Today is the official "final day of camp" before UCLA starts getting ready for season opener against Kansas State on September 4th. Yesterday marked the last day for two a days in Westwood for the 2010 preseason camp. Coach Rick Neuheisel and his players sounds excited about finishing this part of the preseason grind and moving on to the preparation phase for Kansas State Wildcats.
Kevin Prince returned to practice in a black jersey yesterday but remains to be seen if he can go in full speed in this Friday's (closed) scrimmage at the Rose Bowl. Bruins also have few more nagging injuries to deal with in Sheldon Price's finger, Rahim Moore's groin, and Malcolm Jones' ankle. Coach Rick Neuheisel talked about all of those issues and about the Wildcats when he met the reporters after practice yesterday:
CRN looks at ease with where his team is right now. Perhaps some of that has to do with Richard Brehaut's ongoing development even though he is still making his share of mistakes out in Spaulding. As far as Brehaut has come along in recent weeks, we should keep in mind he is still only a sophomore, who only recently has been able to take advantage of extra reps in the revolver formation. More notes including updates on Prince after the jump.
As mentioned up top UCLA finished its two a days yesterday. Ralph Earvin caught up with David Carter, Micah Kia, Akeem Ayers, and Taylor Embree after practice to get their closing thoughts on "dawg days" of training camp:
As for practice, the official blog has the following account of what took place:
On offense, the Bruins looked to their steadfast receivers Nelson Rosario and Taylor Embree for big plays down the field. Rosario provided what has come to be standard for him in great catches he makes look effortless. A lot can be expected from this talented wide out. Taylor Embree caught a deep post during team drills but paid for it has he got crushed in triple coverage. Nonetheless, Embree popped up and proved he had the reception. Morrell Presley also had a nice day on offense. During a 3rd down emphasis period, Morrell made two solid grabs in the flats and turned to work up field for the first down. Great awareness, intelligence and effort by Presley.
Defensively, Patrick Larimore had perhaps the play of the day. During the same 3rd down period, Larimore was taking his drop in coverage after reading pass and with incredible athleticism and reaction jumped about 3 feet off the ground to bat down a ball thrown to an open receiver. The defensive line also had a great day; in particular, freshman Cassius Marsh seemed to be in the backfield on almost every play. He's just a guy that is fun to watch!
As for the offense, as expected Ryan Taylor took over for Kai at center yesterday. Taylor who worked a little at center last year, spring football and also at JC doesn't sound all that worried:
He played center at Tyler, where they ran a spread offense and used many shotgun formations, and he said he worked with quarterback Kevin Prince a lot during the last few months.
"It's a little different, but it's all good," Taylor said. "Shoot, me and Kevin were out here every Saturday just getting extra snaps in. I feel like I've put in enough work and I feel like I'm ready for the role."
Taylor also spoke to Jon Gold after practice:
As you can see from the interview the "Big Tex" makes it sound as if the transition has been effortless. No wonder CRN sounds at ease when he is talking in public. Of course Taylor acknowledges that we can't afford to lose any more key guys from our lines. Guess only recourse for us is to follow tasser10's suggestion and tell JOBU to go Cheney himself.
Also on the offensive line Darius Savage is relishing his return to the starting lineup. Savage has gone through a lot in recent months after recovering from a back surgery in January. He has worked his tail off to get back in shape losing 40 lbs (down to 328) from last season:
"I had to give up a lot of things," Savage said. "You know us big guys, we try to get that bedtime snack in."
Offensive line coach Bob Palcic said that a lighter Savage is "moving a lot quicker."
Also it appears that Chris Ward is getting a shot with the second team at LG:
"There really isn't much difference to playing guard," Ward said. "I already knew what the guard is supposed to do. I had to know what everyone was doing to do my assignment anyway. I'll pull some now, that's about the only difference."
Ward sounds like a pretty talented freshman, however I am hoping he will not be needed against Kansas State. Once we get Mike Harris back from his suspension Palcic will have little more options to shift his rotation around and get some continuity from last season.
As for other OL details you guys already know about the news about Kai possibility making a comeback by the end of the season. It appears that Nik Abele is also eying a possible return to the team. Per the LA Times Abele has been "working with a chiropractor" and "feeling better" in recent days. It will be up to his neurologists who will have to look at MRIs to determine whether his "two bulging disks" around his neck has receded enough before making any determinations whether he can play again. Either way best of luck to Nik (and Kai).
Speaking of injuries, Kevin Prince watch goes on. Prince was back in black (jersey) yesterday at Spaulding but he is still having issues with throwing. From Jon Gold:
"I'd probably say I'm about 80 percent right now," Prince said. "I can do everything except for throw the ball without pain. I can still throw the ball, but there's going to be pain and obviously we don't want that." [...]
"It just gets you in that mentality," Prince said. "But more than that for me, just getting back in that psyche was from earlier this morning, when I was able to go eight straight plays with offense.
"Getting the signal, calling the play, getting the flow of doing that - that helped me mentally."
Guess as of right now Friday is the key date for Prince. As mentioned above Bruins are having a scrimmage at the Rose Bowl on Friday. If Prince can't go full speed and fully integrate himself into the offensive flow by Friday, then I am guessing coaches will be seriously contemplating preparing Brehaut for the Wildcats.