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Spaulding Roundup: Prince’s Return, Focus on Front-4, Bear Perspectives & Other UCLA Notes

Let's start with one of the more anticipated Tuesday practice reports of this season as it entail the return of Kevin Prince. The reviews seem encouraging. According to ESPNLA's Peter Yoon Prince "looked sharp with zip on his passes":

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.

Jon Gold saw "few nice connections" between Prince and our receivers, "including a nice deep ball on the sidelines to Ricky Marvray." Apparently Chris Foster from the LA Times was at a different practice because he called Prince "tentative" and concern trolled about Prince moving "gingerly on occasion."

We will let Kevin Prince tell you how his return to first full day of practice went:

Per Prince he was able to do "everything" he "would normally do in a practice" when preparing to start a game. He didn't experience any setbacks and he thinks he will be "100 percent" by this Saturday. He mentioned that the swelling in his knee is "significantly less" than it has been before and that sitting out last weekend worked out well for the entire team.

All of that is pretty good news. If I were a UCLA fan I'd stop worrying about Prince's health at this point. If he practices and looks sharp, that will give our offense a boost. On the other, we can feel good about the fact that we have a capable number 2 in Richard Brehaut waiting in the wings. If anything Brehaut is going to push Prince harder in practice and that bodes well for the entire team. More after the jump.

As for the overall practice, guess it's a little rainy and slippery in Southern California. Still despite the "conditions" (I bet Fritz Coleman doing his "Storm Watch 2010" shtick on KNBC? No?) Coach Rick Neuheisel looked pretty pleased following practice calling it a "great effort" by the team:

CRN mentioned that the Bruins were off to a "good start" at Spaulding this week and that the guys understand the "significance" of the Cal game. Hopefully it continues through Thursday.

Going back to practice let's pick up on the point re. Prince connecting with his receivers. As CRN mentioned above Nelson Rosario will most likely going to be out this weekend. Per the LA Times report in Rosario's absence other receivers will get more shots:

Taylor Embree will play at both wide receiver positions this week, receivers coach Reggie Moore said. Moore also singled out the play of Randall Carroll, Josh Smith and  Jerry Johnson, who stepped in after Rosario was injured on the first series against Washington State. All are expected to see increased playing time.

"It's time for those guys to grow up and pick up some slack," Moore said.

I am not going to get worked up over the comment re. Embree and see how the rotation actually plays out this weekend. No need to rehash how we all feel about Embree's performance to date. Let's hope Moore is seeing what everyone else is seeing and find a way to get the talent available to him produce at optimum level. Ultimately the numbers at the end of the season will speak for themselves. Everyone can see by now how Coach Bob Palcic and Wayne Moses (RB coach) are getting it done. It's up to Moore to get his unit to perform beyond the average level (well they have been less than average - kind of atrocious really - to date).

More practice notes from Gold with observations on our defense:

* Working with the second-team defense, Jordan Zumwalt rang off three good plays in a row, including a very impressive tackle. He's learning the system more and more, and I think the coaching staff needs to get him on the field more often. He has a ton of potential.

* Pass defense was nowhere near perfect, with guys slipping on the rainy turf. Saw at least two egregious pass interference calls, including one on Sheldon Price that Just awful.

* With Dalton Hilliard out with a sprained shoulder, there was much less defensive backfield rotation, as the Bruins have done lately, putting Tony Dye at nickel back and Hilliard at strong safety. Hilliard has really come on strong, so you have to feel like the coaches want him back quickly.

In Hilliard's absence Stan McKay is getting a shot. Hopefully it will also mean we will see more of Dietrich Riley as well. The comment about PI and our secondary is a little disconcerting. Gold also got the following commment from DL coach Todd Howard re. switch up at DL penciling in Owa and Graham as starters in our front-4:

"Owa is very strong physically, and he can compete - and dominate - at this level," defensive line coach Todd Howard said. "As a freshman coming in, he's still trying to learn the techniques, learn how to read the keys that I'm given him, but he's not there yet."

CRN (in the video above) also justified the moves as an effort to create "more depth" at DL and bring "more energy up the field." Not to mention it will create more competition at Spaulding. As mentioned yesterday, absolutely love these moves with shifting Nate Chandler at DT (to start the game). Hopefully it will create that sense of urgency via competition and cause these guys to bring pressure early on, instead of waiting till second half to get it started.

Also, in terms of the front-4, interesting note from the LA Times:

Defensive end Datone Jones (broken foot) said he expected to be out of a walking boot next Tuesday and would begin workouts.

Hmm. Guess we will have to see how it plays out. If Jones is 100 percent and can be just as effective, it will be extremely exciting to have him inserted in our front-4 along Akeem, Owa, Graham, Chandler et al. However, if he is still working his way back to game shape and is not fully ready to go, might be better to have him shirted and wait till next year. All depends on how he is performing at practice.

Meanwhile, up the 101 Coach Tedford is looking for a "disciplined" effort from his defense (via California Golden Blogs):

On the differences between the pistol offenses run by UCLA and Nevada
"The only thing I think is different is [UCLA QB Kevin Prince] quarterback can still make some yards with his legs, [but] it's not [Wolf Pack QB Colin] Kaepernick. Kaepernick broke some long runs us and hopefully if Prince pulls it down and runs it, we can track him down for some minimal gains and not let huge plays happen on us. Against Nevada, they hit some big plays, he did, with getting around the edge and running up the middle. The lesson you learn is you need to be disciplined in this and take away all phases, you can't get caught trying to do something, make a play that's not your assignment, because sure enough, after that, there goes the guy that was your assignment. So, very important that we play disciplined and that we're aggressive but not overly aggressive to the ball and get guys out of position."

On the other side of the ball, Shane Vereen is looking to wear our defense out:

On UCLA's defense and what the Bruins try to do against the run
"They're a great run-stopping team because they play fast, they play hard, they play physical. They have a great front seven, and because they play their safeties low, their safeties support the run very well. With their combination of the defenses they run, the blitzes, it makes it very difficult for runners to get started against them. Taking that into consideration, it's going to be a tough, grinder game for us. We're going to have to wear them out, wear them down play after play, and hopefully four-yard runs will turn into 10-yard runs and so on."

We will see how Chuck Bullough's defense responds to the challenge.