Let's start our Tuesday by checking in with various news- related items from the football program. Coach Rick Neuheisel gave the team a day off yesterday to collect themselves a bit following Saturday's disaster in Berkeley. Of course everyone wants to know what Neuheisel (and Norm Chow) will handle the QB situation. It appears Neuheisel is not in any hurry to name his starting QB. From ESPNLA:
"I haven't made a decision as to who the starting quarterback is," Neuheisel said. "I want to look at the film with the coaches. ... I want to go through it verse by verse. I want to watch practice and I want a bunch of competition at practice and then I want to see what I want to do."
As discussed yesterday the heart of our complex problems lies within our starting OL, which is essentially made up of a rag tag group of seniors (sans Mike Harris) who were pressed into starting roles during the pre-season due to devastating injuries and attrition issues. Despite a valiant performance from them through most of the year (especially in the area of generating a run game), the reality finally caught up with them. Neuheisel recognized the pass protection issues ...
"The pass protection was subpar yesterday," Neuheisel said. "Kevin (Prince) didn't have enough time to get his feet set. And while I know everybody points to the quarterback when the passing game goes awry, you can't put it all on him.
"There wasn't enough time, and we've got to do a great job of shoring that up."
... having impact on all facets of our offense:
"We're not good enough, not good enough," Neuheisel said of the receiving corps. "Some of it's separation, but in (some cases), we're not giving them enough chances to get down the field and that gets back to (pass) protection."
So with all that in the background it makes sense for UCLA coaches not making a rash decision in terms of naming their starting QB. More after the jump.
Right now, I'd prefer UCLA coaches stick with Kevin Prince for at least one more game for number of reasons. First, I think Prince deserves at least one more full shot given he was the QB who engineered big wins against Houston and Texas (albeit both of those teams look kind of over-rated at this point of the season). Second, even if the coaches want to switch to Richard Brehaut, I don't think it's smart to put him in that position in an atmosphere like Eugene in front of a national TV audience. That is too much pressure on that kid and it is not worth it to risk shattering his confidence impacting his performance later in the season.
Third, I was among those who were livid when first getting a glimpse of Prince and Brehaut "laughing" at the sidelines. I have seen the video bunch of times now and the more I view it, the more I align myself with the thought that those guys were keeping each other lose during the heat of the moment. So I wouldn't hold that against either Prince or Brehaut. So, more I think of it, I think the coaches should stay with Prince for at least one more game and give him next 10 days to take full control of this offense.
What we do know is that Prince's performance to date is clearly not acceptable. We cannot afford to have a passing attack like this:
UCLA ranks last among the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams with a passing efficiency of 80.51. The Bruins are averaging a national-worst 4.31 yards per passing attempt and are 117th in the nation with an averaged completed pass of 9.39 yards.
If Prince can't get it done and fails to put together a credible performance against the Ducks, then the coaches should move towards making a QB switch, getting Brehaut ready for starts in the following two home games.
In terms of injury issues UCLA's list is growing. It appears that freshman Anthony Jefferson is out for the season with "a lisfranc fracture, a fracture and dislocation in the foot." Per Jon Gold CRN thinks he will be able to redshirt because he "appeared in only portions of three games" during first half of season. The availability of Sheldon Price is also unclear as he was getting an MRI done for his sprained knee. So the CB position is a little thin.
I imagine the coaches will probably think about moving Damien Thigpen to CB. I think there might be other options. For example, it might not be a bad idea to move Tony Dye to CB and try either Dalton Hilliard (if he is healed up) and Dietrich Riley at safety positions. I imagine Andrew Abbott is also going to get major action if Price stays out.
Speaking of staying out, Chris Foster from the Trojan Times is breathlessly reporting that UCLA is expected to suspend three starters due to violation of team rules. Foster got so excited and giddy that he then took the time to list all the other suspensions in past three years under Rick Neuheisel. Of course we saw none of that from hacks like him when the program across town was piling up its rap sheet with no disciplinary actions to speak of from its head coach.
Anyway, I am sure we are going to know the names of these guys shortly. It is certainly disturbing especially when you put them in context with this display before the game and the reports of them laughing around after that tough loss. This is something that is ultimately on Rick Neuheisel. To his credit, when disciplinary issues have come up Neuheisel dealt with them in a decisive way (something the LA Times' UCLA hating hack aka Chris Foster forgot to include in his typically sh!tty and vendetta filled beat "report").
CRN needs to make sure that he is in control and let these guys know that this kind of attitude will not be tolerated at UCLA. That is not the kind of identity we want to see develop around our program.