I’m having a very difficult time coalescing my thoughts for the football season.
To this point, fall camp for me has been the juxtaposition of mostly positive practice reports (which by definition we take with enough grains of salt to line the rim of a Baxter’s margarita) and the sad reality that every crappy season we’ve endured since Matt Stevens was our quarterback and not our broadcaster has been preceded by a bunch of mostly positive practice reports.
I guess it’s safe to say that when it comes to UCLA football, I’ve entered the "I-sort of-think-good-times-might-be-on-the way-but-the-truth-of-the-matter-is-you’ve-got-to-show-me-something-on-the-field-for-me-to-really-be-a-true-believer" stage.
Maybe that’s not fair to Rick Neuheisel. He wasn’t the guy who hung on coaching the team a few seasons too long and he wasn’t the guy who got lazy after Cade McNown led the team to 20 straight wins and somehow failed to build on the momentum of an 8 game winning streak against USC and he wasn’t the guy who decided the right guy to match up with Pete Carroll was Karl Dorrell and he’s not Karl Dorrell and for that alone we should be forever grateful. But he’s the guy charged with putting a Humpty Dumpty back together again so that ol Humpty is at the least a Top 15 program that every few seasons wins the conference and competes for national recognition.
(more after the jump)
So, what do we know for sure?
As far as I’m concerned – and remember, I’ve been beaten down by false optimism since I graduated after the ’86 Rose Bowl – the only thing I know for sure is Rahim Moore and Akeem Ayers. I’m sure some of you feel different, but the only thing I’m absolutely positive about is that Moore and Ayers are flat out studs and will be the cornerstone of Chuck Bullough’s defense. These are NFL caliber players and with the departure of Tennessee’s Eric Berry to the NFL, Moore is the best safety in the nation.
You know what? There’s one other thing I know for sure: Kai Forbath. Just typing the words "Moore is the best safety in the nation" reminded me that Forbath is the best kicker in the nation. Call me crazy, but it’s possible that Forbath might be the most important player on the team. The guy is so automatic on even the longest of field goals, that the only downside to his presence is that Rick Neuheisel might be tempted at times to play for field goals and not touchdowns.
But, we need touchdowns, lots of touchdowns.
Where they’re going to come from is unclear.
It’s a 6-9, 280 bummer that our starting quarterback has been injured for much of training camp. I hate to go all Rex Ryan on everyone, but fuck me, who did what to who to bring about the karmic disaster that causes anyone who plays quarterback for UCLA to get injured. You wonder why we’re having difficulty recruiting a prep quarterback? It’s not because we can’t offer immediate playing time, it’s because they don’t want to end up in a body cast.
Yes, on paper Kevin Prince should be ready to take the next step as our QB. Yes, on the field, he at times looks ready to take that step. But we won’t really know for sure, for sure, until he shows it to us in games and at the moment who knows? He’s got a pulled something. He isn’t practicing. We just don’t know.
Don’t misunderstand me. I like Prince. I like his mobility, I like his arm, I like his poise. I vividly remember struggling, freshman/sophomore McNown and if I squint into the afternoon sun at Spaulding I can sort of convince myself that Prince has that same swagger and potential. But, to repeat, who really knows?
Hang on, there’s another thing I know – Randall Carroll is fast. He’s I shouldn’t-have-done-that-last-shot-of-Cuervo-and-now-I’m-trying-to-make-it-to-the-bathroom-before-I-spew-all-over-the-living-room fast. What I don’t know is whether or not we’ll figure out a way to get him the ball. It seems so simple – hand or throw the fastest guy in California the ball and let him run fast with it and no one will be able to run fast enough to stop him. Heck, just send him deep on every play, make your opponent’s DBs track him 50 yards down the field every play – if nothing else the safety won’t be able to come up and support the run on the off chance you actually throw it to Carroll. Seems easy, but what do I know. Based on this post, not much.
I don’t really feel like running through the whole roster? What would be the point? Does it really matter that we appear to have a number of really good running backs, but no one has really established themselves as a back that must be reckoned with? Does it matter if I name drop the offensive line starters – or should I focus on the one we don’t have because he’s academically ineligible or the one we won’t have for the opener because he’s suspended or the ones who are hurt (not to mention the one’s we lost for reasons we must simply accept as part of life, the kid who had to retire due to injuries or the kid fulfilling his religious commitments.)
On defense, our best player from last season is playing for the Tampa Bay Bucs and our best corner is playing for the Titans. The lost of Brian Price is simply huge, both literally and metaphorically. He was so good last season, that it’s difficult to assess just how much of whatever defensive success we had was due to his dominating presence. There is a case to be made that BP was UCLA’s greatest DT ever and his absence won’t be assessable until we go live in September.
As for the Saturday’s scrimmage – what do we hope to learn? Will we get any definitive answers about our many questions? I doubt it. I’m hoping Prince plays, but will he be able to shake off the rust enough to give us some clue about how he’s progressed since he was last seen freezing in D.C. against Temple? If not, I’d like to see some good throws from Richard Brehaut and Nick Crissman and I’d like to get some sense of Darius Bell. I’d like to see Malcolm Jones rip off a run, just to see it.
I think more than anything else, I’d like to see some consistency on both sides of the ball (thought sometimes it’s tough for both sides to play well on the same night.) What I mean is, I don’t want to see any unforced fumbles or dropped passes. If the offense does lose the ball, I’d rather it be because some defender stuck the ball carrier. I don’t want to see any penalties.
But, more than anything else I want two things:
I want to come out of the scrimmage healthy.
And I want to see the offense run a trick play.
Yeah, I know you don’t want to show your tricks in a scrimmage, but show me something. History still hasn’t rendered its final judgment on the Toledo era in L.A. – but I’ll always be thankful for the 20 straight wins and the fact that he threw in a trick play every game.
I like trick plays.
With that in mind, here are your Pregame Guesses for the Fall Scrimmage:
- Name a Bruin to who scores a touchdown?
- Name a Bruin defender who recovers a fumble or makes an interception?
- Within 250, what will UCLA Athletics officially estimate the crowd?