Pac-12: Brigham Harwell
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
- Former Washington State linebacker Greg Trent has been invited to camp with the Washington Redskins.
- If you want to keep up with rookie free agent signings, this is the place. A trip through the list, by the way, yields a surprising number of big names -- Wisconsin running back P.J. Hill, Iowa defensive tackle Mitch King, Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel, LSU linebacker Darry Beckwith, etc.
- Former UCLA defensive tackle Brigham Harwell won UCLA's Coach K Spirit Award, which is given to student-athletes who display tremendous character, passion and commitment to UCLA athletics, according to the LA Daily News. Swimmer Madeleine Stanton also won.
- Due to the significant amount of injuries and lack of depth (particularly at LB and RB), Oregon State won't split up into teams for its spring game Saturday. It will just match the offense and defense in two separate teams.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
A list of free-agent signings, though more are likely to come.
QB Pat Cowan, New Orleans Saints
DT Brigham Harwell, Washington Redskins
RB Kahlil Bell, Minnesota Vikings
SS Bret Lockett, invited to Green Bay Packers minicamp
P Aaron Perez, invited to New England Patriots minicamp
C Juan Garcia, invited to Minnesota Vikings minicamp
TE Devin Frischknecht, Washington Redskins
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
It's right there in front of you in black and white: Hopeless, non-negotiable numbers that spell certain doom for UCLA.
USC owns the best defense in the nation. It yields 211 yards and 7.8 points per game, both tops in college football.
UCLA's offense ranks 110th in the nation in yards per game (295) and 107th in scoring (18.6 ppg). Just for good measure, the Bruins also rank 111th in turnover margin (minus-11).
USC's defense is this. UCLA's offense is that. A team has to score to win, and the Bruins almost certainly won't do much of that Saturday in the Rose Bowl.
So the Bruins might as well abandon all hope.
"We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope," said President-elect Barack Obama. "But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope."
Or, as Dale Carnegie famously offered through his never-wavering grin, "Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all."
UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel has preached "relentless optimism" all season, even after an inglorious 59-zip debacle at BYU on Sept. 13 and a 35-9 defeat last weekend at Arizona State that featured an are-you-kidding-me FOUR defensive touchdowns from the Sun Devils off Bruins turnovers.
Bruins defensive tackle Brigham Harwell clearly belongs to the Obama-Carnegie-Neuheisel school of hope and optimism.
"This is a big task for us, but we know that any team is beatable," he said. "We're going to have to shut them down on defense to have a chance. That's the key. Lights out on defense and for the offense to have no turnovers."
Recall that just two years ago another lost-cause UCLA team shocked the nation with a 13-9 victory over then-No. 2 USC, a defeat that knocked the Trojans out of the national title game on the final day of the season. Recall that that win came a year after the Trojans had rolled the Bruins 66-19.
USC coach Pete Carroll wouldn't bite when asked whether that loss was particularly painful. He has only lost nine games over the past seven seasons, so every loss resonates.
"They've all been the same," he said. "I think any time you have an experience like we had when we lost to those guys, with everything that was going on riding on it, that fits every situation that comes at the end of the season. I mean, all of these games, anybody can beat you. No matter what everybody thinks is supposed to happen, you got to go play the football game."
A USC win means it earns its seventh consecutive Pac-10 title and a Rose Bowl berth opposite Penn State. While such a prospect would sound sensational to most teams, that would be the Trojans' fifth Rose Bowl in six years.
And Carroll and his players believe they should be a candidate for the national title game.
"We talk about it, if different things happen and teams lose, we've got a chance," safety Taylor Mays said. "We'd love to get a chance to play whatever team. We'd like to go out and show what 'SC is about. But whatever opportunity they give us, that's where we will prove our point.
"But it's frustrating because we realize what the potential of this team is and what we are capable of and how hard we worked. We want to be recognized as the best. But we can't control that right now. We knew at the beginning of the season if we went undefeated that would give us our best chance. We'd love to have the first half of that Oregon State game back."
And, of course, if the Trojans should lose, they will find themselves stewing in the Holiday Bowl, with Oregon State joyously walking through the Rose Bowl's backdoor.
For that upset to happen, one thing absolutely must occur: UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft has to play well.
That's a big if. Craft has thrown 12 interceptions in the past four games with no touchdowns. His post-pick trudges to the sidelines for another harangue from Neuheisel have provided must-see moments for the television audience.
"Kevin Craft has been tougher than nails and has been a try-hard kid," Neuheisel said. "Unfortunately, we had to put too much on his shoulders."
As in, Craft has had little help on an offense that can't run or block or get open very well.
