UCLA: Fall Camp

Pre-camp questions answered (sort of)

September, 2, 2010
We posed five questions before the start of fall camp last month, with the understanding that most -- if not all -- would be answered. Or at least become clearer.

Well, it wouldn't be UCLA if most pre-camp questions remained fuzzy. And it wouldn't be UCLA if more questions popped up.

Let's revisit the grey areas and determine whether or not they were resolved in time for Saturday's opener at Kansas State.

1. Who will return punts and kickoffs?

Prior to camp we pointed out that redshirt junior Josh Smith was the clear-cut favorite to succeed Terrence Austin. Four weeks later, UCLA's depth chart tells us No. 3 will be the guy.

Smith, a transfer from Colorado, has looked quick and elusive. If he can stay healthy -- and that's been a BIG if during his time in Westwood -- Smith has a chance to be an all-conference performer.

2. Will this team settle on a No. 1 running back before the start of the season?

This is where you laugh.

How could we be so naive? For the second straight year, UCLA did not settle on one feature back. It may be a good problem to have, but at what point does uncertainty become an issue?

Derrick Coleman OR Johnathan Franklin are listed atop the depth chart -- a decision that may be strategic or downright truthful. Maybe there is a starter. Someone will have to be out there to start Saturday at Kansas State. Maybe coach Rick Neuheisel is making the Wildcats worry about both.

This much we do know: Coleman is the bruiser who UCLA coaches love for his consistency, Franklin is the speedster with big-play potential who coaches can't seem to figure out. True freshman Malcolm Jones is not far behind and will get his carries this year.

Stay tuned.

3. Who will be stuck in the middle: Steve Sloan or Patrick Larimore?

This is another well-documented position battle that remains confusing. One day it's Sloan playing with the first unit, another day it's Larimore. Back to Sloan for a few days, then to Larimore.

Like tailback, the starting middle linebacker spot has the "or" designation. And like we mentioned before camp, whoever starts Saturday figures to be an upgrade over Reggie Carter, whose play suffered last season as he struggled with lower-body injuries.

4. Which freshman will separate himself from the others?

Anthony Barr did on offense. Diertrich Riley did on defense.

Barr might start at F-back Saturday, as he's listed as an "or" on the depth chart. Riley came up short for strong safety Tony Dye's starting role, but he doesn't walk away empty-handed. He will see the field plenty this fall.

5. To what extent will newcomer Darius Bell be utilized?

Probably not much, if at all. Neuheisel is pleased with Bell's progress in the "revolver," but Bell has been iffy when throwing the ball.

Still, don't be surprised if Bell trots in to spell Kevin Prince or Richard Brehaut from time to time.

UCLA aware of K-State's run game

September, 1, 2010
Junior safety Rahim Moore has a hunch. If UCLA's defense is unable to contain Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas early, the Bruins will be down big.

Like, 59-0 big, according to Moore.

"We have to play disciplined football," he said. "We have to outhit them and just be physical, man. Play fast, do what we do here at UCLA. We're known for having defense, so we've got to go out there and hit them in the mouth. It's not going to be easy because they're thinking the same thing.

"May the best man win."

Thomas was held to 54 yards in 15 carries last year at the Rose Bowl. He went on to earn the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year award behind a 1,265-yard season.

Linebacker Akeem Ayers and coach Rick Neuheisel also shared their thoughts regarding Saturday's challenge. What the video below:

Video: Tony Dye does a little talking

August, 31, 2010

Video: Kevin Prince makes progress

August, 30, 2010

Video: Richard Brehaut feels comfortable

August, 26, 2010

Thursday practice report

August, 26, 2010
A few notes from Thursday's light practice:

-- The Bruins weren't in full-pads and tried to stay on their feet. No need risking injuries as UCLA prepares for an opponent. The team will hold a scrimmage Friday at the Rose Bowl, closed to everyone.

-- A number of dropped balls had Rick Neuheisel on a yelling spree. After one particular drop, Neuheisel ran from his spot near the quarterback to the sideline, telling the receiver over and over to catch the ball.

