There's a lot new at UCLA this spring, even with 16 players with starting experience returning on both sides of the ball.
There's five new coaches, including two new coordinators. There's uncertainty about scheme on both offense and defense. And there's uncertainty at quarterback.
As for the offense, the "pistol" isn't dead. Said coach Rick Neuheisel to that query, "Oh, no. No. No." Even though new coordinator Mike Johnson isn't a pistol guy, Jim Mastro tight ends/F-backs coach is. Mastro was hired away from Nevada, where the scheme was invented.
So there will be some pistol. The Bruins will lineup mostly in the shotgun. They will still use an "F-back," a hybrid position that can be a small quick receiver (Damien Thigpen) or a tight end (Morrell Presley). And there will be some two-back formations. The idea is to develop some run-pass balance, which has eluded the Bruins over the past three seasons.
"The pistol is a formation and it was certainly successful in the run game," Neuheisel said. "What we need now is to develop the throw game that compliments and goes along with that and uses other formations."
As for that throwing game, quarterback Kevin Prince will be able to do very little this spring because he's still recovering from knee surgery. Darius Bell (shoulder) is also out and Nick Crissman will be limited as he comes back from a shoulder injury. That means more reps for Richard Brehaut, who is playing baseball but will not miss any spring football practices, and true freshman Brett Hundley.
Hundley, the touted recruit, is the guy everybody will be watching.
"As is always the case, when somebody's down, it creates opportunities for someone else," Neuheisel said. "With Prince not able to [practice], it creates more reps. Darius Bell not able to go for spring practice, it creates more reps. So Brett Hundley is going to be the benefactor of that. He's going to get lots of chances. How fast he grows and matures in the offense and shows he can understand all he needs to handle to be effective, that will just enhance his ability to play and play at an early time in his career."
We wrote about the depth chart on Tuesday.
Here, again, is the list of injured players.
WR Jerry Johnson (ankle)
RG Casey Griffiths (back)
QB Darius Bell (shoulder)
P-K Jeff Locke (hip)
DE Keenan Graham (hip)
MLB Patrick Larimore (shoulder)
CB Antony Jefferson (foot)
FS Dalton Hilliard (knee)
WR Shaquelle Evans (shoulder)
QB Kevin Prince (knee)
LB Jared Koster (shoulder)
What are you talking about, Willis? Defensive lineman Brandon Willis is supposed to be headed back to North Carolina, the school from where he transferred to UCLA. But there may be another chapter in this twisting tale. Said Neuheisel: “That’s still an uncertain situation. We signed a release and want him to have the opportunity to explore his options and make sure he’s meeting his family obligations. But he has yet to enroll at North Carolina, and I don’t think he’s heard from the NCAA with regard to the waiver and whether or not he can play next fall. I’m still waiting to hear."
Neuheisel said Willis has not withdrawn from UCLA. Willis wants to return to UNC to be closer to his sick grandmother, but he probably doesn't want to sit out the season. He left UNC because his father got a job in Los Angeles.
F-back and RB: How will things stack up in the backfield? Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman are both back, but Malcolm Jones and Jordan James could make a challenge. Further, Neuheisel said he wants to get a look at 6-foot-5, 238-pound sophomore F-back Anthony Barr with the ball in his hands. Said Neuheisel, "We want to find out more about Anthony as a running back."
Safety numbers: Sophomore Dietrich Riley is listed as the No. 2 at strong safety behind senior Tony Dye, but that figures to be an interesting competition. And things at both safeties could be fluid with Hilliard, listed No. 1 at the spot manned by Rahim Moore the previous three seasons, out with a knee injury.