The offensive ineptitude is why a pretty solid defense doesn't have great numbers, but Harwell says he only has love for Craft.
"I told him we believe in him," Harwell said. "Yeah, it's frustrating when he throws interceptions. But we're a team and we have his back. If he gives great effort, we can't ask for anything more."
It figures to take more than just great effort or relentless optimism for the Bruins to prevail.
When asked what concerned him from UCLA's offense, Mays seemed to stifle a laugh and then, after a pregnant pause offered, "They run the ball downhill."
UCLA ranks 116th in the nation in rushing.
Hope for the Bruins? The numbers seem to suggest their plight is less Obama and Carnegie and more Friedrich Nietzsche, who opined, "Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man."
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
These links have no fumbling issues.
- Arizona RB Nic Grigsby is trying to solve his fumbling issues so he can hold onto his starting job.
- Arizona State can't run the football and here's a big reason why the passing game hasn't compensated.
- Two California players have been arrested on suspicion of robbery. Get a feeling that won't make things easier for Jeff Tedford this week, though it might distract from the endless question about the quarterback situation. This, however, is a fairly compelling argument that it's time to commit to Kevin Riley as the starter over Nate Longshore.
- Oregon can run; Arizona State can't. That's good for the Ducks, bad for the Sun Devils.
- Oregon State's offensive line takes a hit... a good one: Tavita Thompson returns.
- UCLA running back Kahlil Bell is playing through pain, but the Bruins offensive and defensive lines are just banged up. Cal center Alex Mack vs. UCLA defensive tackle Brigham Harwell is an intriguing matchup.
- It's not always easy dealing with parents for USC coach Pete Carroll.
- Are Notre Dame fans happy that Tyrone Willingham has failed at Washington? Short answer: Yes.
- And here's a great look at Football Futile States.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Ten things to consider, underline or anticipate heading into the weekend.
1. Dear Arizona -- Get the ball to Rob Gronkowski and Mike Thomas: What does a dominating running game do for a team? Well, it wasn't just that Stanford had 286 yards rushing last weekend in its win over Arizona, it was that it ran 72 total plays vs. 57 for the Wildcats. What could a team do with 15 more plays? A lot. But if you only have 57, more than six of them should involve tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Mike Thomas.
2. Nate Longshore needs to grab hold of Cal's quarterback spot: California would love to run right at Arizona like Stanford did, but the Bears are down two starting offensive linemen and struggled just two weeks ago to get the running game going at home against Arizona State (79 yards on the ground). While it will help to get speedy Jahvid Best back, he's not going to give Cal 25 carries coming back from a dislocated elbow. That means Nate Longshore, making his second consecutive start, will need to make plays in the passing game. It doesn't help that receiver Michael Calvin was lost for the year this week to a knee injury. But Longshore should be plenty motivated to erase the three-interception performance he had in Tucson in 2006, an upset defeat that cost the Bears their first Rose Bowl berth since 1958.
3. How much does Washington still care?: The Huskies' players don't live in caves. They know that their fan base is hollering for coach Tyrone Willingham's coaching noggin'. They also can look at the guy under center and know he's no longer their leader, Jake Locker, who's done for the year with a thumb injury. While last season's bitter defeat at Oregon State should serve as motivation to play hard in front of the home fans, it will be interesting to see if the Huskies fight all four quarters if things start to get out of hand. And what if the Beavers jump on them early? Will a white flag come out?
4. Beavers stop the pass, own the field: Washington senior guard Casey Bulyca, who rivals center Juan Garcia as the Huskies most physical player, underwent knee surgery Tuesday and is done for the year. The line has been mostly mediocre this year, in any event. The Huskies don't really have a starting tailback, with Willie Griffin, Brandon Johnson and Terrance Dailey shuffling in and out. Locker, the best run threat, is, again, out. The Huskies average 2.9 yards per rush, and Oregon State's run defense has improved dramatically since yielding 239 yards at Penn State. This means it's up to UW quarterback Ronnie Fouch and his young receivers to make plays. But the Beavers likely will welcome the pass because safety Al Afalava and cornerbacks Brandon Hughes and Keenan Lewis are back to full speed after nursing injuries previous weeks.
5. USC will not be at full speed at Washington State: USC is banged up and it might make sense for coach Pete Carroll to lean toward caution with players who are borderline-ready to play at Washington State. Running back Joe McKnight (toe) won't make the trip. Neither will defensive end Everson Griffen and offensive lineman Butch Lewis (both are sick). Offensive guards Jeff Byers (knee) and Zack Heberer (toe), linebackers Brian Cushing (shoulder) and Kaluka Maiava (foot) and tight end Blake Ayles (groin) also missed significant practice time this week.
