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Spaulding Roundup: A "Pain Free" Prince, Defensive Front "Shuffle," & Other UCLA Notes

I realize given what we have gone through collectively as Bruin fans in last 10 years (not just last 2 games) the practice reports are kind of hollow. We have heard a lot of "good reports" out of Spaulding over the years only to be disappointed and feel discombobulated on Saturdays. So yeah, I get the cynicism when we read about what our team is up to on a day to day basis.  That said, it is still fun for yours truly to track our team on a day to day basis and read about what they are up to. While it is perfectly reasonable for anyone to be skeptical of reports (positive ones) coming out of practice, I do believe news about who is feeling healthy, who is getting more reps than others, are noteworthy. So that out of way, here we go.

Per Peter Yoon of ESPNLA apparently Kevin Prince is "pain free and sharp":

Prince said the added crispness is because he's not dealing with the soreness that hampered him because of back and shoulder injuries in Fall camp and the first two weeks of the season. Physically, he's able to throw the ball the way he wants and that makes things easier mentally.

"It's kind of fun just being able to go out and not have to worry about telling everybody how you feel every two seconds," Prince said. "Just being able to go throw and not have to worry about all the other stuff I was dealing with definitely helps in my confidence and the rhythm of the team."

Rick Neuheisel was feeling good about Prince after practice yesterday:

He also addressed the issue of using Jordon James in our RB rotation which is without Derrick Coleman. CRN mentioned that if UCLA was going to use James he wants to make sure "he's going to play a lot this year." He added that the coaches "want to get the full enchilada so to speak with his eligibility."  As for Jordon ESPNLA reports that "things are beginning to click" for him. Yet what concerns me is the following comment from Chow:

"We're down to three guys now," offensive coordinator Norm Chow  said. "If somebody goes down, he needs to play. He's a good player, he really is a good player. But the tough part is if you use him and then Derrick comes back and you don't use him the rest of the year."

I dunno. The way I see it if the coaches put in Jordon James and he is productive right away, they should stick with him (even if Coleman is ready to come back). It should be all about meritocracy and who produces during practices and games. If James is "clicking" during practices, and then subsequent producing on Saturdays, IMO the coaches should stick with him, especially if he is helping by putting the team in position to win. Should be interesting how this plays out as well. More after the jump.

Speaking of personnel usage, the coaches are trying various combinations on the defensive front:

Defensive end Keenan Graham, a redshirt freshman, and Cassius Marsh, a first-year freshman, were with the first team Wednesday.

"We've got eight guys who are six one way, half a dozen the next," defensive line coach Todd Howard. "You can't say, 'I've got to have this guy out there.' They are all in the same boat."

The Bruins are also shuffling the front, with defensive tackle David Carter playing some at defensive end and defensive end Reginald Stokes playing a few plays at defensive tackle against Stanford. Even linebacker Akeem Ayers lined up at defensive end at times.

I would also like to see coaches move Nate Chandler from DE to DT. I thought Chandler would be shifted around a bit and lined up at different spots to take advantage of his speed and athleticism. Yet, he has been used primarily around the edge. I think the coaches should consider starting him inside in place of Justin Edison and think about lining up Ayers lot more around the edges. Edison is giving everything he can but he is simply getting overpowered most of the times.

Meanwhile, while we are figuring out our personnel issues the Houston Cougars are getting ready for a "business trip":

 "Every time we travel it's always a business trip," said running back Bryce Beall. "We go to Orlando and play (Central Florida) and it's like a business trip."

"This is strictly business," added guard Chris Thompson. "I'm kind of honored to play there, but at the same time it's just another game."

"Yeah, it's a glamorous trip," said UH offensive coordinator Jason Phillips. "It's a glamorous trip for some of our coaches. I've never been to the Rose Bowl. I think our guys have the right attitude, the right mentality. We're going to make sure they understand this is a business trip. It's not a pleasure trip. It's something everybody needs to experience once in a lifetime. We have every confidence our kids will be able to flip a switch at game time and be ready to play football, and not be enamored by what's going on around them."

Guess some guys have their talking points down. The Sports Network has posted its preview of the game (syndicated in various papers and other tradmed outlets across the country). While the preview mentions the usual details about Houston's prolific offense and our struggles, it slips in the following about the Cougar defense:

The Houston defense didn't give up a lot of big plays, but UTEP's Trevor Vittatoe did manage 340 yards and three touchdowns passing. The Miners also converted 9-of-16 third downs and scored on four of their five red-zone trips, including three touchdowns. Granted, UTEP seldom has problems moving the football against most opponents. Still, there are areas for the Houston defense to improve.

The Cougars did spend plenty of time in the backfield, notching seven tackles for loss and forcing a couple of fumbles. In the secondary, they broke up 10 passes. Jamal Robinson paced the unit with nine tackles, while Matt Nicholson and Nick Saenz each had eight stops.

It is going to be interesting how the Cougars defense line up next weekend. Given the performance of our offense from our first two games, one would think they are going to come out and load up the box, challenging us to beat them with their passing game. That should open up opportunities for Prince and our receivers (including the guys manning the F-Back slot).

Sure hope Prince's healthy frame of mind carries over to Saturday. It'd be nice for once not to feel cynical when reading through the practice reports next week.