When the Pac-12 announced that UCLA would be the team (and the only team, last year it was ASU and UC Berkeley) they would follow on this season's of the drive, everyone started to worry.
Would it be a distraction?
Would players play up to the camera?
Would things be exposed that we didn't want out in the public, like our corner jumping off of balconies to save themselves?
After watching the first episode, which was focused primarily around San Bernardino and training camp, the answer might be no, but we'll have to keep watching. Damn, Pac-12, it worked. We're hooked.
We will recap the episodes each week, for those unable to catch it.
Episode 1: Camp.
If you've ever watched "Hard Knocks" on HBO, this is a similar format, except without the devastating episodes when the rosters are trimmed down and people are being cut. And with a wannabe Liev Schrieber voice over, complete with inspirational quotes.
They start back at Pac-12 media day, focusing on Coach Jim Mora and Heisman candidate Brett Hundley, answering questions about UCLA's achievements and the expectations for this season. It then flashes to the flood on campus, showing a flooded Pauley and the current football center, students and employees feebly trying to push water off Nell and John Wooden Court, and The Drive remarking it's a great time to escape and head out to camp.
In a flashback, we watch Brett Hundley move into his dorm for the first time in 2011. In the present day, we see Hundley in his camp room at San Bernardino, and he reminisces about how fast college has gone by and that he only has four months left to experience it. Towards the end of the episode, in the "quarterback suite" as I'm calling it, Jerry Neuheisel, the co-star of this episode, gives us a quick tour of the room, which is pretty spartan, and he goes through his two fantastic bucket hats, wearing whichever one goes with his outfit of the day so he continues to look fresh, and his new UCLA gear for the year, which he must wear or he's mistaken for a water polo player or manager. Even Mora has his own room in the camp, which is also pretty spare, and he loves it. He emphasizes how much he loves camp, as the show flashes back to his time as an NFL assistant and at that puppy school in Seattle.
The other fantastic part of the show, as I mentioned, is the Jerry Neuheisel component. It still weirds everyone out when he speaks, as he sounds just like his father, and it's even creepier when he starts saying things his dad would say. He went into "Rick Neuheisel TV Commentator" mode, asking Hundley mock questions such as "what is compensatory movement?" "What is your checklist as you go up to the line of scrimmage" and "if we're running a reality tv show here, what kind of toothpaste are you using, and why?" Eerie, but more Little Neu, please.
Since most of the episode focused on camp, here are some quick takes and quotes:
- Mora sets the tone for camp, that there is a standard he is there to enforce, the Bruins must live up to, and if they're not doing it, then Mora has a responsibility to keep pointing it out until they get there.
- Brett Hundley was playing around with the GoPro strapped to his helmet, getting fun shots in the huddle, Jerry Neuheisel welcoming you to the Thunder Dome, and calling Myles Jack the "Savior of Westwood" as he gets a drink of water.
- Hundley bought five copies of SI when he appeared on the cover, and he talked about how he wanted to be on the cover as a kid, and is happy to see his hard work is paying off.
- We see Coach Martin coaching up his DBs, as first they're all getting beat, a couple of tips from Coach Meat, and suddenly, a single receiver cannot catch a ball. Editing!
- Randall Goforth: "You might not be the biggest, the fastest, the strongest, but technique will set you free." Coach Mora is 100% in his head.
- Myles Jack says he's still trying to earn the respect of his teammates. Really?! What a guy.
- Shots of Brett Hundley talking to his receivers, telling them where they should have been on plays that did not work.
- Not enough shots of Coach Jeff Ulbrich being crazy. More of that next week, please.
- They do not show the Devin Lucien injury. It's like he was never hurt.
- UCLA in ice buckets after practice, as they've been doing ice bucket challenges before it became cool.
- Quite possibly the most terrible forced voice over line of the episode: "Teams with national prominence are not born, they are forged from heat and pressure of a relentless training camp." Get it? It's hot in SB... yeah we got it.
- The days end quietly, with Brett Hundley trying to teach Jerry Neuheisel dominoes, and little Neu losing spectacularly.
The show ends with Coach Mora running the hill at San Bernardino, in the words of Randall Goforth, like a 25 year old, not a 50 year old, talking about his vision for UCLA this year, and enjoying the kids experience success.
Let's end this recap with this speech for Mora to all his players:
"Being a UCLA football player is a hell of an obligation... You're different now. You're a UCLA football player. You represent yourself, you represent your family, you represent your teammates, your school and everyone who has come through this school, whether they were a player or not. Let's make sure that everything we do is beyond reproach. Protect our team. Protect our goals. Protect our image. Let's operate at a different level that everyone else. Let's be the team that's the greatest example around the country."