UCLA: Frank Ganz Jr.
"Kids are excited about playing and finishing," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "It’s that portion of the season where the guys who are fortunate enough to still be going are excited about it. And there’s a lot to play for especially given the conference. Only three teams are guaranteed a bowl and everyone else is in the same situation, fighting like mad and it’s going to make for some very, very competitive games."
The Bruins will take the next two days off as the coaches do some recruiting. The next practice is Sunday.
A few tidbits from Thursday:
- As with last time the Bruins were off, the final practice of the bye week ended with a live scrimmage between the scout teams. Linebackers Eric Kendricks and Aramide Olaniyan each made a couple of nice plays on defense while Jerry Rice Jr. continued to show off some nice speed and open-field moves on offense. The offense converted a couple of fourth down plays, but did not score a touchdown. Receivers dropped several passes, two or three of which hit the ground in the end zone. "It's fun to watch them compete and watch their teammates get excited for them," Neuheisel said.
- Receiver Nelson Rosario was limited after aggravating his sprained ankle on Tuesday. Neuheisel said he hoped Rosario would be at full strength soon. "He's still a little hampered," Neuheisel said. "Those are slow injuries to heal. I can be frustrated or I can be hopeful. I’m going to choose helpful."
- Linebacker Patrick Larimore sought a second opinion on his dislocated shoulder, but Neuheisel did not have an update. Larimore injured his left shoulder against Oregon and season-ending surgery is a possibility.
- Linebacker Steve Sloan did not dress, but did some running on the side as he tries to come back from a hamstring strain. Neuheisel said Sloan should practice Sunday, but would not commit to him getting his spot back at middle linebacker. Freshman Jordan Zumwalt has performed admirably in his absence. "We'll wait and see," Neuheisel said. "Certainly we like competition at all positions."
- Special teams practice was especially spirited, with Coach Frank Ganz, Jr. even more animated than usual. Ganz, unhappy with one kickoff, asked the players "What is this, Dancing with the Stars?" then pointed at Ricky Marvray and said "Ricky, you're voted off." Later, Ganz tried to inspire the team by telling them Washington has a "martian who is 6-foot-10 and weighs 5,000 pounds and you better block him."
- Offensive lineman Eddie Williams missed practice for the third consecutive day because of a sprained foot. Tight end Cory Harkey missed his second consecutive practice because of food poisoning. Safety Dalton Hilliard practiced in a red no-contact jersey as he recovers from a concussion.
The opening kickoff Saturday--and all other kickoffs this season for that matter--will look a lot different than in the past thanks to an off-season decision by the NCAA to adopt the NFL policy banning wedge blocking. UCLA’s special teams coach Frank Gansz, Jr., is not too happy about it.
A wedge is defined as more than two players lined up shoulder to shoulder in order to provide blocking for the return man.
“To me it wasn’t very well thought out in doing it,” Gansz said. “It’s sort of a knee-jerk reaction.”
The NCAA rules committee proposed the change after reviewing NCAA research that indicated one out of five injuries on kickoff teams resulted in a concussion. Most of those came to “wedge breakers” or players whose duty was to take out one or two of the members of the wedge.
Gansz, who coached special teams for 10 years in the NFL before joining the Bruins’ staff in 2008, was especially displeased with the timing of the change, which came in April—too late to start coaching new return formations in Spring camp—and said the rules committee should have consulted with coaches before making the change.
“They just changed the rule without asking anybody,” he said. “Why would you just go change something without consulting the people that are teaching it?”
He said kickoff returns will be greatly affected, especially if the officials are strict with enforcement of the new rule. An infraction is a 15-yard penalty from the spot of the foul or from the spot of the tackle if the ball carrier is tackled behind the illegal wedge.
“Now it puts another burden on the officiating and it’s already difficult enough to officiate kicking downs as it is,” Gansz said. “It’s just going to be more problems for them.”
Many on the staff, including coach Rick Neuheisel, defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough, offensive line coach Bob Palcic and special teams coach Frank Gansz had a noticeable uptick in the number of choice words over the past two days.
"They’re not tolerating the same mistakes that we made early in camp," receiver Ricky Marvray said. "It’s time to start sharpening up, honing in our skills and becoming the team that’s going to beat Kansas State."
It was the final no-pads practice. "I'm excited about where we are and anxious to get the pads back on and get after it again tomorrow," coach Rick Neuheisel said.
Sunday's scrimmage offered the opportunity to examine film and see where progression has happened. Neuheisel said he noticed "details" here and there and praised Glenn Love, who has made the switch from safety to linebacker.
"It's encouraging to see where we are right now," Neuheisel added. "I think we have the makings of a good football team. That's certainly a far cry from being one, but I think we have the makings."
-- Neuheisel was not happy with the way the punt coverage drills were developing, so he allotted five more minutes. "We needed to make sure that doesn't happen again," Neuheisel said. Special teams coach Frank Ganz Jr. made players do push-ups for not knowing the depth chart.
-- Rising junior safety Tony Dye did not participate in practice because he was to undergo tests for an irregular heartbeat. Neuheisel said he expects Dye to be back no later than Thursday.
-- Linebacker Sean Westgate wore a protective red jersey but did not seem limited during individual drills.
-- Redshirt freshman receiver Ricky Marvray capped the two-minute drill with a long touchdown grab near the sideline. The majority of the offensive players stormed the field.