UCLA held their second full scrimmage of this spring yesterday afternoon at Spaulding. While the LA Times UCLA report (written by someone who used to cover the Trojan basketball beat) penned a very negative headline to frame the outcome of yesterday's scrimmage, piecing together all the reports elsewhere it sounds like Bruin had a pretty efficient scrimmage with lots of room for improvement.
Let's start with the numbers. The official site posted the stats. On paper Kevin Prince completed 7of 11 passes for 87 yards and 1 TD (described as "a 37-yard strike to sophomore wide receiver Randall Carroll"). It appears that Richard Brehaut at least on paper had his best day of this spring completing 11 of 17 passes for 106 yards. He threw for 2 scores: 16 yards to redshirt freshman Ricky Marvray and 26 yards in the corner of the end zone to Junior Taylor Embree.
Here was Coach Rick Neuheisel following yesterday's scrimmage:
"I'm pleased with the work," said head coach Rick Neuheisel. "I saw some good things. I thought Randall Carroll showed. Jerry Johnson, Ricky Marvray, all made plays. They need to make plays. That was important. Nelson (Rosario) had a little bit of an issue with a rash that they needed to check, make sure it wasn't anything real dangerous, so he went over to get blood work, that's why he didn't play. Taylor (Embree) we played a little bit, but the goal was to get those other guys a lot of reps so that we could develop that position a little bit.
In response to a question about whether he thought he lit a fire under the offense with yesterday's comments, Neuheisel said, "Well, I just call it like it is. We did not come out and play like an offense that needed desperately to improve yesterday. I thought it was better today. Still, lots of work to be done. "
"There's a lot of moving parts in this stuff (Revolver offense). If we're going to be in this stuff and we're going to say that this is who we are and try to get to that point, we've got to be a heck of a lot better at it than this. If we can't get that done in 15 practices, then we have to ask ourselves if it's prudent to stay in it and that's where we are.''
Yet somehow Ben Bolch, the LAT "reporter" who got started at that paper through glorification of OJ Payo, found ways to come up with the headline that CRN was "not thrilled by execution of new offense." Uh okay, whatever Ben.
CRN wasn't happy with the sloppiness of the offense on Thursday. It sounds like we had issues with snaps and exchanges with center yesterday. Neuheisel according to Blair Angulo of ESPN LA called it a "huge issue." Those mistakes should be correctable through repetition during practices this spring and off-season work outs. However, I doubt CRN is going to even think about giving up on this new offensive sets just based on mishaps in one scrimmage. So the concern trolling on the part of LAT is a little ridiculous. More after the jump.
Jon Gold's impression from the scrimmage was noticeably different than the one from his LAT's counterpart. Gold zeroed in on Randal Carroll's big day who caught 3 passes for 50 yards including a big TD:
"I have the ability, since I'm so fast, I can change my speed," Carroll said. "I can come off the ball slow, take off before a break. Before, I used to just speed down and think I could break down full speed. That's pretty much impossible for anyone at their top speed. I'm learning to change my speed and learn the angles to come back on, get down in my dig phase, make sure I draw my hips and run out of my breaks."
The UCLA coaching staff needs to see more of that if Carroll is going to secure the No. 4 wide receiver position. The competition is heated between Carroll, redshirt freshman Ricky Marvray (three catches, 36 yards, one score), junior Antwon Moutra and sophomore Jerry Johnson.
"Some guys are natural receivers, and they understand the intricacies of running routes, being able to break down, control your body," wide receiver coach Reggie Moore said. "When you're that fast, you're used to running straight. What he's learning to do is really use his speed to get going, but then come under control and get in and out of the breaks. That's a lot of work, even for a guy who is a naturally gifted receiver."
With Carroll coming along, the UCLA offense looked light years ahead of the previous day.
