The big news out of Spaulding Field (or after the Bruins' time at Spaulding Field) yesterday was Rick Neuheisel's announcement that Kevin Prince would start at quarterback for UCLA, but that Richard Brehaut would also get snaps. I know. It's taken years and years of football watching for me to be able to pick up on what the most important news is. It takes a keen eye to realize that naming a starting quarterback is very important. For further detail on Coach Neuheisel's announcement as well as comments from the starter and the number two, go here.
And though it was hard to tell, that wasn't all that happened yesterday. The most recent depth chart was released (HT captainqtp) and can be seen here. Of particular interest was Dalton Hilliard being named the starter at strong safety over Dietrich Riley. Evidentally, the defensive coaching staff has elected to go with Hilliard's experience as a junior over the true sophomore Riley's freakish athleticism. But despite the ranking in the depth chart, it is likely that Riley will get playing time, too. From Peter Yoon with ESPN-LA:
"He was just really consistent," Neuheisel said of Hilliard. "I think coach Tresey has shared with all of those kids that they're all going to play. This competition doesn't need to stop just because we're going to play a game."
Yoon also rightly points out that the Bruins, for a pleasant change, have some luxury of talent and depth throughout the defense this season, and that the of interchangability of the players ensures that everyone in the two-deep will see playing time. That may be a very important factor this weekend in the heat and humidity and heat and humidity and still more heat and humidity that is Houston in summer. Other interesting listings on the receiving side included Shaquelle Evans moving up to share one top receiver spot with Randall Carroll, and Cory Harkey still getting the nod at starting tight end over Joseph Fauria, who has had a monster camp by all reports.
There were some other interesting issues yesterday buried beneath the QB question...
Alberto Cid was also a notable yesterday, for a pair of reasons. First, the brand new JuCo transfer missed the first half of practice. From Jon Gold's Inside UCLA report:
Transfer offensive lineman Albert Cid came late to practice. Neuheisel said they were clearing up a paperwork issue but that he's good to go now.
Neuheisel did not go in to further detail as to what this meant. There were some concerns regarding Cid's eligibility as a transfer at the start of camp which looked to have been rectified. Cid's appearance for the last half of practice was reassuring though, and suggests that his paperwork issues were happily resolved. So with that issue in the past, Cid then made an appearance at the top of the depth chart beside Chris Ward at starting right guard, with the two listed together with an "or" between them. The rapid rise of Cid to the top spot on the chart speaks highly to his ability to quickly adapt to the speed and complexity of D-1 football, and to understand the intricacies of the playbook. While Cid deserves a load of credit for getting up to speed so quickly, credit also goes to injured tackle Jeff Baca. Cid, whose raw skills were praised early on by OL coach Bob Palcic, previously noted that Baca had taken him under his wing to help get him up to speed with the Bruin offensive line. It appears the coaches and mentors have done a great job with Cid.
Getting up to speed also has meaning for Baca himself. His ongoing rehabilitation from a lower leg fracture in spring ball has been progressing ahead of schedule, and he has been running at practice. Originally pegged to be back after the Oregon State game on Sept 24, there is now discussion that he could be back by the second game of the season against San Jose State. While the OL will certainly be better off with its best tackle returning to the lineup, there is no need to hurry Baca back until his ankle is 100% ready to go. The Bruins should be fine against San Jose with or without Baca, and he will be needed when Pac-12 play begins. We will have to rely on Baca and the medical staff to make the smart decision before he gets back into game action.
There may be some good news emerging from the ongoing kicking question marks. Place kicker Kip Smith is starting to show more reliability, which would free punter Jeff Locke to focus on his primary repsonsibility. Again, from Yoon:
Kip Smith figures to get the first shot [at starting place kicker] after looking pretty good over the last couple of days, especially since Jeff Locke seems to have faltered after a good start. Locke is already handling the punting and kickoff duties and Neuheisel would like to use Smith for field goals and extra points to save Locke's leg.
So with the QB issues, and depth chart issues, and the kicking issues seeming to make some progress, the Bruins can really focus entirely on getting ready for the Houston Cougars. Gold noted that yesterday's practice went well and the team is looking sharper every day.
The crowd noise continued today and the players seemed to respond well to it. With just two more practices until gameday, everything looks crisp and polished, leaps and bounds ahead of the first week of camp.
The season opener is in 4 days. The Bruins are looking ready. How about you, Bruin fans?