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Spaulding Roundup: Back To Practice

Let's start with more info. on the news of Kevin Prince possibly returning (or being "available") for the Oregon game. Chris Foster from the LA Times reports:

"Oregon is the plan," Prince said through clinched jaw, wired shut the last week. "I can do everything but eat."

Prince, who suffered a fractured jaw against Tennessee, will sit out the Stanford game Oct. 3 but said that doctors are sure he will be ready to practice before the Oct. 10 game against Oregon.

"If he's cleared, he has obviously got to play," offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. "He's been throwing the ball. He's been in all the meetings. He's our starting quarterback."

Prince limbered up his arm during practice Tuesday, throwing passes in non-contact drills. He has been running and participating in other off-the-field workouts as well. [...]

"If his cardiovascular stays up, there is no reason to think he won't be ready by Oregon," Coach Rick Neuheisel said.

Neuheisel as always sounds optimistic. However, I am sure he and Chow will defer to the doctors at UCLA wrt to the final decision on when Kevin will make his return. In the meantime, it is great to have him back at Spaulding. In addition to running and throwing, I am assuming he is also taking part in all necessary meetings involving game planning leading up to the Stanford game.

Speaking of practice CRN was pretty happy about what went on at Spaulding after couple of days off:

"Very happy with this practice. Two days off, usually you're a little sluggish. It's like pulling teeth to get kids to run around, and it was anything but today. Not all perfect, but certainly things we can work with. We're excited as a program about where we are, and frankly, we're hungry for more. We've just got to keep pinning down the details."

He was probably in a good mood because he was getting a number of his players back in the fold:

With three straight games to start the season, what worked in Week 1 essentially remained into Week 2, and Week 2 into Week 3. Now, with players returning all over the field - the Bruins expect no fewer than seven players who missed the Kansas State game to return for Stanford on Oct. 3 - there is a little chance for some reversals of fortune.

"You have to get comfortable in competition. Is it good to be challenged in the fourth quarter? Sure, I'd love to win them all handily, but you're going to get tested. Rather than react like something you're not used to, you have to accept it. It brings out the best in all players."

It also means more heated competition (just like Fall) at a number of positions. More after the jump.

I wrote yesterday about competition heating up at the CB position between Viney and Price. As of yesterday Price was hanging on to the number 1 spot (with Viney pushing him hard).  And it will likely get even more intense when Aaron Hester (who is on his way to a full recovery) is ready to dive right back into it:

Redshirt freshman cornerback Aaron Hester has shed the crutches after suffering a fractured fibula against San Diego State in Week 1.

"I'm just happy to be walking again without pain," Hester said. "I lost the crutches yesterday; as soon as I got my X-ray results back, they texted me and said there were really good results. I just left my crutches right where they were.

"Wherever they are, I just left them and started walking."

In addition to Hester, Coach Palcic is excited about the possibility of reincorporating Ekbatani back into his rotation:

[R]eturning starter Nick Ekbatani was back in action, albeit on a somewhat limited basis, and offensive line coach Bob Palcic expects him back fully for Stanford.

"Nick coming back will only make us better," Palcic said. "I'm used to having a seven- or eight-man rotation. You want a backup center, a backup guard, and a swing tackle. If I have eight guys, I usually feel pretty comfortable in that situation."

In addition to Ekbatani and Hester, Christian Ramirez is also working hard to getting himself back into the coach's rotation:

The crowded backfield, which also includes Knox, Derrick Coleman, Johnathan Franklin and sometimes Damien Thigpen, is making it difficult for everyone involved to get an ample numbers of reps.

"We have a four-back rotation right now, four or five," Ramirez said. "It makes me work harder on every play that I go out there.

"I've still got to take mental reps. You watch what everybody else does right and you watch what everybody else does wrong, and learn from it."

Ramirez would have liked to have been a part of the Bruins' three victories but isn't going to brood over what could have been. His goal is to be back on the field when the Bruins play at Stanford on Oct. 3.

"I'd be selfish to say I was down," he said. "I'm excited to see our team go 3-0. It's fun in the locker room now. Everybody is upbeat. It makes the environment better."

Those are comments from a mature senior. I think Christian knows as well as anyone that the coaches will not just hand him back his starting spot. Given the success Franklin, Coleman, and Knox (before he was suspended) has experienced in these first few games, Christian will have to turn up his focus and intensity to another level to push for playing time, which in turn will ensure the other guys are not getting too comfortable in their respective spots.

This is a very producitve situation for all parties involved, because it benefits the entire team through healthy competition. As Neuheisel has said number of times this kind of situation is the kind of "nice problems" every coaches want to have at their respective programs. It is good to see UCLA in this spot in CRN's second year in Westwood.

Lastly, Stanly Hasiak didn't get to play on Saturday. CRN provided the following explanation:

Freshman guard Stanley Hasiak did not play Saturday because "I wanted to slow him down," Neuheisel said. [...]

Said Neuheisel: "I want him to be a freshman, and enjoy being a freshman and stop trying to make it all happen so fast."

Tackle Xavier Su'a-Filo, also a freshman, did not get the same stop-and-smell-the-roses talk. Hasiak has had a handful of tense confrontations with defensive players after plays during practice in recent weeks.

Neuheisel said "that was not the reason" Hasiak didn't play. But he did say, "Stan is a very, very proud person, who wants desperately to compete and be as good as anybody in the country. You got to embrace that, cherish that."

Makes sense to me.

It's weird (in a very pleasent way) to read about all the heated competition going on at Spaulding. Don't remember reading about skill positions being 3-5 spot deep back during previous regime. Certainly don't remember a lot about talented freshman OL mixing it up with defensive linemen (who always seemed to have their way with the inept Dorrellian offenses). In two years we have come a long way from the days of "disciplining resources" at Spaulding Field.