You hear that sound? That's the sound of football from Spaulding Field. Okay, so maybe the Bruins haven't put on pads yet so the sound you hear isn't quite the sound of football yet, but UCLA football is most certainly back. The Bruins took to the practice field on Monday for the first time this season, 26 days before they open up the 2011 season against Houston.
The big story heading into practice is the quarterback battle and the reports from Monday on the competition were eerily similar to the ones we've heard from practice before. Kevin Prince was solid, if unspectacular, while Richard Brehaut was guilty of not reading the defense as well, knowing the playbook as well, and forcing throws that resulted in interceptions.
Day 1 seemed to go to Prince. He handled the offense well during 11-on-11 drills, though he was barked at by Neuheisel following one play.
Brehaut had two passes intercepted.
Prince, Neuheisel said, "looked pretty sharp." But, the coach added, "He missed a couple throws. He wasn't as crisp. That's going to be the case until he gets his sea legs back under him."
Brehaut, Neuheisel said, "did some good things." But on the Homer Smith sliding scale, "there were some forced balls that we've got to work through. We're going to get to the bottom of that."
As much as many of us want Brehaut to really step forward and push Prince, is anyone surprised? It sounds exactly like the Brehaut we've seen for two years, but there is one really, really good thing about this. It's only one day. There is a very long way to go and it's unfair to make judgements after one day. It's not like Brehaut, or Prince, is short on support either. There's an entire Bruin Nation dying for both to step up, play exceptionally and start lifting the Bruin program up because as we all know, much of the offense's success, or failure, will be dependent on the quarterback play.
Rick Neuheisel's entire tenure as UCLA head coach has been proof of the need for quality quarterback play. Kevin Craft, for all his heart and toughness, wasn't going to get it done. Prince has shown what the Bruins can be with good and bad quarterback play all by himself with his health determining his play and the team's. Meanwhile, Brehaut has appeared by overwhelmed by either the playbook or defenses, sometimes both, when he got chances. If CRN has any success he's going to need a quarterback, meaning an improved Brehaut or healthy Prince. Either will do.
Elsewhere, Jon Gold got his first look at the team for the fall. He chimed in on the quarterback situation and echoed what pretty much everyone else said, but he also had more to talk about. On the whole he called the practice "good," but he also had a lot to say regarding position battles, with Glenn Love looking like the leader at outside linebacker and Wade Yandall at strong-side guard with Chris Ward at weak-side. That Yandall note will be worth watching with Jeff Baca injured.
What I liked most were his impressions on guys who have gotten bigger or smaller though. Almost all of it is good news.
* First impressions of size changes: Justin Edison looks huge, absolutely huge; Patrick Larimore seems to have put on some good weight; Torian White is smaller than I expected (Will Oliver is way bigger than I expected); and Sheldon Price and Aaron Hester are a pair of formidable DBs.
The note on Edison is my favorite. Cassius Marsh is going to be the disruptive one in the middle. He is going to get into the backfield and collapse the pocket. That means that we need someone who can hold his ground, occupy blockers and create space for the rest of the guys. It's not a pretty job, but it's a very valuable one and it's one that Edison will be asked to do. That extra size can only help him as he creates a wall for opposing running backs.
Yesterday, muircoach let us know that both Jamie Graham and Albert Cid are just waiting on final approval before they can join the team. That's expected to happen before the end of the week, but Graham was out at practice watching as the Bruins got underway. It's tough to figure out what the coaching staff's plans for him are considering he is not on the depth chart and we haven't gotten much of a look at him yet, but Gold got a little hint from Joe Tresey.
We've seen him play. He's a legitimate player. He played a lot of snaps in the SEC (while Graham was at Vanderbilt), arguably the best conference in the country. We're excited we have him."
So we still don't know how he is going to fit into the defensive backfield. He could also fit into the return game or who knows where. We still don't know yet. Hopefully he can get cleared and we can start getting an idea of what the staff's plans for him are.
Today is another day of Bruin practice, again without pads. Friday will be the first day they strap them on and start hitting, but heading into this key year, every day matters. Hopefully that urgency leads to more good practices.