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Spaulding Roundup: the Talker vs. the Doer

Some notes from today's practice as the UCLA coordinators talked to the media.

A wall of Blue for Hundley
A wall of Blue for Hundley
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

As you all know by now, this is the day on which Coach Mora skips the post-practice meeting with the press, so we get instead some perspective from our two coordinators, courtesy of Ed Lewis from BSR.

First up, OC Noel Mazzone:

I always like people who are a bit self-deprecating.  It shows at least that they are aware of a situation but are willing to use humor to point to their faults.  Mazzone has always had this aw-shucks quality to him, and his opening statement didn't disappoint.  He gave a shout out to his mother and his dog for being the only ones who like him right now...but while the dog's love is unconditional, his mother is still only 50/50 (more on Mama Mazzone later).  I hope people don't mistake the humor for lack of caring.  I firmly believe Mazzone cares deeply and is engaged with his players.  Whether the playing issues can be addressed is another matter.

Mazzone was exuding pride about the players on offense, despite their performance on Saturday.  He is excited about their transformation and growth.

When asked what stood out to him after watching film, he was quick to point out the offensive line with which he was quite impressed and whose effort gave him pride.  He also tried to praise Brett but wasn't quite comfortable doing that, probably because he knows that little in Brett's game was praiseworthy on Saturday.  But he still defended Brett, called him a "bounce-back guy" who is "engrossed" in getting better.  I mean let's face it, Hundley is one of the most likeable UCLA players we have ever had and all of use wish nothing but success for him.

From there he segued into the improvements that he has to make himself in what he's trying to get the players to do.  He didn't necessarily believe that the coaches put brakes on the offense the last two weeks, but rather that they played 2 good defenses and had some lack of experience.  He then went on to say that he has to do a better job of getting inexperienced players ready...but that contradicts what he said earlier in his effusive praise for the offensive line.  I think they played quite well, and well enough for UCLA to win the game.  Few people think they were the weak link on Saturday against Oregon.

Someone asked him if he "dumbed down" the playbook to accommodate the lack of experience.  Here Mazzone gives a somewhat worrisome answer:  he said he tries to guard against "out-scheming" opponents, but focuses on execution.  He want his players to outplay the opponent and puts the onus on them.  This is not an answer that I wanted to hear, and I had brought it up in a comment earlier this week about coordinators firmly believing in their plays.

One of the bright spots on Saturday was definitely Scott Quessenberry ("Quiz"), whom Mazzone described as intense, a "football guy", tough, and who was making calls and adjustments during the game.  This is a guy who has only practiced with the starters for one week.  Very promising future, along with Alex Redmond and Caleb Benenoch who were complimented as well.

Sticking with the OL, a solid line provides a lot of flexibility in the playcalling.  Mazzone took some responsibility for not fully trusting in their ability, and also said that Brett has to trust his OL more.  This was apparent on Saturday as Brett did not do very well in the pocket and got skittish at the first sing of trouble.

Finally, those infamous swing passes.  As you should have learned by reading BN, the swin pass is an extension of the running game in Mazzone's scheme, used to spread the defense so they can do other things.  But Mama Mazzone wasn't impressed and kept asking why we kept doing those instead of throwing the ball down the field.   I think I'm a fan.

Now, here is DC Lou Spanos:

Umm.  Thanks for all the info?

Actually, in that short video, Spanos shows the huge difference between himself and Mazzone:  when asked how he picks packages and what to work on each week, he said, "without going into details", his goal is to match up their strengths to the opponent's.  Quite the contrast it seems from our OC.  Imagine that:  a different scheme for each opponent.  I'm sure there is more to it than that, there's no way Mazzone uses the same game plan every week...right?

You can see who the talker is, and who the doer is.  But then again, you can't expect an Italian to not talk a lot, I'm just surprised I didn't see Mazzone's hands more  :)

We're all pulling for the offense to get back on track.  Let's go Mama Mazzone!