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Spaulding Roundup: Neuheisel's Team Taking Shape

<em>Photo Credit: E. Corpuz</em>
Photo Credit: E. Corpuz

So the two-a-days ended yesterday with news of tailback depth chart getting shaken up due to Christian Ramirez's latest injury. As a result of the depth chart shake up it looks like we will probably have Johnathan Franklin getting as much time as Coleman. There is also a good chance now we are going to see Damien Thigpen and also Milton Knox. No doubt I am sure this news has many over here eager with anticipation because finally we are going to see recruits who have been brought in following the departure of Karl Dorrell.  Reading through the news reports this am, it is starting to become clear that Neuheisel's (and his coaching staff's) imprint is now all over the football team.

Let's start with the offensive line. UCLA confirmed it's starters yesterday:

Left Tackle: Freshman Xavier Su'a-Filo
Left Guard: Freshman Stanley Hasiak
Center: Sophomore Kai Maiava
Right Guard: Junior Eddie Williams
Right Tackle: Sophomore Jeff Baca

Obviously the first thing that stands out is how we have two true freshman, a JC tansfer and a Colorado transfer who have not taken single snap as a Bruin. Notice another common thread. Not a single one of them have played under Karl Dorrell. It kind of reminds me of how Howland's first class - JF, AA, JS and LMR - didn't waste any time in asserting themselves into the starting rotation of the basketball time. It's kind of startling to see after just two years the entire OL, QB, and majority of the backs are players recruited by the new staff. The only holdovers from previous regime right now are Austin, Paulsen, and to a certain extent Taylor Embree. More after the jump.

The OL might be green when it comes to game experience but they are not lacking when it comes to showing intensity and competing against the veterans in the defense. Apparently Hasek mixed it up with Reggie Carter right after practice yesterday. CRN was amused:

Neuheisel on the post-practice skirmish between Stanley Hasiak and Reggie Carter:
"We have a bunch of guys who are willing to stand up. Now it's just, stand up at the appropriate times. I'm enthused by the fight in our team, now it just has to be harnessed."

Al Balderas from the OC Register referred to Hasek's tenacity as the "kind of determination" that lead to Coach Palcic starting true freshman in his OL lineup for the first time in his 30 year career. Reggie Carter is not the only skirmish Hasek was involved in yesterday. Per the LA Times he also got into it with David Carter.

Again, don't remember hearing about this kind of heated practices from the previous years when the Defense would come in and exert their will every day.  The offensive line is so young right now Joe Baca, who himself is still in the process of developing in his sophmore season has taken up the mentor role:

"Kai and I, we feel that since we're the only guys with college-game experience, we are looked up to," Baca said. "We've been there already. We know what it's like."

Baca and Maiava spent the better part of fall camp learning and teaching. The newcomers were eager to learn, which made it a perfect fit.

"They're really responsive because they know that we've been here," Baca added. "They're good learners and they're going to be good football players."

Well it will take a total team effort. It's not just the OL who will go through the development process. The whole offense will have to step for the offense to take shap. Bob Palcic talked about this with Jon Gold from the Daily News:

On the whole offense:
"Everybody's in this together. Kevin can make the line look good by getting the ball off on time. The receivers can help the line by running the routes at the proper depth. The running backs can help by blocking the proper linebackers. It isn't just the line. Everybody has to work together on this side. Its 11 guys all doing their jobs that will create success.

Makese sense to me. Also, it helps that UCLA will finally have some speed to work with this coming season:

UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price was frustrated, hollering from the sidelines, "Get that little . . ." Freshman running back Damien Thigpen dipped and cut, squeezing through a small hole for a decent gain.

Offensive coordinator Norm Chow smiled at the thought.

"People can't load up in the box and expect to play man to man outside," Chow said. "They are going to have to play off coverage, which will give us a chance to run the ball."

In short, speed thrills, and the Bruins actually have some and are now exploring how to use it.

Tailback Johnathan Franklin, wide receiver Randall Carroll, Thigpen and receiver Morrell Presley all appear to have roles in the offense this season. It's a just-add-water solution, as Carroll, Thigpen and Presley were in high school a year ago. Even Franklin is a mere redshirt freshman. But all four possess something that can't be taught.

"Speed can create some big-play opportunities, and that was sorely missing in this offense last season," Coach Rick Neuheisel said.

We just have to go through one more weekend and then we finally get to see all of these guys in action for the first time.

I know we have been relentlessly discussing how we need to keep our expectations and optimism in check and for good reasons. I still think with the inexperience at the OL, TB and QB positions, it is going to be a challenge to get to 6 wins. However, there is no reason to keep our excitement in check. We haven't had this kind of speed and athleticism around Spaulding for a long time. It has all of our mouths watering.

It is going to be fun to watch these kids develop in this season. No doubt they are going to have their ups and downs. However, based on what we have read and heard about them so far it looks like they are going to come out fighting every play and perhaps along the get our hearts pumping about Bruin football for the first time in a long time.