Let's start with Coach Rick Neuheisel's comments following yesterday's practice. I always find watching and listening to these videos very helpful before going through the stories in the tradmed. It provides context and allows you to catch any reporter trying to push their own story-lines using incomplete quotes. Anyway, here is Neuheisel talking about staying together and enjoying each others company and playing the game "regardless of the despair of those around you":
Neuheisel is as good as anyone out there in terms of keeping together during tough times (given his own experience over the years). Yet we need a win ... desperately ... soon ... so that he can talk about improving the team instead of having to "fix the things that are broken."
One of the reasons Neuheisel was feeling positive about yesterday's practice was none other than Kevin Prince. According to reports, Prince went through an entire day of practice without being on any kind of "pitch count." Gold posted the following practice highlights on Inside UCLA:
* Kevin Prince practiced almost the entire day with the ones, and looked the best he's looked in essentially six weeks. Prince is still developing the timing that he had over the summer with his receivers, but his deep balls looked on point and he moved well.
* Prince had a few really nice deep routes, including throws to Taylor Embree and Josh Smith that looked good.
* With Derrick Coleman out, Jordon James saw extensive time along with Johnathan Franklin and Malcolm Jones, and I'll continue to maintain that he's the most fun to watch. He's a pinball out there - not as strong as MJD, but runs downhill like he did - and it's about time he got some role in the offense.
Malcolm Jones and Jet Ski were two of the few bright spots from Saturday's game. It appears that Jones might be well set up to get more carries this coming week and hopefully beyond. Norm Chow in his understated way has been impressed with Jones:
"He has that natural feel running with the football," Chow said. "The way he makes his reads and runs, he has that natural feel for what is going on."
While Jones is gaining more confidence:
"I learned the first two games that you've got to make your reads and make them quick," Jones said. [...]
"In high school, I was one of those guys who can wear down the defense toward the end of the game," Jones said. "They get tired of tackling me and I start breaking off longer runs."
More on the RB situation and other notes after the jump.
It looks like Jones might not be the only true freshman tailback getting reps in the near future. As Gold noted above Jordon James is getting an "extensive" look at practice. Chow had an interesting comment re Jordon:
James has not yet played because he strained his hamstring early in Fall camp and missed more than two weeks, but Chow said they are not trying to save his redshirt year.
"We play to win now," Chow said. "We're not going to redshirt him so somebody else can coach him."
LOL. Guess that should give us an idea about the sense of urgency coaches are feeling to jump start our offense. Speaking of the offense Chris Foster from the LA Times reports that WR Jerry Johnson also has been making an impression this week:
"I've been staying in my playbook and envisioning making spectacular catches like today," said Johnson, a sophomore who played in two games last season.
"I've been saying since my redshirt year that I need to play. There have been times where I felt like giving up, but that isn't in my blood. So I just kept on pushing."
Instead of just saying he needed to play more, Johnson went about showing he deserves to play more.
Johnson said he increased his efforts to become more "in tune with myself as a football player and do what the coaches asked me to do."
We will see if Reggie Moore (the WR coach who needs to get his unit to start producing at an optimum level) shakes up his rotation this week. Jerry Johnson plays behind Nelson Rosario and Randall Carroll at SE. If Rosario is not running hard after balls coming at his direction and Carroll is stumbling and bumbling around, it will make sense to give a guy like Johnson a shot, especially if he is excelling during practices. The onus is going to be on Moore to get the maximum from the talent recruited into his unit.
Speaking of stumbling and bumbling:
* For everyone wondering why Taylor Embree gets so many reps at returner - he takes care of the ball. Josh Smith and Damien Thigpen each dropped punts today, and Frank Gansz got into Smith pretty good. I think Smith can be an excellent returner, but it makes sense in terms of field position to want a guy out there who can at least field the punt.
Smith and Thigpen are not the only one. For some reason Randall Carroll has the same issues. At what point these guys are going to feel a sense or urgency and needing to step up and focus at practice? Sigh. I just don't get it.
Meanwhile, over in Houston, nothing new to report wrt to status of Case Keenum. He is still listed "day to day" per report in the Houston Chronicle. As you can see from CRN's comments above though UCLA is fully expecting Keenum to play and bracing for an explosive Cougars' offense. Bruins have good reasons to expect a lethal Cougar attack given the well diversified Houston offense:
Houston has five players with more than 100 yards receiving already. The main targets are James Cleveland and Patrick Edwards, both returning starters who had more than 1,000 yards receiving last year.
The Cougars showed last week that they could run the ball, too, with Bryce Beall running for 195 yards last week. Beall and Michael Hayes combined for six rushing touchdowns in Houston's 54-24 victory over UTEP, but historically Houston has passed nearly twice as much as it has run under Sumlin.
Cougars rushing attack was sublime against UTEP as they rolled up a school record 308 yards on the ground thanks to Beall and backup RB Michael Hayes (who had 152 yards of total offense with 77 of the coming on the ground. That was apparently the best rushing performance during Sumlin's reign in Houston. So it will be a matter of "picking your poison" for the Bruin defense, which hasn't inspired much confidence over here in Westwood.
Guess, if there is a silver lining here, the game could become a potential opportunity for the UCLA offense to find its footing as the Cougars are coming in with a porous defense which has given up almost 400 yards per game (including 252.5 through the air). Last year these guys were giving up around 450 yards per game.
The key is going to be for the offense to get back its confidence and get in some semblance of rhythm under Kevin Prince (or whoever is at QB). As they work on "staying together" at Spaulding, hope they get it together soon on Saturdays.