-- Defensive back Andrew Abbott, the team's newest scholarship player, had a nice interception on Richard Brehaut near the end of the team's seven-on-seven drills. Abbott has emerged as the clear-cut favorite to land the nickel spot and also plays an important role on special teams.

Offense sputters but shows potential

August, 21, 2010
Coach Rick Neuheisel asked fans not to videotape any of UCLA's scrimmage, hoping to keep formations and schemes in-house.

Well, there weren't many highlight reel plays to begin with.

Aside from a few good throws from quarterback Richard Brehaut, a handful of eye-opening receptions from Nelson Rosario and a powerful display from true freshman Anthony Barr, the offense struggled.

Even placekicker Kai Forbath, Mr. Automatic and the reigning Lou Groza Award recipient, missed a short field-goal attempt. That doesn't happen. Ever. Not even in practice.

Rosario had an acrobatic 19-yard grab from Brehaut, then followed it up with a one-handed catch for another 39 yards. He scored a touchdown later on a fade jump ball in the corner of the end zone -- a play that the Bruins should go to again and again to take advantage of Rosario's 6-foot-5 frame.

Brehaut was sharp on many of his throws, the obvious exception being the interception he threw to safety Tony Dye. He seemed composed, though Neuheisel was in his ear most of the time.

Barr scored late, but the more impressive was the thunderous block he had on Tevin McDonald, who gingerly walked off the field holding his arm as Barr jumped up and down in excitement.

Video: Rick Neuheisel after scrimmage

August, 21, 2010

The official numbers are in...

August, 21, 2010
The scrimmage statistics, courtesy of UCLA:

Richard Brehaut: 11-for-16, 186 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Darius Bell: 4-8-28, 1, 1
Nick Crissman: 3-6-26, 0, 0

Malcolm Jones: 11 attempts, 59 yards
Johnathan Franklin: 6-10
Derrick Coleman: 2-3

Nelson Rosario: 4 catches, 80 yards, 1 TD
Anthony Barr: 3-27, 1 TD
Christian Ramirez: 3-52
Morrell Presley: 2-12
Randall Carroll: 1—36, 1 TD
Ricky Marvray: 1-18
Tayor Embree: 1-18, 1 TD

Carroll, 26 yards from Brehaut
Forbath, FGs of 37 and 42 yards
Embree, 18 yards from Brehaut
Rosario, 2 yards from Brehaut
Barr, 11 yards from Bell

Dalton Hilliard – 1
Tony Dye – 1

Rick Neuheisel talks practice No. 11

August, 19, 2010
Some notes and video following UCLA's practice on Thursday afternoon:

-- Nothing new on quarterback Kevin Prince (strained oblique), who wore a precautionary red jersey and watched for the ninth straight day.

-- UCLA's return game looks sharp when Josh Smith gets the ball in his hands. The speedy transfer from Colorado had another touchdown on a punt return, gliding through a hole on the left side and storming down the sideline for the score. Keep an eye on him. If he stays healthy, Smith has a chance to be an all-conference performer on special teams.

-- Coach Rick Neuheisel's post-practice comments:

-- In the red zone, senior F-back Christian Ramirez caught a ball on the flat and sneaked past a few defenders to score. The touchdown was one of the few things the offense could cheer about Thursday.

-- It would come as a shock if junior Glenn Love didn't get extensive time at outside linebacker this year. The converted safety is physical and disruptive, leveling offensive lineman Casey Griffiths on a run play and later sacking Nick Crissman in the end zone.

Nelson Rosario blames it on the juice

August, 19, 2010
Two things happened after junior receiver Nelson Rosario made an acrobatic grab in the back of the end zone midway through Thursday's practice.

First, Rosario's momentum carried him into a stack of Gatorade coolers. A collective gasp from coaches, players and fans soon followed.

Rosario landed on his back and, for a second, lay motionless near the bleachers.

Then, in the most anti-dramatic way possible, he held the ball up with two hands to signal that he had held on.

Disaster averted.

Anthony Jefferson cleared by NCAA

August, 19, 2010
After 10 days of uncertainty, freshman cornerback Anthony Jefferson (Los Angeles, Calif./Cathedral) was cleared by the NCAA on Thursday.

