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Saturday, January 22, 2011
Neuheisel calling his own shots now

By Ramona Shelburne

The last two months around the UCLA football program have kind of felt like watching a UCLA football game the past couple of seasons.

Frustrating, very little offense and a few assorted glimmers of hope.

Saturday felt like watching an Oregon football game.




Wild, whimsical and a whole lot of offense.

Saturday's developments -- the long-expected announcement of Mike Johnson as the new offensive coordinator, an imminent settlement with Norm Chow, an interview lined up with Randy Shannon on Sunday -- came out rapid-fire, each one bit of news landing with a bigger impact than the last.

Two months of frustration all ended in two hours of fruitful developments, after which only one conclusion can be drawn:

Rick Neuheisel will enter next season on the hot seat, but he's going in with guns blazing.

The Johnson hire and Shannon recruitment have Neuheisel's stamp all over them. Both men are known as up-and-comers with a thirst and proven ability to recruit.

They are also coming off big-money jobs and wouldn't need to be paid handsomely by UCLA. Shannon reportedly received a $1.5 million buyout of the four years remaining on his contract at Miami, so his situation is similar to Chow's, when UCLA hired him after he was fired by the Tennessee Titans with time remaining on his contract.

Johnson is coming off an NFL job.

In other words, both men would be taking a job at UCLA for the opportunity, not the money. Which is exactly the kind of energy Neuheisel needs around him this year.

I've always felt as if  Neuheisel took the UCLA job back in 2007 with a set of training wheels attached. He had to prove he would run a clean program, so he had to coach with a set of wisemen: DeWayne Walker (who was still young, but who'd been around UCLA) and Chow (who was older and had won everywhere he'd been but was not regarded as a threat to Neuheisel's authority).

Now he's done something different. He has hired Johnson, a young coach on his way up, and is pursuing Shannon, a young coach in need of a quick dose of career rehab after failing in his first head job.

Neuheisel is the wise old man in the room now.

Chow is off to Utah, his alma mater, where you know he can't wait to play UCLA in the new Pac-12 conference, and Brigham Young, where he built his reputation as an offensive mastermind.

Will UCLA miss him?

Yes. Chow was well-liked by the players and on campus. He's still an offensive mastermind.

But this was never the right fit.

Neuheisel is a quarterback. He needs to call the plays.