6. Don't hold the ball, Kevin Lopina: A team (hopefully) never expects to lose, but Washington State's prime directive is to get quarterback Kevin Lopina safely through USC's visit. Lopina is making his first start since going down with a back injury on Sept. 20 against Portland State, and the Cougars have a bye next week for him to further get his health, rhythm and timing back. The Trojans put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, often with just a four-man rush. Lopina needs to get the ball away in a hurry. That means three-step drops, roll outs, a two count and throw -- heave the ball into the stands if necessary. Just don't give up the sack, the INT or get hurt. The Cougars Nos. 2 and 3 quarterbacks are done for the season, and the guys next in line are a walk-on and a true freshman, so they really need Lopina to keep taking snaps.
7. Can Stanford run up the middle on UCLA?: Stanford has become the Pac-10's most physical running team. Running back Toby Gerhart is a 230-pound guy who's not afraid of contact, and the Cardinal line, led by center Alex Fletcher, has been the conference's best unit to this point of the season. But UCLA has perhaps the conference's best defensive tackle tandem in Brian Price and Brigham Harwell. Can Fletcher and his guards move these guys out of the way? The going should be far tougher up the middle, though the Bruins haven't been dominant against the run this year by any means, ranking eighth in the Pac-10 with 171 yards given up per game.
8. UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft needs to put four quarters together: Stanford is going to gang up on the run and try to force Craft to win the game. For much of the season, the Cardinal secondary looked vulnerable, but last weekend it did a masterful job containing Arizona's top targets, Rob Gronkowski and Mike Thomas, and didn't allow quarterback Willie Tuitama to throw a touchdown pass. Stanford also brings a lot of blitzes (see 19 sacks on the season). Craft has had fits and starts of success, and he seems to go in and out of rhythm throughout a game. He was sacked six times by Oregon and he threw a lot of ill-advised passes that were dropped by Ducks defenders. If the Bruins are going to defend their home turf, Craft needs to make plays consistently.
9. The solution for Arizona -- Stop the run: Arizona has lost twice this season. In both games, a power back ran all over the Wildcats undersized defense. But Cal doesn't have a Rodney Ferguson (New Mexico, 158 yards) or a Toby Gerhart (116 yards), who both tip the scales at 230 pounds. If the Wildcats force the Bears to throw into a secondary that is the defense's strength that will help in multiple ways. Not only will it ease the pressure on the defensive front, it also will stop the clock more often and allow the potent Arizona offen
se to get more plays.
10. Can any Pac-10 teams win on the road?: Pac-10 teams are 6-20 on the road this year -- 2-8 in nonconference play and 4-12 in conference. While Washington and Washington State have proved hospitable for obvious reasons -- stinking -- the rest of the Pac-10 has treated guests with disdain. Stanford and California are both looking to move up in the conference pecking order, but in order to do that they will have to prove they can win on the road someplace other than Washington or Washington State.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Getting deep into this week's games.
California won't run over Arizona: In Arizona's two losses, its defense got run over by a big back -- New Mexico's Rodney Ferguson and Stanford's Toby Gerhart, a pair of 230-pound bruisers. California is not a power-rushing team with Jahvid Best, who's expected to return after dislocating his elbow on Sept. 27, and Shane Vereen, neither of whom pushes the scale past 200 pounds. Moreover, the Bears have two injured starting linemen, tackle Mike Tepper and guard Chris Guarnero. Without Best, the Bears rushed for just 79 yards at home against Arizona State, and playing on the road makes it harder to use a variety of run audibles. Best and Vereen can hit home runs, but they don't grind out four yards and a cloud of dust. Cal will need balance to win, and the Bears passing game has not clicked this season. Meanwhile, the Wildcats pass defense is holding opponents to just a 55.3 completion percentage and has grabbed eight interceptions. Hmm.
A two-quarterback system might work for Stanford: Cardinal quarterback Tavita Pritchard has steadily improved this year and was 13-of-17 for 113 yards and a touchdown before he was knocked out against Arizona with a concussion. He's likely to start against UCLA on Saturday. But Alex Loukas' running ability off the bench confused the Wildcats defense and was the key component of the 11-play, 60-yard game-winning drive. Loukas completed a 21-yard pass and ran four times for 32 yards, and apparently earned more playing time, according to coach Jim Harbaugh. Loukas not only adds a nice change of pace, but he also forces a defense to use valuable practice time preparing for a running quarterback and some spread-option plays.
