We have a lot of topics to discuss since Thursday night's debacle. The discussion we have had in this community in various post game threads and fanposts have been great as we all try to examine and take closer look at various issues re. our team. While we have been discussing number of macro issues re. Rick Neuheisel's coaching philosophy, competence of his coordinators, wanted to zero in a bit regarding our QB issue. I know we have discussed the topic to death but haven't really had the time to reflect on the Kevin Prince news that came out right before kickoff on Thursday night.
Again if you haven't heard by now, Prince reportedly has a "torn meniscus" and is supposed to have arthroscopic surgery today (this was according to Jon Gold's post from late Thursday night, HT BruinMW). Per ESPNLA length of recovery will depend on the results of the scope:
"We'll know more once they're inside," coach Rick Neuheisel said after Thursday's 60-13 loss at Oregon. "It'll probably be at least a couple of weeks. It's very unlikely he'll be ready for anything in the Arizona game and we'll see about Oregon State."
We are pulling for Kevin to fully recover and feel healthy soon. He has been an awesome Bruin and a wonderful representative of our school both on and off the field. That said, not sure we want to see Prince back on the field this season. Given how injury prone he has been, it is pretty reasonable to assert that he should be only thinking about his health and school for rest of this year. He will have plenty of opportunities to support his team as a student mentor for the young guys and a leader of this team (no one can question his heart). However, we don't think it is prudent right now to rush him back any time soon.
Yet before we close the book on Prince, there are some vexing questions we have to bring up about how his season was managed by offensive coordinator Norm Chow (from our understanding it is Norm Chow, who makes the call on who gets to start for UCLA as he has complete control over our offense). We also need to keep our perspective in check with regards to expectations from Richard Brehaut and hope that Chow will make sure he does everything to deploy adjusted offensive schemes putting him in best position to manage the offense. More on these topics after the jump.
To recap Kevin Prince hurt his knee during the Texas game, which forced him out to sit the game against Washington State at the Rose Bowl with the hopes of playing against California. Following Monday's practice of Cal game week here was the report from Spaulding:
Bruins coaches were waiting to see whether Prince was healthy enough to run with the ball and are now convinced. Prince said Monday the swelling in his right knee had subsided and that he was "fine."
Also from that Monday's practice roundup:
Prince on how he felt: "Felt great, took all the reps I needed to take. All the regular reps I take when I'm fully healthy, and I'm pleased with the way my knee held up. The weather screwed me up - it started pouring during our seven-on-seven session, which was a little unfortunate - a nice little changeup from the 113 degrees we had last week."
But during Tuesday's practice roundup note the following in which his running was described as "bit tentative":
Prince ran most of the drills with the first team, with Brehaut also getting some reps. He looked sharp, with zip on his passes, though his running was a bit tentative. Coach Rick Neuheisel said Prince was not limited in any way, even though a steady drizzle fell through most of practice and made for slippery conditions.
You can also check out the video from that Tuesday's practice when Prince told folks that he was able to do "everything" he "would normally do in a practice" when preparing to start a game. He told reporters that he didn't experience any setbacks and thought he would be "100 percent" by this Saturday. Note though that he mentioned that the swelling in his knee is "significantly less" than it had been before. In other words didn't sound like it completely healed.
Of course than we saw with our own eyes what happened against Cal, when Prince clearly appeared to be less than 100 percent. He couldn't run and basically that option was taken out of our offensive playbook. We didn't see much of Prince after that as the double MRIs this past game week led up to the decision to have surgery.
The obvious question is here is what was the basis of Norm Chow's decision to start Kevin Prince against Cal? It is not a matter of big secret at this point that Chow has always preferred Prince over Richard Brehaut. His decision to start Prince against Kansas State even though he had missed almost three weeks of Fall practice, gave us clear indication how much he was locked in favor of Prince. Now I don't think there is any issue if the Chow reasonably concluded based on consultation from UCLA's medical staff, Prince's comments, and his observations from practice that he was fully ready to go. Still the events leading up to Cal game and subsequent decision to start Prince seem a little murky.
Perhaps Chow had good reasons because may be Prince never really revealed how painful it was and how debilitating it was for him to play with that hurt knee. Knowing Prince (and we saw the evidence during that unforgettable moment with the trainer) that it is a possibility. However, it raises questions.
There is a good chance that Prince perhaps just tried to gut it out and tried to play in pain against Cal. It's brave, dedicated, but if that was the case it was really dumb. Also, in situations like coaches like Norm Chow might have the responsibility to tell a kid like Prince to shut it down and focus completely on his health and school.
We also have to think about Prince's off season training. He got bigger. However, the question was whether the work he put in to build up his upper body strength, gain weight was balanced by working to strengthen his knees. Either way, at this point the focus for Kevin Prince should be on his health and school. Period.
I sure hope UCLA coaches don't think about rushing him back in this season even if Prince insists he is 100 percent. Also think, Prince has to think long and hard before he wants to get back into football. In fact, if I were UCLA coaches, I'd be thinking about devising plans for rest of this season and next year in developing someone else as their starting QB.
So that brings to our remaining QBs. I am intrigued to see what Richard Brehaut can do in our home stand. That said we have to keep our expectations in severe check. Brehaut had some decent moments against Oregon (then again we are collectively so starved for good QB play any moments look good). Keep in mind last night Brehaut didn't throw a TD. He threw 1 interception and then fumbled the ball couple of times showing a lack of pocket awareness (although he wasn't as bad last season). Moreover, more than half of his passing yardage came during garbage time when Oregon had their second and third team in.
I think Brehaut showed enough mobility to operate within the pistol offense. However, his passing mechanics still make him more fit for a pro-set offense. It is up to Norm Chow to come up with a scheme that best fits Brehaut's natural potential and figure out a way to coach him up. I am not all that sympathetic to excuses any more that Brehaut or others are slower on the uptake compare to Prince. It's Chow's responsibility to coach him up as best as he can (after all it was Norm Chow who picked Richard Brehaut over Josh Nunes) couple of years ago.
Meanwhile, it might not also be a bad idea for UCLA coaches to work with Darius Bell and figure out ways to incorporate few packages that would fit his skillset. The pistol offense is ultimate a sophisticated option offense and it makes sense for UCLA coaches to make an effort to use the QB on their roster who was supposed to be a decent runner. So why not give a more intense effort in finding ways to use him.
Anyway, those are some thoughts on our QB situation. Up until now we have given a lot of deference to Norm Chow (and to Rick Neuheisel) re. our QB situation based on their pedigree of developing QBs. That said the way the Kevin Prince situation was handled by Norm Chow raise a number of questions for us which we don't have any clear answers for at this point of time.
We also want to make sure UCLA coaches do everything possible to develop Brehaut and deploy schemes that fits his skill sets. As mentioned yesterday, right now every single member of UCLA coaching staff should be on alert. The season is not over. They have number of winnable games still left on their schedule. They need to figure out a way to rally the team and save this season. There is still time and they can start by making sure they do everything in their power to develop and instill confidence in their current QBs and take up the mindset of moving on without Prince.