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Spaulding Roundup: Starting QB Spot Unclear As Neuheisel Making Brehaut/Craft Compete

<em>Don't Forget Craft. Photo Credit: <a href="" target="new">Telemachus</a></em>
Don't Forget Craft. Photo Credit: Telemachus

Well it looks like the QB situation is getting very interesting heading into Saturday's game. On Tuesday morning if one were to read tea-leaves he or she would have reasonably speculated that UCLA coaches were leaning towards starting Richard Brehaut this coming Saturday. Brehaut then went on to get majority of the snaps with the first team on Tuesday. However, yesterday it was Kevin Craft who primarily worked with the ones and I have heard from couple of folks who are pretty plugged in with practices that Craft looked relatively better than Brehaut during the practices (it wouldn't be a shocker given that Craft has more experience with the schemes of Chow and Neuheisel).

Chris Foster from the LAT has the story on our developing QB situation:

Craft spent the majority of Wednesday's practice with the first team. Freshman Richard Brehaut is still expected to start in place of Kevin Prince (fractured jaw), but his performance in practice Tuesday opened the door for Craft.

"It's hard for a young guy because we're throwing a lot of things at him," offensive coordinator Norm Chow said of Brehaut. "He just needs to learn what we're trying to get done."

Those were hard lessons for Craft a year ago. He came from Mt. San Antonio College and was expected to be a backup. Then quarterbacks Ben Olson and Patrick Cowan were injured.

Craft, third on the depth chart in spring, was under center opening night, leading UCLA to a 27-24 victory over Tennessee. It was mostly downhill from there.

He started all 12 games, but the season quickly unraveled. Craft became the gift that kept on giving . . . to opposing teams. Six interceptions were returned for touchdowns. He was replaced by Prince in the spring.

"It is hard any time you come into a new place," Craft said. "I was around all new guys, playing an all new offense, under my third offensive coordinator in three years. We had to make a lot of changes during the year, up front, in the backfield. It was not like we had a consistent lineup."

Or a good one. The offensive line seemed incapable of run or pass blocking. Running backs were slow to the holes.

"There were a lot of factors, but I'm not someone who points fingers," Craft said.

Again you have to love the kid for being so committed to the program.

I am not emotionally invested in either Richard Brehaut or Kevin Craft. I don't see this as some kind of campaign. I have always admired the courage Craft showed last season behind a shattered OL and working with a gimpy senior TB. He never complained for getting abused behind the LOS. He just kept getting up and fighting. Meanwhile, on the other hand, I am really excited about the idea of Brehaut. The most important thing I care about is UCLA getting 6 wins and qualifying for a bowl game this season. For UCLA to achieve that goal, Saturday is a must win game, and all I care about is coaches starting the QB who they think is most prepared to execute their schemes. Here is Neuheisel on his QB situation:

On the QB battle:
"We'll continue to evaluate. Both kids are eager and working hard, and both bring something to the table. We'll make the determination here as the week goes on, but I would not be surprised if we played both. I want to continue to roll it around in my head - a vast, empty wasteland. I think we could make a choice, but I don't know that we have to."

On the QB battle being beneficial for both quarterbacks:
"Both kids are growing as they're competing. As soon as you call off the jam in the competition, you may call off jam in the improvement. We'll let somebody know on Saturday. A little uneasiness isn't bad, it makes you work harder."

As I have said numerous times before given their track record with QBs, we should have absolute confidence in Chow and Neuehisel wrt to this decision. More after the jump.

On the other side of the ball, per AP's quick write up the key battle between Kansas State and UCLA will be between the KSU RB and UCLA LBs:

Kansas State RB Daniel Thomas vs. UCLA's linebackers. Thomas is averaging 120 rushing yards per game on a team whose leading rusher a year ago, converted wide receiver Lamark Brown, ran for just 412 yards on the year. The Bruins' linebacking corps returns only one starter, but has plenty of experience. Senior Reggie Carter topped the Bruins with 83 tackles last season.

Speaking of our LBs, Carter is working with Ayers to play him with a little more controlled aggression while maintaing the intensity and the hunger to blow up running backs:

"Akeem is a great athlete, probably better than I am, and it's a little different because now he's a little out of control, he's trying to make a play," Carter said. "When I was younger and I was trying to make every play, I wouldn't get the penalty, but I wouldn't make the play. Rather than do my job, I tried to do everything."

Eventually, though, Carter settled down, matured, became a star not just because of the plays he made, but the ones he didn't.

Right around sophomore year, Carter said, he figured out when to turn off that switch.

Ayers doesn't even have a switch, yet.

"Sometimes you're just trying to make a play, and you just want to get that hit whenever you can," Ayers said. "It's hard to slow yourself down once you already have the mind-set. It's tough to back off sometimes. That's something you have to learn."

Akeem will get there. The way he hits people he reminds me a lot of Donnie Edwards. I think if Akeem just figures out the switch thing in next 2-3 games, this group of LBs (Gold nicknamed them "ABC" LB corps) has the potential to be the best group UCLA has had in last 20 years. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, from the KSU pov, Panjandrum on Bring On The Cats laid out the following blueprint for the Wilcats on Saturday:

If it were up to me, and I were gameplanning for UCLA, I'd run the football to start out with (like they know we will), and then I'd try to complete some high percentage passes to the perimeter of the field.  For example, I'd throw some quick screen passes to Banks and hope he gets free, or I'd try to get him the ball on a quick bubble screen or slant route.  I'd throw some short five yard curl routes to Mastrud.  We just need to do the minimum necessary to give our running backs better chances to move the football.  None of the QB's on this roster are going to beat you, so you have to hope that they just make the easy throws and don't hurt you.  You may have to open up the playbook to give Carson opportunities to make some throws, but it's no like we really should be holding anything back at this point; if you don't win here, you don't go to a bowl game.  Period.

On defense, concentrate on shutting down the run and make a true freshman beat you with his arm.  That's really all there is to it.  If you were thinking about trying out some new blitz packages and trying to mix up coverages, there's no better time than this week.  When you look at the upcoming games on the schedule where KSU can be competitive (ISU, CU, A&M), it's not like hiding anything is really going to make the difference between winning and losing.  Being the team that sucks the least is going to be the determining factor.

Yep. I am fully expecting KSU to stack the box and dare whoever is playing QB for us to win the game with his arm. Also, we talked earlier about this is one of those games in which our opponent has nothing to lose. Seems like BTC is seeing it the exact same way. From EMAW on BTC:

[N]o need to hide anything during this game. This is one of those "must wins" if the team has any hope of reaching a bowl. Let's see it all: blitzes, half back passes, fake punts, anything that you need to do to make a win a possibility. Considering the win against Tennesse last week, I can't think this game can line up any better for KSU this week than it has. The Bruins' starting QB is out, along with four suspended players and one of their starting defensive backs.

The solution to confronting that strategy of course is for our OL to step up the challenge and do what they can to impose their will on the KSU frontline. They will have to open up some holes for Franklin and Coleman and stay with the mindset of getting 4 yards per carry and get our QBs in managable situations in which they can get first downs with short and medium range pases. It doesn't matter who we play at QB, his most important task will be to execute a clean game plan, instead of trying to be a hero.

The key again will be to stay with our assignments and NOT PANICKING, even if the team falls behind like it did against San Diego State. Of course we are hoping this time around, we will see a cleaner start from our defense from the opening drive. Either way, I am assuming it's clear by now that no matter who the QB is on Saturday, this is a game that Bruins will not be able to just waltz through against a desperate opponent. That explains why Neuheisel is making Craft and Brehaut compete so hard to earn their spot on Saturday.