We will get to news and notes from first day of practice below. For now let's start with CRN's opening statement from his first press conference setting the tone for 2010 season (emphasis added throughout):
"Welcome back, everybody, to football season. It's an exciting time. It's what we work around the calendar pointing towards and obviously we are thrilled that it's finally here. We had a great meeting last night with the team, talking about our goals and aspirations for this season. We did mention to them where the prognosticators had us located, at the No. 8 spot in our conference, and hopefully we are going to be better than that. I know that we believe we can be and we know that there will be a lot of work involved in terms of dealing with a rigorous schedule. We feel like we have made some progress in our program over the last couple of years and we are anxious to get back into a conference title race and we're looking forward to having that happen. It is easy to talk about. Now we have to go out and do it. And that's why it is fun to be back in short pants and on the field."
Not too surprisingly couple of tradmed reporters - Chris Foster (LA Times) and Jon Gold (Daily News) - took CRN and players' statements from the Media Day and spun them around to thread an absurd all or nothing narrative around the team during CRN's third season. Foster took the opportunity to bring up dumb comparisons to Jeff Tedford's third season at Cal when he went 10-2 (without bothering to mention the OOC schedule of Air Force, New Mexico State and Southern Miss) and to Jim Harbaugh's last season at Stanford (without dropping the name of once in a generation talent such as Toby Gerhart).
Going back to CRN, in his opening remarks he talked about playing a complete game, and specifically eliminating mistakes that hurt our team starting with the Oregon game from previous season:
"With respect to our football team, I believe we have some real strengths. Obviously our special teams are going to be a strength this year. We return the top kicker in the country in Kai Forbath. Jeff Locke had 20 kicks for touchbacks last year and was a real field possession weapon. He had over a 38-yard net punting average, which was in the top 20 in the country, so we have a chance to be a special (no pun intended) special team operation and I'm looking forward to that being a weapon. And I mentioned that to our football team because it bears mentioning that we just can't beat ourselves on either side of the ball. We just can't turn it over. We looked back, just bringing up one game, the Oregon game, and there we are giving up a kickoff return and an interception return in a game that is see-sawing back and forth and then we are out of the game. Those are the kind of things that as a football team, we can't afford. So we can't beat ourselves. And we are going to talk openly about turnover margin and making sure that we are as fundamentally sound as we can be. It is a challenge to our coaches to make sure that everybody understands that and that we get that kind of play from all positions and all factions of our team."
He then talked about having a faster team and a little more on incorporating the revolver formation based on Nevada's pistol offense:
"I believe that we are going to be a faster team than we were a year ago. I think we recruited well in terms of speed. I think guys like Randall Carroll and Josh Smith are going to have an influence with respect to our speed. Damien Thigpen, Sheldon Price and all those other kids that are track-type guys also have a year of experience under their belt, so I think their speed will start to show up on the field. I'm very optimistic about our ability to run. In the last couple years we have sat here and talked about the issues with our running game and that's going to be a huge point of emphasis. It's the reason that we had to change and go and find some other answers. So we have incorporated some measure of the pistol offense, borrowed from Nevada. Hopefully we can put our own spin on it and have people calling it something that is more synonymous with UCLA than somebody else. But it's a movement and understanding that to run the football is pivotal to our success. Because it will help change the field position and lend itself to the kicking game that we've talked about and it will also take a lot of pressure off both the front, from a protection standpoint, and off our quarterback, as he continues to mature. But I believe that we are on the right page. I think that there is ample evidence that it can be successful. And now it's just about executing and that's what we are working hard at this time to get accomplished."
As for first day of practice let's get to the setbacks right away. Of course the LA Times was right on top of it:
Tackle Jeff Baca's status is in doubt, as he is awaiting an academic appeal to maintain his eligibility, according to an athletic department official who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. The date of the appeal is to be determined.
Meanwhile, the offensive line took another one-game hit, as tackle Mike Harris has been suspended for the first game for violating team rules, Neuheisel said.
Too bad for Mike Harris, Hello Kiffin is not his head coach. I have no idea what Harris did but whatever it was, it's disappointing. Hopefully he will not let his team down again. It is also disappointing that Jeff Baca in his third season in Westwood is having academic related issues. That kind of issues should not be occurring for a third year player. I hope the UCLA coaching staff and administration officials are closely examining our academic supervision program. This is not the first time this issue has arisen. During spring couple of players - Sheldon Price and Randall Carroll - were academically ineligible. Last year, Kai Maiava and Morrell Pressley had issues. So, whoever is in charge of academic supervision needs to do a much better job than what he or she is doing right now. This is not good enough and ultimately the responsibility will fall on the shoulders of CRN and Dan Gurrerro.
