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Spaulding Roundup: UCLA's Offensive Line Making Some News

<em>Franklin Busting Through. Photo Credit: E. Corpuz</em>
Franklin Busting Through. Photo Credit: E. Corpuz

Bruins had their first scrimmage in practice yesterday.  It looks something went a little different out at Spaulding compared to last two seasons. Apparently the offensive line held up and had their moments against Price and the defensive frontline. From Chris Foster in the LA Times:

There was actually offense in the UCLA offense Friday, the first day the team was in full pads.

On the fourth play of the first 11-on-11 scrimmage, the offensive line opened up a hole that you could drive a truck through and tailback Derrick Coleman blew through it on his way to a long touchdown run.

This was just one day, and defensive tackle Brian Price said, "We'll come out tomorrow with a vengeance."

But Friday the offensive line did what it could not do a year ago -- open holes and pass-protect.

I love it. Not sure when was the last time I heard our defensive guys sounding frustrated (in a good way) after practice. Price's comments give us (especially those of us who can't get out to Spaulding) how fiery these practices have been this year. More from Foster's report:

"They are trying get their swagger back as a unit," Price said.

Price has already tasted that swagger. He had a post-play exchange with guard Stanley Hasiak earlier in the week, with the freshman getting in an elbow at the end.

"You like to see that," defensive end Korey Bosworth said. "They have some fight." He then smiled, and added, "you can do that . . . once."

Love hearing about the freshmen not backing down. More on the OL after the jump.

One of the reasons freshmen are not backing down is because the coaches are giving them every opportunity to compete. From the OC Register:

The Bruins’ coaching staff opted to have the younger players on the No. 1 line, affording them more reps.

"When you’ve got a bunch of youngsters, you want to give them as many chances as you can so that you can learn as much as you can about them and then make the choices on what you think is best for the football team," UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel said.

Though it was the second line, the one with the experienced players, that created the gap for Coleman, the efforts of the incoming freshmen were worthy of praise.

"The ones and twos looked really good," said Nick Ekbatani, the only lineman who started in all of the Bruins’ games last season. "Most of the starters are new guys right now. If they mess up, we can step up just fine, no biggie.

"That’s what’s encouraging because last year if the first-team guys were messing up, there was no one to replace them. Now we’ve got a full arsenal."

While the freshmen linemen – Xavier Su’a-Filo, Stanley Hasiak, Greg Capella, Eddie Williams and Nik Abele – are doing a good job of learning the plays and the footwork, they have to get rid of their bad habits to make the transition complete.

XSF and Hasiak's assignments are especially pivotal given they are being tasked with protecting Prince's blindside. They are taking the whole process in stride and are having fun with it:

"Of course, there's a little bit of pressure because you can't let your quarterback get hit at all costs," Su'a-Filo said. "He's it. If he goes down, the offense suffers. There's a little pressure that way. No doubt there's a lot of responsibility."

Said Hasiak: "It's not really stressful. Basically, it's just work and fun at the same time. There might be a lot of changes with the first string. Everybody is working hard and trying to get better and competing."

Again the word that keeps coming out from all these guys is all about "competition." I can't recall a training camp when the offensive line had so many options competing for five starting spots. Yes, right now we don't know how some of the new guys will be responding to actual game situation. However, from the reports it's clear they are pushing their own team-mates, and making the veterans fight for their starting spots. I am guessing that kind of competition creates a sense of desperation (again in a good way) at these practices that elevates everyone's performance. Perhaps that's why we are actually reading reports of the offensive line having their moments against the defensive one.

Should be fun to hear about how the defense responds. Look forward to hearing back from folks who are taking in the show out at Spaulding.