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Spaulding Roundup: Bye Week Practice Notes

Bruins continue to use the bye week to work on fundamentals and slowly work in players who went down with injuries during late summer camp. I am assuming coaches are quietly putting together their scouting report (if they haven't done it already) for Stanford but they are not talking about the Cards to reporters yet. Moreover, they are probably not going to work on installing that specific game plan until next week because they will want to make sure that it stays fresh in our players' minds, and might throw in wrinkles after what they see in the Stanford-Washington matchup.

So going back to working on basics Johnathan Franklin has been focusing on holding on to the rock. Jet Ski despite his great start has had some issues with fumbling. He almost gave the game away in Tennessee when he fumbled near our own goal-line (but was lucky enough to recover it). He then fumbled again during the fourth quarter against KSU this past week (but by that time UCLA was up by 14 points against a mediocre KSU offense). He is not going to be able to get away with making those mistakes in brutal Pac-10 matchups. Foster from the LAT reports on how Jet Ski is "working on keeping a firm grip":

"He knows the consequences of putting the ball on the ground," running backs coach Wayne Moses said. "You can't do that to your teammates, he knows that."

Franklin, who had 119 yards rushing against Kansas State, said he has to "be more aware as far as putting two hands on the ball and holding it high and tight."

Both fumbles came on runs through the line.

"It's a wake-up call," Moses said. "Once you get into traffic, you have to cover up. Once they get you and start ripping and stripping, if you don't have two hands on the ball, you're not going to hold on to it."

Again it also helps that he is being pushed by a deep stable of tailbacks as 4 guys are fighting for playing time.  Hopefully his focus on this aspect of the game will pay off in the coming weeks. This is all part of the development of a first year (red-shirt freshman) running back. Well our running backs have been finding some holes to run through this season thanks to a revamped OL. Looks like the OL might be getting another boost in the near future. Find out how after the jump.

Mentioned yesterday how Coach Palcic was excited about getting Ekbatani back in his rotation. Jon Gold froom the Daily News expands on that story today:

Well, Ekbatani is back, and along with him, some of that depth.

"To get him back means more competition, more rotating, and it is killer," said sophomore left guard Jeff Baca. "He's a senior, a returning starter, the only guy who started 12 games last year, and he's a special player."

With his versatility, no position is safe.

While Ekbatani primarily rotated at guard Wednesday, Ekbatani is what Palcic truly values: an offensive lineman who can play everywhere.

"I'll fit in wherever they need me; I've played every position since I've been here, and whoever's lagging I can fit in for," said Ekbatani, who started the first six games of 2008 at right tackle before switching to starting right guard for the final half year. "It will create some good competition, get guys going."

And speaking of getting guys going, Reginald Stokes, who tore his right knee cartilage back in August and expected to miss at least half the season, is apparently making "fast recovery."  He has been practicing with the team this week and took part in full-contact drills yesterday. From the LA Times:

"I’m close," said Stokes, a 6-foot-3, 266-pound junior. "I’m starting to do a little bit here and there and ease myself back."

But asked if he could play against Stanford next week, Stokes said, "As of today, yes."

While that is pretty amazing, CRN is being cautious:

Coach Rick Neuheisel said Stokes was way ahead of schedule, but was more cautious about an immediate return. Stokes was ticketed for a key role off the bench, but the Bruins have received solid play from redshirt freshman Damien Holmes.

"The trainers earlier this week were less than optimistic that he would play," Neuheisel said. "But it is in Reggie’s heart to make sure he makes it all the way back. I’m encouraged that he did well [Tuesday]. I’d be pleasantly surprised if he is at full speed and ready next week."

Either way this is great news. I personally thought after an injury like that he would just sit out this season with a medical redshirt and come back next year. I am sure CRN will do the right thing by taking the cautious approach under counsel of some of the best doctors in the country.

However, given the excitement from this past few weeks and seeing how the team is so fired up, excited behind Neuheisel, can't blame the kid for doing everything he can to get himself back in action. Who doesn't want to be part of something like this?