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Spaulding Roundup: A Subtle Trend In Personnel Shifts Of UCLA Football

Bruins were back in full pad yesterday out at Spaulding. Guess it was Morrell Presley who set the tone with a huge block. Coach Rick Neuheisel highlighted the key play with the following tweet:

Bruins had a productive practice today. Big play highlight: 4th and 1, Morrell Presley earholes a blitzing LB to clear the way for a TD.

We will get to more of Morrell later in the roundup. Here were CRN's comments and Q&A following Day 9 of UCLA's spring practice:

You can sense CRN being excited about the plays Morrell and Damien Thigpen have been making out of their hybrid positions this spring in the new revolver offense. Jon Gold from the Daily News delved a little more into Presley and Thigpen playing in the F-Back ("modified" H-Back) position this spring. For Presley this spring has meant focusing a little more on blocking:

"Last spring when I came in, I was so caught up in learning the passes and learning the formations," Presley said. "In my mind, I really wasn't even thinking about the runs and the pass protection. My second time around, I've already been through the passes and the formations. Now I'm working on blocking and becoming more of a threat." [...]

"He's a very willing guy," offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. "The thing I liked about him when I watched him play high school football, he was a tight end at about 215, but he was very willing to go block people. He's a tough guy, he wants to do well, he works at his trade. He just has to get used to it. One time he's blocking, one time he's catching - there's a lot of stuff going on."

For Thigpen it has meant working a little more with WRs. As Neuheisel mentioned in the video UCLA is working him lot more in "slot" positions and also as a "receiver/slash running back." Both scenarios should help Morrell and Damien develop into more complete football players. Also, more importantly if they along with rest of the offense get comfortable with these looks in the new offense, it will make the entire unit less predictable:

"The way we have it, defenses will never know if we're running or passing," Presley said. "Last year when I came in, every time I was in a game, I think the other team knew we were throwing the ball. They had no intentions of me staying in the trenches with the linemen and blocking. This time around, I have a little more weight on me, and I'm getting my hands dirty a little more."

Sounds good to us. More notes and observations after the jump.

In other team notes Nelson Rosario will be partaking in a track meet this weekend up in Eugene:

Junior receiver Nelson Rosario will turn in his shoulder pads for a singlet Saturday when he competes for the Bruins in a dual track meet against Oregon in Eugene.

Rosario hopes to clear 6 feet 9 in the high jump and soar at least 25 feet in the long jump, his favorite event. He said it is challenging to transition between football and track "because you're going from a team sport to somewhat of an individual [sport] with an emphasis on technique."

So why do it?

"They told me when I was being recruited that I would have an opportunity to do both," he said, "so I'm holding them to their word. And I enjoy it. It's only going to make me better."

Good luck to Nelson. Elsewhere Fauria jammed his fingers yesterday during practices. CRN didn't sound all that worried about. Here is the bumps and bruises post from the OC Register for Day 9.

Following the team closely this spring you can start seeing the personality of Neuheisel slowly transforming this program (at least in the practice field) through a subtle trend in personnel shifts. We can see how the coaches are trying to take advantage of talents like Presley and Thigpen through creative ways. Coaches are not only looking for matchup advantages but also working to develop them into complete players. They are shifting around their players looking for maximum edge through optimizing speed and athleticism.

Offense is not the only place coaches are being creative. Take a look at some of the positions shifts on defense. This spring the coaches moved Glenn Love from SS to OLB. Out of necessity they moved Nate Chandler from DE. They also moved a former LB like Donovan Carter (who weighed 227lbs when he came into UCLA) over to the defensive line (as he is up to 271 as a redshirt sophomore). There is a subtle trend in these moves.

Coaches are moving around players in a way to upgrade speed in every position. They are not making the moves randomly. All of the guys who have moved over to new spots have put on weight since coming into program. In Love's case coaches have mentioned he has the frame to get even stronger. In the old days coaches would have stuck with a LB lineup for Ayers, Sloan and Westgate and call it a day with few walkons backing them up. Not anymore. Things have changed around CRN and IMHO it has a lot to do with his personality of looking to get maximum edge with the talent he is bringing into the program.

It will be interesting to see how this personnel shift during these practices will impact us during game days. I have a good feeling about what is going on but then again I have been around enough to know that we can't just go by feel good practice reports and take it for granted that everything is going to be ok. For all the positive vibes coming out of Spaulding our guys will still have to get it done on Saturdays this Fall by winning majority of their conference games.