UCLA coaches will use the annual fall scrimmage as an evaluation tool, and it will certainly carry more weight than a normal practice, but it will not make or break the season for any individual players.
So when the Bruins take the field at Drake Stadium Saturday at 5 p.m., there won't be pressure on Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut--or any other player for that matter--to win or lose a starting job. There will, however, be pressure on the team to perform at a high level.
"I’m going to call plays the same way I call plays in practice and I expect us to execute those plays," offensive coordinator Mike Johnson said. "I’m looking for timing, execution, making sure we’re picking up the right people in our pass protections and we’re doing the right things offensively."
On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Joe Tresey said he will be looking for things such as energy, sense of urgency, communication and focus. He's not looking for a career performance that vaults a third-stringer into a starting role.
"I’ve been doing this a long time and it rarely happens," he said. "You kind of have an idea of who you’ve got, what they are about, what their talents are and their abilities. And yes, you want to see how that translates into a live situation with a crowd and under the lights, but the individual pieces are not as important to me as how does the unit look as a whole."
Coach Rick Neuheisel guessed that the scrimmage would run anywhere from 60 to 75 plays and that Prince and Brehaut, competing for the starting quarterback role, would get an equal number of reps. Both will play some with the first team, he said, but he will be making the final call on a starting quarterback based on a body of work in training camp, not one scrimmage.
"It’s important," he said of the scrimmage, "but I know these guys and I’m just trying to get these guys as good as we can possibly get them and then we’ll make a decision."
Neuheisel said he would be looking for "command and consistency" from each quarterback, but added that the first team players would probably not get an extensive number of reps in order to minimize injury risks.
Most of the first team positions seemed to be pretty settled. Quarterback (Prince and Brehaut), guard (Greg Capella, Chris Ward, Albert Cid) and strong side linebacker (Glenn Love and Jordan Zumwalt) are the most unsettled right now and Jordon James has emerged in recent days to challenge Anthony Barr for the F-back spot.
But don't expect Neuheisel to go too deep into the playbook to get a look at those players. In the YouTube, Facebook and Twitter era, it's too easy for your secrets to get out to future opponents.
"I think the fans will understand if it seems a little mundane tomorrow night," Neuheisel said. "Obviously there are things that are more public when you have an open scrimmage and so you’re careful about all your stuff. That’s just the nature of the beast."