Wonder what Bolch actually was watching while he was out at Spaulding. Anyway, the report on Carroll is encouraging. The issue here is whether he can perform at a consistent level every day during these practices. We have to remember a player like Embree (even though he is not as athletic as Carroll or perhaps even Marvray) gets the reps during game days, because he simply gets it done time after time during practices. More on Carroll and Marvray from the OC Register:
Neuheisel said he was impressed with how Carroll blocked and caught balls in traffic, areas in which some UCLA receivers have struggled. Prince said the 37-yard touchdown pass he threw to the sophomore flanker was indicative of his growth this spring.
"I feel like the last week or two he's been stepping up," Prince said. "He's got such great speed. The question with him has always been his hands and ability to get open. I feel like he's starting to pick up the offense and route adjustments."
Earlier, Marvray caught two passes on the same drive, including a 16-yard touchdown. Unlike Carroll, Marvray redshirted last season, which made him anxious to make an impression in a game-like situation.
"These are very big to me because I've never played in a college game before," Marvray said. "We're out here fighting for spots. I'm just trying to let the coaches know I'm here when you need me, or if you need me. I'm hungry."
We need Carroll, Johnson, and Marvray to find that consistency. If they can do that it will be huge for us on Saturdays. As much as I appreciate Embree's consistency, I think Carroll and Marvray present more upside in terms of making plays and getting separation from receivers.
In addition to Carroll and Marvray, Richard Brehaut had an encouraging afternoon:
"I kind of felt I had to step up," Brehaut said. "I wanted to relax and just play. Not be uptight. Kevin's been having a good spring. I told myself I have to have a good day out here or I'm going to lose some ground."
Yet both Brehaut and Prince have work to do in terms of pocket awareness per CRN:
"Sometimes when you don't let the quarterback be live, there's a cocoon feeling, like they can stand there all day. They've got to feel the pressure. You can't look at it because you're eyes have to be occupied down the field. You've got to feel it, and get (the ball) out of your hands to the checkdowns. I think both of them can get much better at that."
Also, it appears that offense still has lot of improving to do in terms of the running game. Per the official stats four backs - Jet Ski, Derrick Coleman, Milton Knox, and Jayson Allmond - rushed for 110 yards in 31 carries for an YPC of 3.55. While that is not bad, I think for UCLA offense to excel that average needs to be higher approach 4 YPC. Gold made the following observation wrt our blocking:
UCLA had an efficient scrimmage, though the running game struggled at times. Still haven't seen enough burst from the backs, though that is more of an offensive line issue. Need to see more consistency in the zone blocking, as guys are chipping at the first level but not advancing to the second level (the linebackers) soon enough.
Coach Palcic pointed to the "insanity" Bruins have had to deal with at OL after taking over from previous regime:
I want to get this program to where I don't have to play freshmen. At some point in my career here, I'd like to get to the point where I could redshirt the freshmen like normal places. I've had a freshman at left tackle my two years here! That's insanity!"
"This is the best spring we've had since I've been here. I'm pleased with their work ethic - we've had a few more injuries than I would've liked - but I'm happy about the way they're progressing. We're running the ball better. Things are going very well."
It is going to get even more interesting when Malcolm Jones and Jordon James check into the program this summer. I am hoping Jones is really going to push Coleman hard in practices. Coleman needs to take another step forward this year in terms of being aggressive and physicality with his imposing frame (note CRN had some positive feedback on Coleman's scrimmage performance from yesterday). Perhaps competition from a talented freshman class is going to help. Continued progression from our OL is a must because of the positive impact it will have on rest of our offense.
Couple of extra details I wanted to point out from yesterday's scrimmage. Thigpen apparently had 60 yard punt return for a score. Mr. Forbath also was perfect connecting from 46, 42 (twice) and 40 yards. Not bad at all.
Bruins now just have one week of spring ball left. We have practices on April 19 (4:00 pm), April 20 (4:00 pm) and April 22 (4:00 pm). All of these practices are open and don't forget you can make a double header day out of the practice and baseball game on April 19th. It all ends with the "Battle at the Rose Bowl" on April 24 (all details for festivities around that day over here).
So take it all in. Hopefully many of you will be able to make it out there during next week and come back to share your first hand impressions on what is happening out in Spaulding.