As far as OL adjustments are concerned, guess Micah Kia has moved over to RT, Jeff Baca has slid over to LT and Ryan Taylor is now at LG. This is certainly not an ideal situation heading into our season opener against a quality opponent such as Kansas State. Plus Baca might not even be available for that game (or the season). Guess we will have to see how the NCAA appeal turns out.
As far as good news is concerned, Kevin Prince had a solid start to 2010 camp by looking great in his first day of practice:
Prince spent the first day of practice Monday making it perfectly clear those were problems he left in the past. Prince was impressive, with an increased velocity on his throws and a delicate touch when needed.
"Kevin Prince is a leader now," tailback Johnathan Franklin said. "Last year he was trying to figure things out, find his role. He has become the guy everyone follows."
The reporters flocked to him after first day of practice. Angulo YouTubed it on ESPNLA:
Jill Painter wrote a pretty good column on Prince with some revealing information on the chemistry between Prince and Rahim Moore:
So when safety Rahim Moore gave Prince a tape of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and asked him to watch it, Prince didn't flinch and take it on like he did opposing linebackers last year. UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel and Chow are the ones grimacing when Prince lowers his shoulders.
Prince could have tossed the tape and sneered at Moore for thinking a cornerback had a clue about his position, but Prince took Moore's advice. He watched that Brady film session, one in which defensive coaches from an opposing NFL team broke down his strengths and weaknesses and found it to be helpful.
Moore wants Prince to be the best quarterback he can be, and he figured if he could incorporate a little Brady in his game, then the Bruins would benefit.
"Any kind of advice I can get from anybody, especially from a guy like Rahim Moore, I welcome it with open arms," Prince said. "It was interesting to see how good you have to be and how defensive coaches break down what you can do. It's something you don't get to see all the time."
Prince and Moore, voted two of the team's captains by their teammates, have a special connection.
Prince continually asks Moore if he's selling his fakes after practice, and Moore asks Prince to critique the way he covers receivers.
That kind of relationship between the two unquestioned leaders from the offense and defense, bodes well for the chemistry of the entire team. Especially poignant given the recent discussions we had around December 5, 1998, when it all unraveled for the Bruins opening up the wounds of fractious relationships between the offense and defense. When you have guys like Prince and Moore so in sync, at least with this team, don't think we will have to worry too much about overall team spirit.
Speaking of ugly and uninformed spirit, the OC Register's Scott M. Reid "profiled" Prince, by concern trolling about the "weight gain" of Bruin QB:
Prince showed up for UCLA's first preseason practice on Monday carrying 230 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame, 15 pounds more than his playing weight in 2009. The 15 extra pounds Prince added has been a popular topic of conversation - and concern - in recent weeks on some Internet sites.
This is the same guy who was concern trolling about pressure from UCLA boosters by channeling three influential and wealthy alums. Looks like he is already competing hard against Foster for the title of the most ignorant beat reporter of 2010 season (guess the competition is stiff at this department.
Anyway, here are other loose notes from Jon Gold from first day of practice:
* Injury notes: Only thing to report is a slight muscle tweak by Josh Smith, unrelated to his knee injury. Smith tweaked his groin and is probably day-to-day, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him back soon.
* Dietrich Riley got some work with the first-team defense, and no doubt, he is physically ready for September 4. Like I've said here before, the kid is huge. Get him into pads, and he'll look no different than a senior. Not sure he's strong enough to contribute now, but the guy is built.
* Darius Bell had a few nice runs in the Pistol, and it will be interesting to see how he is used throughout the fall. I'l try to chat with him during the next couple days.
* Ricky Marvray, Randall Carroll and Anthony Barr were the standout pass-catchers, with Barr hauling a one-handed grab that brought out some oohs and aahs. Carroll is running very well, and not just deep - he'll become a valuable receiver if he can master the short routes, too. Marvray, well, he's just a beast out there.
FWIW, Tracy Pierson, who I trust more than Jon Gold, mentioned in his BRO practice report ($) that Bell struggled with his passes on first day. Tracy's account of Bell was consistent with BruinJD's notes frontpaged last night. Not unusual at all for a QB to struggle a bit in his first days in a D-1 college camp.
Blair Angulo has some additional notes, which affirms the reports about Riley, Barr and Carroll having an impressive start to 2010 camp. Hope they can keep it up.