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Spaulding Roundup: More Bits & Pieces From Week 2 Of UCLA's Spring Practice

<em>Photo Credit: E. Corpuz</em>
Photo Credit: E. Corpuz

Bruins had the day off today as they get back to practice tomorrow afternoon around 4 pm PST. Since I didn't get to read through all the clips yesterday, wanted to share few more nuggets that stood out in the traditional media coverage this week.

The official site released a very cool video on Damien Thigpen which I posted yesterday. Folks have been noticing that Thigpen has been getting a lot of work with the wide receivers this spring. It looks like Chow is envisioning Thigpen as an "F-Back" in his offense:

"They're using me a lot at F, which is kind of like receiver," Thigpen said. "I did some F last year but Coach (Norm) Chow  told me to stay at F and learn F."

The F-back is traditionally a second tight end and entails some blocking, but for the shifty, electric Thigpen it is likely all about getting the ball in his hands with room to run.

"Sweeps and getting me in space, that's probably how they'll utilize me because I'm faster," Thigpen said. "But I don't mind running in the trenches."

UCLA coaches have long considered Thigpen as a possible hybrid receiver, which fits in nicely with the Bruins' new "pistol" offense. Fittingly, when asked what the sophomore needed to improve upon most, running backs coach Wayne Moses said, "He's got to be stronger and be more physical and improve his pass receiving."

Thigpen made the move this past Saturday, the third practice of spring, and said he doesn't know how involved he'll be in the running game moving forward. For now he is primarily focusing on his route running and pass catching.

Basically it sounds like another hybrid position that could potentially maximize the chances of getting Thigpen out in open space creating potential mismatches (in terms of speed). Whenever I read about Thigpen, the two guys I keep envisioning are Eric Metcalf and Dexter Carter. Florida State back in the day used Carter masterfully as a skat back in Bowden's offense. I don't remember watching Metcalf in Texas, but I do recall how the Cleveland Browns also effectively used him as an effective skat back by getting him out in open space. If Thigpen can put his speed to use in this role it has the potential to yield some exciting plays.

Interestingly the "F-Back" is not the only hybrid position in this offense. Remember Chow is also thinking about using Morrell Presley a lot as "H-Back" which is also another position shifting between TE and slot receiver positions. It sounds like Chow is looking for ways to take advantage of the team's athletic potential to make it as offensively dynamic and nimble as possible. Exciting stuff.

Speaking of exciting, Gold reports that Ricky Marvray and Jerry Johnson at least on the practice field are emerging as potential options this spring:

[Ricky] Marvray, along with sophomore Jerry Johnson, appears to be giving UCLA some real depth at the position.

They have the swagger and talent. Now they just have to put it together.

"He's not short on swagger; he's going to look like he knows what he's doing even when he doesn't," UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel said. "That won't ever be something we have to coach him on.

"What we have to do with Ricky is make sure he understands exactly what to do, how to do it and can do it at full speed."

It's been a while we have had WRs with swagger at UCLA. We haven't had one of those since the days of Freddie Mitchell. Mitchell was a special player. What he along with other UCLA greats in recent history such as Danny Farmar, JJ Stokes, Sean Lachapelle, Scottie Miller, Jim McElroy provided was the ability to get separation from the DBs. Hopefully Josh Smith, Marvray, and Rosario together will emerge as multiple threats in this area and emerge as playmakers for Kevin Prince. If they can do that it would have the potential to help out our rushing game. As Palcic said last year rushing, receiving and OL blocking - they all pretty much go together.

The mention of OL brings up Sean Sheller whose name emerged in a positive update in the LA Times:

Tackle Sean Sheller has worked himself back to the same opportunity he had two years ago.

Sheller was poised to win a starting spot in spring of 2008, but suffered a severe knee injury in an all-terrain vehicle accident that summer. The knee had to "almost be totally reconstructed," he said, which left Sheller so far down the offensive line depth chart that he was moved to defensive tackle for a time in the fall.

Now Sheller has a second chance. He spent much of Tuesday's practice working with the first unit at left tackle.

"When he came back from surgery, he was not the same player that I saw that first spring," offensive line coach Bob Palcic said. "He seems back to where he was that first year. He's having a good spring."

Sheller, who will be a fifth-year senior in the fall, said he never lost faith that he would get back to where he was in 2008.

"In my mind, that spot was always right there." Sheller said. "It was in my head and was never out of it. All the time I was working, I had to prove to everybody that I can still do it. I still have a lot to prove since I messed up two years ago."

That is very encouraging to hear. As discussed before the LT is an interesting spot as Nick Abele and Brett Downey are trying to win the spot left open by XSF. If Sheller who was listed at number 2 spot at RT behind Mike Harris (to start the spring) emerges as solid option that would really raise the level of competition. I am sure Palcic is loving the fact that he has three guys scrapping for that spot.

Lastly, the LA Times also noted that Nick Crissman has been struggling a bit with the pistol offense and that the coaches have been giving Clayton Tunney some looks.  Chow explained as an effort to keep Crissman "healthy." If you guys get  chance to watch these two - Tunney and Crissman - closely, would love to hear some specific feedback on them in the coming days.

Enjoy the practice today. Should be another beautiful day in Westwood.