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Spaulding Roundup: Curious Signals Out Of Tennessee & Other Game Notes

Hmm. We have some interesting soundbites to start out with this Gameweek Humpday. I pointed to the following  quote from Ed Orgeron, the Volunteers assistant head coach (who used to be one of Chetey Petey's head honcho across town) setting up the game week (emphasis added throughout):

"I tell you what, you will not find anybody else in the world that wants to beat UCLA more than Ed Orgeron and Lane Kiffin.''

Orgeron made that comment on Kiffin's TV show Sunday morning. Kiffin downplayed the comments from his assistant coach:

"I didn’t say that. I read that. I don’t know. You’d have to ask him why he said that," Kffin told reporters. "He’s never been very fond of their colors or their team. I remember a lot of pregame speeches from him."

Kiffin worked very hard to apparently to let everyone know he didn't make those comments (guess he is not responsible for the actions of his own assistant coaches) and gave the right answers on his relationship with Norm Chow. From the LA Times:

Chow was USC's offensive coordinator and Kiffin a Trojan assistant from 2001-04. That ended when Coach Pete Carroll either promoted Kiffin in order not to lose him or ditched Chow because he was getting too much credit after consecutive national championships, depending on the version.

But Kiffin was ready with the right answer, saying Chow was "very instrumental in my development as a coach. I got a chance to spend four years next to him. I watched him call plays. I watched him run the quarterbacks. I watched him run the offense. I am very grateful to have had that chance."

Well that's really sweet. Kiffin then vowed that his players were not going to look back at last year's game:

"This is a different team, and a different time. We don't talk about the past," he said. "This just happens to be the next one on the schedule. It has nothing to do with whether we've played them before or whether we've had success or not."

Somehow Kiffin's message of not talking about the past didn't seem to get to Vol. superstar All World safety Eric Berry:

[B]erry, the Volunteers' All-American safety, called the loss to UCLA last season a self-inflicted wound.

"I'm not saying we thought we were going to beat them going into the game, but we did ease up on them at the end," Berry said. "We can't let that happen again, with us losing focus and pretty much giving up at the end of the game."

Well I guess thanks to Mr. Berry's kindness and generosity for gift wrapping last year's win. More than happy to take it.

Not sure what to make of all these comments coming out of Knoxville though. It's kind of weird. They seemed to be a little of out of sync with each. It's too bad Jill Painter was barking up the wrong tree to write up her dumb story. It might have been more on point if she had taken an early flight out to Tennessee. More game notes after the jump.

We have talked a lot about Bruins playing 18 freshmen (including 8 true freshmen) last weekend against San Diego State. Bruins will be talking on a Tennessee team that is going through its own youth movement. They played 10 freshmen in their 63-7 win over Western Kentucky. The group was headlined by wide receiver Marsalis Teague who was the only one to start and led the receivers with 86 yards on 6 catches with a 5 yard TD pass. From AP's Beth Rucker:

"I thought Marsalis was extremely impressive, especially for him to start and all the pressure with that," coach Lane Kiffin said.

Kiffin told the Vols before the season they would all have a chance to earn starting positions and playing time — including the true freshmen.

Tailback Bryce Brown got his share of playing time, racking up 104 yards rushing and a touchdown. Fellow running back David Oku added two more touchdowns.

Receivers Nu'Keese Richardson and Zach Rogers, safety Darren Myles Jr., cornerback Mike Edwards, safety Janzen Jackson, linebacker Greg King, defensive tackle Montori Hughes and linebacker Nigel Mitchell-Thornton also played.

Not everything went smoothly in their first game. Richardson fumbled his first punt return. Brown broke a 34-yard run up the sideline but stepped out of bounds rather than pushing forward for more yards.

"He ran out of bounds and did not finish it in the style that we play with here, so that was disappointing, but he'll learn from that," Kiffin said.

I am sure Kiffin and co. will be working these kids hard all week so that they can make a dramatic jump in terms of improvement from Western Kentucky to UCLA. These guys will be in the same situation like our freshmen and first time starters who I imagine are working hard this week on the practice field and film room to learn from their mistakes from first week.

One of the guys who will get a huge shot this week will be redshirt sophomore Courtney Viney, who is going to get the start at other CB spot (because of injury to Aaron Hester). Per Jon Gold of the Daily News, Viney is ready to seize his moment:

"The guy just finds ways to make plays," Neuheisel said. "He's not the biggest guy in the world, but you can't tell him that. That's why small people can play this game, because they don't know they're small and won't buy into the thought they are. Courtney was `Johnny on the Spot' the other night, and we needed him."  [...]

UCLA will match up against an offense that put up 63 points - albeit against a Western Kentucky team making its Football Bowl Subdivision debut. The 5-foot-8 Viney will match up against Quintin Hancock for some of the game.
Make that 6-foot-3 senior wide receiver Quintin Hancock.

Viney has some experience against bigger wideouts, including UCLA's 6-3 Taylor Embree.

"I love when I see Courtney going one on one against taller receivers," Lake [Carnell Lake] said. "That's the kind of work he's going to get. Tennessee has those receivers, too."

I think Viney will be up to the challenge. I was impressed with his effort from Saturday. Not only did he look ready to step up he also played a big role in shutting down the Aztecs passing attack. I thought he was a big part of the defensive effort that throttled Ryan Lindley after the first two drives by San Diego State.

I am not saying it is going to be easy for him. No doubt the Tennessee offense will be gunning for him. However, as Lake mentioned, it's not like there will be lack of preparation on his part since he is going to go up against tall, athletic recievers at practice every day.

Saturday is going to be a monster challenge for the entire team. If he can read through the mixed signals referenced above the fold, you can sense how Kiffin and Orgeron will have their guys lathered up with emotion and ready for blood. I think this will also represent a huge opportunity for Neuehisel and our guys to make a statement on national stage.

Time and time again UCLA football team has embarrassed itself on national stage in this kind of situation in recent years. We are not going to get that many opportunities to make a statement on national stage this year (except for couple of other key conference games). I do believe the goal for this year is somehow sneak into a bowl game and keep the recruiting momentum going. However, if we can come out and fight, match their intensity with focus, and sneak out with a win, it will turn into rocket boosters for this program.

I wrote last night how our defensive front-7 will have their hands full with the Tennessee o-line. They will need to hold their own against the size and experience of Tennessee OL. However, it will take more than that. We are going to need a lot of help from our special teams and we are going to need poise and focus from our offense. We can't come out and go three and out like we did against BYU last season. We will have to mount some credible drives early in the game and get on the scoreboard early. All of this again comes down to having focus and the requisite intensity to match the emotion (and possibly hatred) coming from the Tennessee sidelines. We will have to be ready for a fight.