Jefferson was granted permission to practice with the team on Aug. 11, but his status for the 2010 season was up in the air.

Here's what he had to say following Thursday afternoon's practice:

Video: Taylor Embree talks receivers

August, 17, 2010

In the huddle with Richard Brehaut

August, 17, 2010
A brief, one-on-one interview with backup quarterback Richard Brehaut following Monday afternoon's practice:

UCLA blog: What's been the biggest lesson for you after enrolling early and not redshirting your freshman year?

Richard Brehaut: At this time last year, I thought that I was preparing myself as well as I could. I thought I was watching enough film and doing all the right things. But looking back, this summer I really tried to dedicate myself to the film room and watch as much tape as I could -- not only on what we do, but on what other defenses do. I think that's the biggest step I took in maturing from my freshman year. I thought I was watching way more film than I did in high school, but now I see clearly. It's definitely been a progression.

Quarterbacks often talk about reading defenses and being able to check down when they see something. Is it mostly instinct or does studying film play a larger role in that phase of the game?

It's tremendous. Like coach (Rick) Neuheisel talks about, you start anticipating stuff. Once you can anticipate and find out what the defense is doing, your decisions are lightning quick. You don't even have to think about it. For instance, you can know that your first receiver will be covered, so you can automatically come to your second read.

The new "revolver" formation adds a few more reads. What are your thoughts on it?

I think it's great. Having the tailback behind us, the defense doesn't have a look. He's not in a near or far formation, so it opens us up for some big play-action plays. It's something we've been lacking these past few years. The play-action, that run read, that's just going to bring defenders up and we're going to have shots at the top.

I'd say it's more to know, but it helps the offense when we have the ability to have all these read zones and stretch plays. If we were under center, we'd still have to know the read. That's really the biggest thing: Knowing who you have to read and determining who the ball will go to depending on what is played. The pistol doesn't make it any more difficult on us, it's just something we have to adjust to and something we have to get done.

You spoke about the progression you've made since high school. How much of that is due to the coaching staff?

In high school, your coaches kind of baby you and tell you, "This is what you have to do." Here, coach Neuheisel is throwing his stuff down and is in your face. That has definitely made me stronger as a person, just to be able to shake off adversity, go with it and make things happen. He's going to yell at you, but he's also going to tell you what to do on the next play. It's helped me grow as a person. I'm mentally stronger.

Talk a bit about what being the No. 2 quarterback has done for you.

In the spring, I think (Kevin Prince) and I both took a big step forward. By both of us taking that step, it made us better. If I see him doing something, I know I have to know my stuff. If he sees me getting better, he knows I'm catching up and that's just going to make him better. That competition is definitely something every position needs so guys don't get complacent.

At Pac-10 football media day, Neuheisel said he's talked to you about the possibility of redshirting this season. What's the latest on that scenario? Is that something you're even thinking about or even considering at this point?

There's certainly a lot of stuff that would go into that decision. I don't think now is the time for me to say that it's what I want to do. But I mean, it's certainly a possibility and certainly something I could do. Right now, I'm doing my best to make our offense not miss a beat and keep rolling.

A good start to Week 2 for Darius Bell

August, 16, 2010
Transfer quarterback Darius Bell experienced his share of ups and downs during his first week at UCLA. But Monday was a definite up, with Bell getting a majority of the first-unit reps and showing the coaching staff what he's absorbed through a week of fall camp.

If there's a positive to starter Kevin Prince's weeklong absence, it's that Bell and Richard Brehaut have seen an increase in snaps. As a result, their battle for the No. 2 spot has heated up.

"I'd say Richard is ahead right now, but Darius had a great morning," coach Rick Neuheisel said. "It's great to have that kind of competition. We'll see where that leads to on Saturday night."

Prince, who continues to nurse an oblique strain, likes what he's seen so far.

"It's nice to see a guy come in and pick it up so quickly," Prince said. "Bell knows what we're doing, for the most part. Obviously he's going to make mistakes here and there, but he's making a lot of good checks at the line. He seems to have a knack for making plays."

More from Neuheisel and Bell:



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