5, 318 pounds) and Su'a-Filo (6-4, 310) said they were eager to learn, but hardly expected to replace returners.

"I try to stay humble and keep a low profile," Su'a-Filo said. "The veterans are really good to me and have taken me under their wing. If I can help the team get better that will be great."

Still, as Hasiak said, "I knew I would have an opportunity to come in here and get a chance to play early, competing with the older guys."

Foster went on to note that Hasiak is still planning to go into this two-year mission after this season. I think he was talking about  Su'a-Filo not Hasiak because if I recall correctly it was XSF who was weighing in mission considerations when going through the recruiting process. Either way it is great to hear kids like Presely, Hasiak and XSF fitting in well early and also staying humble and maintaing their perspectives. It is going to be fun to see them develop in the coming days/weeks.

Face it around this time of the year all football teams are somewhat of a puzzle. However, in our case it's lot more exciting given the fact that our coaches haven't had good pieces to play around with in a long time out at Spaulding. It is going to take a while for them to fit it all together. Yet it's going to be a lot of fun to see the transformation play out infront of our eyes.