As we started discussing in Nestor's write up on "waiting for the train" that is UCLA football, there are a list of things, some small, some radical, that CRN needs to do if he plans on righting the ship and getting these Bruins to six wins and a bowl game.
Time and time again, we've heard about how the Bruins needed "to fix the little things" or make "minor adjustments" and are so close to finally breaking through and being relevant again. Well, talk is cheap, and the proof is in the pudding. Youth is an excuse that only goes so far. Stupid penalties, sloppy execution, bad reads, all of that is the kind of stuff you can write off to inexperience. That kind of stuff will happen.
But that's not what's killing the Bruins. Yes, Sheldon Price can't seem to do anything without drawing a PI flag and our execution is poor at times, but the problems with UCLA go a lot deeper than youth or inexperience.
It's time for some radical change. It's time to stop being Donahue-esque and complacent. If we're going to win and go to the next level (consistently challenging for the Pac-10 title), then we need to break from our mediocre past and do what is necessary to win.
The steps I'm advocating for after the jump.
1. It's time for accountability, from the top to the bottom. Let's start with Sheldon Price. He needs to see nothing but the bench in Eugene. Hell, I wouldn't even let him dress. If I was CRN, I'd sit Sheldon down and tell him he can play again when he knocks the taunting bullshit off and does his job. When you get burned time and time again, you don't get to celebrate the one time you did your job. It's like he's the anti-ATV: doesn't defend well and acts like a jackass on the field. If you're reading this Sheldon, here's some information for you: you are not Darrelle Revis. Stop acting like it.
2. Moving from the secondary into the linebacker corps, it's time to bench Sean Westgate. He's a good guy, a hard worker, all that Rudy-type stuff. He's a great special teams player, but simply put, he is not a Pac-10 quality linebacker. He doesn't have the size. He doesn't have the speed. Yes, he gets a lot of tackles. That's not hard to do when other teams are running it down the Bruins' throat and running right at Westgate since he's the weak link at the second level. The knock on Bosworth was his lack of speed in coverage. At least Bosworth could hit and play run defense. Westgate not only can't play run defense effectively, but as Shane Vereen showed us yesterday, Westgate gets burned on the same routes that Bosworth got burned by Jahvid Best on. Anthony Barr has the size and the speed to be a very solid OLB. Using him as a glorified run blocker, short pass catcher, and very occasional ball carrier is a major waste of his talent. We need help at OLB. Use him there. Or hell, throw Love in there, because at least he can hit. Westgate is getting owned out there.
3. Switching to the offensive side of the ball, what the hell is with Jet Ski and holding on to the damn ball?! I thought the fumbles were a thing of the past (especially after the Texas game), but once again, he can't hold on to the rock. The upside to Jet Ski and Coleman was, that while they didn't have the pedigree of Malcolm Jones, they were reliable hands who held on to the ball. Obviously, that's not true, so why isn't Malcolm Jones getting at least 33% of the carries? Look at Lattimore at South Carolina. There are more experienced, more senior guys in the Cocks' backfield, but Spurrier brought in a five-star running back in the Class of 2010 and is using that talent. The kid is killing it. Malcolm Jones was a five-star running back in the same class, and yet, he's sitting on the sideline, doing nothing. Never mind that Jones was the Gatorade POY. When did CRN turn into Ben Howland? Jones fumbles the ball a few times and we haven't seen him since. That's a great way to shatter a kid's confidence. The bottom line is that Jones is big, fast, and a damn good running back. He's our running back of the future, so the smart move is to give him experience now, especially since he is just as good as our current crop of backs. If he fumbles, he fumbles. I mean, it's not like Jet Ski is holding on to the ball, and he's still getting carries. At worst, Jones is no better than Jet Ski with ball security. At best, he works it out, figures out the problem, and develops into the best UCLA running back not named Skip Hicks.
4. Why is Taylor Embree playing? He's slow. He can't get separation from anyone. Worst of all? He can't catch the damn ball. He was given a scholarship for one purpose: to catch the f**king football. He's failing, so he needs to be benched for guys who can hold on to the damn ball. That means Jerry Johnson needs to play. Now. At the expense of either Embree or Rosario, it doesn't matter, but he holds on to the ball on the few occasions that Prince can manage to pick the right read and hit him in the numbers.
5. Staying with our receivers, how is Josh Smith, one of the most dynamic playmakers on the roster, not getting the ball more often? If I was running this team, I'd be trying to get Smith as many touches as possible. End arounds. Bubble screens. Crossing routes. Whatever it takes to get him on the field with the offense and get the ball in his hands needs to happen. The guy can make plays, especially if he is given any space. He needs to have the damn ball. A lot. I fail to see why Taylor Embree, who is fielding punts for his allegedly "sure hands" is continuing to get to touch the ball. Punt returns and kick returns both need to be for Smith and Smith alone. The more he touches the ball, the higher the chance he breaks something big and gets us 7 points.
6. Accountability needs to matter. And that includes QB. No one should be immune from being pulled. Not only is Prince not getting it done, but his leadership is abysmal. He's no Rahim Moore, that's for sure. You want to laugh when you're getting your ass kicked? That's fine. Enjoy the pine the next game. And Kevin, make sure you leave room for your buddy Rich B. because he won't be seeing the field either. Darius Bell, it's time you get your first Division I start. If you're half the warrior your brother was, then maybe we'll be okay. Besides, in all likelihood, Oregon is going to flat-out murder us. It's going to be a major ass-kicking. Because, let's be real: Oregon is going to break it off in Cal's ass and we all saw what Cal did to us. Since the spread is going to be laughable, why not unleash Bell and see what he can do (if anything)?
7. Accountability isn't isolated to the field. It goes all the way to the coaching staff too, and if CRN wants to keep his job, it's time to shake up his coaching staff, in major ways. Where to start? Fire Chuck Bullough. I shouldn't have to explain why Mr. Candy-Ass Soft Prevent Defense needs to go, but just as there were retards defending Dorrell, I'm sure there are people who like Bullough. He needs to go. Now. Not at the end of the season, but now. Put Clark Lea in charge as the interim DC. While we're at it, Todd Howard needs to go too. Hundley can stay, but if Price and Hester continue with the bull, then he should be looking for a new job next year too. It's time for CRN to cut the ties to past regime and dump the last Dorrell/Walker guys out of the program. Lea might do a good job this year, he might not. But no matter what, he can't do worse than the soft-ass defense we've seen so far. Hell, maybe Lea will be dynamite and will save us the time and expense of going out and hiring a top-tier college defensive coordinator.
8. But let's be realistic: Lea probably isn't the answer. We're going to need to go out and lure away a top-tier defensive guy from an established program with a solid defense. It's going to cost us money, which in this economy, is not going to be easy. Where will the money going to come from? Here's the radical idea we need:
Let Norm Chow go at the end of this season.
That's right. I said it. Yes, Chow is a legend and yes, he's developed a few Heisman quarterbacks during his tenure. But let's face facts: Prince is not going to be the next Heisman winner. Moreover, the pistol is not exactly a system Norm Chow has found success with. And, I hate to say it, but there's probably a reason no program has given him the big job. For all his success, doesn't it anyone find it odd that programs would sooner hire a no-clue "coach" like Karl Dorrell or Dwayne Walker (who combined have only one good thing on both of their resumes: 13-9), than Norm Chow, who is reportedly the offensive guru of college football?
Neuheisel is an offensive guy. He can take the reins of the offense the next season and focus on developing the next great Bruin QB. So far, we've scored 16 TDs in 5 games. Throw in Kai's FGs and we've put up a total of 136 points (22.7 points per game). Last season? 286 points total (22.0 points per game). Chow is pulling in $400K to $500K per season. In other words, last year, Chow made between around $1,400 to $1,750 per point. If we continue at the pace we're going this year (with a laughable improvement of 0.7 points per game despite an improved running game, offensive line, and a new offensive system designed to cure our offensive problems), then we'll put up between 272 and 295 points (depending if we make a bowl game or not for the extra 22 or so points). Which means Chow will have made between $1,470 and $1,840 per point.
In comparison, Oregon had the most points per game (at 54.3 points per game, or a total of 706 points last season), while their offensive coordinator, Mark Helfrich, made somewhere in the neighborhood of $203,600 last year. In other words, he made around $290 per point. Obviously, Helfrich doesn't have the track history of Norm Chow, and in reality, Oregon's offense is really the product of Chip Kelly and the stockpile of talent that Bellotti left behind. Still, it's a stark contrast what we're paying Chow for the number of points our offense is putting up.
The point behind all of this is that Chow is making a ton of money. With Neuheisel, an offensive coach, at the helm, it makes more sense to take the Norm Chow money and use it to replace Bullough with someone who actually knows their ass from a hole in the ground. It would be nice to have a defensive coordinator who has something more than empty space between his ears. Since Chow really isn't doing a lot for us on the offensive side of the ball, it's time to invest the money where we need it.
9. While I'm tearing apart the offensive staff, Reggie Moore needs to be fired. Now. Our wide receivers are terrible, despite having raw talent. In fact, it almost appears that guys like Embree have digressed over the years, which is a pretty damning indictment of Moore's ability to coach that unit. I know he's a good recruiter, but what is the point of having talent if you can't develop it, or worse, cause the talent to slide downward?
10. After we find a defensive coordinator who understands basic concepts of football (such as you blitz on a third and long situation since it shortens the amount of time the QB has and doesn't allow the long route for the first down to develop, forcing either a sack, an incompletion, or a short dump-off pass that gets stopped a few yards short of the first down marker), use the rest of the Chow money to hire away a younger offensive coordinator, someone preferably well-versed with the pistol offense that we've installed, such as Nevada's Chris Klenakis. After all, Klenakis is the coordinator, who with Ault, totally pistol-whipped the Golden Bears with supposedly "lesser" talent and size. The guy does know the new system we've committed to (by bringing in Bell and now Brett Hundley) and he knows the kinds of players we'll need to bring in to run it right.
Like I said, it's time for radical change. Albert Einstein once said that insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." We've become insane folks, because we continue to be stuck in the same mediocre, Donahue-esque mindset, afraid to take a leap or make a radical change. Until we decide to do something drastic, something to really break with our mediocre past, UCLA football will continue to be nothing more than a Southern California version of the California Golden Bears: a perennial also-ran pretender, always coming close, and always falling short of the Rose Bowl.
Fire away with your thoughts.