Washington State's goal is to protect quarterback Kevin Lopina: If you read a week's worth of stories on Washington State, you can't help but wince. Two of the Cougars top three quarterbacks are done for the year. Kevin Lopina, who took over the starting job two games into the season, will return to face USC's fearsome defense after missing the past three games with a fractured vertebrae. If the Trojans knock Lopina out, the Cougars must turn to either walk-on freshman Daniel Wagner or burn the redshirt of true freshman J.T. Levenseller, with coach Paul Wulff suggesting this week he'd have no alternative but to go with Levenseller because there's half a season remaining. That means the Cougars figure to try to run the ball and use a lot of quick-hit passes to minimize the hits on Lopina, a strategy that isn't likely to put many points on the board. Of course, as a 43-point underdog, don't expect the Cougars to give the Trojans a scare. In fact, don't be shocked if USC coach Pete Carroll, who's team isn't exactly healthy, calls off the dogs fairly early and doesn't try to become the fourth Pac-10 team to score 60-plus on the Cougs.
UCLA may be able to force Stanford to pass: Sure, UCLA's rushing defense ranks eighth in the Pac-10 (171.3), which would seem to bode well for Stanford's potent ground game. But the Bruins have faced the nation's No. 6 (Oregon) and No. 16 (Fresno State) rushing attacks in recent weeks. Moreover, Stanford's more conventional power-running scheme matches strength-on-strength as the Bruins defensive tackle combo of Brian Price and Brigham Harwell is as good as any in the conference. It's almost certain that defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker will try to force Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard to throw the ball. The Bruins secondary has been terribly inconsistent this year -- strong safety Bret Lockett is fighting to hold onto his job this week -- but Pritchard, while improving, has a tendency to force passes into coverage, see eight interceptions vs. seven touchdowns. The Bruins secondary has only four interceptions this season, but that has been a point of emphasis in practices this week. Stanford beat Arizona despite losing the turnover battle, 0-3. It will be harder to do that on the road.
Beavers should be on upset alert: There is absolutely no logical reason to believe that Washington can upset Oregon State. The Huskies are winless, beaten up and about to fire head coach Tyrone Willingham. Oregon State has won three of four and is in the middle of the Pac-10 race. The Beavers are superior in just about every area and should be highly motivated. Yet this is college football, and only twice since 1999 has a Pac-10 team gone winless in the conference (though Washington did it in 2004). Moreover, the Huskies' loss last year at Oregon State was hotly contested and bitterly lost, including a controversial knock-out hit on quarterback Jake Locker by Beavers safety Al Afalava, which has been a hot topic this week (though let's be clear that the hit was legal). The Beavers won 19 games over the previous two seasons, but managed to get drubbed both years by inferior UCLA teams, so it's not inconceivable that the Beavers could come out flat with overconfidence.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel and his Bruins tasted unexpected success against Tennessee -- "unexpected" at least from the perspective of outside observers -- and they want more. Now all they have to do is beat a second-consecutive ranked team, this time on the road.
|Stephen Dunn/Getty Images|
|Next up for the Bruins defense: BYU's Max Hall, who passed for 3,848 yards last season.|
It's a feast-famine matchup at No. 18 BYU.
Feast: BYU's dynamic offense featuring QB Max Hall and 243-pound running back Harvey Unga vs. UCLA's stout defense, which is led by tackles Brigham Harwell and Brian Price.
Famine: BYU's leaky defense, particularly a questionable secondary vs. UCLA's mix-and-match offensive line and green QB Kevin Craft.
Washington couldn't do anything to slow Hall and Unga last week in the Cougars 28-27 victory. Hall, who passed for 3,848 yards last year, completed 30 of 41 throws for 338 yards and three TDs, while Unga rushed for 136 yards on 23 carries. Hall's favorite target is tight end Dennis Pitta, who has 21 receptions in two games.
"[Hall] is a master of what they are trying to accomplish offensively," Neuheisel said.
Hall, however, won't be able to sit back in the pocket against the Bruins like he did against the Huskies, a fact he's probably fully aware of, considering the Cougars 12-game winning streak -- the longest current streak in the nation -- is mostly wedged between a pair of games with the Bruins.
UCLA beat the Cougars 27-17 in the Rose Bowl a year ago at home. Three games ago, the Cougars returned the favor when they slipped UCLA 17-16 in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Neuheisel called it a rubber match. And considering the bowl loss came after a short, game-winning field goal attempt was blocked, there's no reason for the Bruins to fear the Cougars, though it's clear there's plenty of respect.
"The good news is we're familiar," Neuheisel said. "The bad news is they're really good."
For the Bruins, the question is what kind of encore will they provide after the thrilling 27-24 overtime win over Tennessee?
Will reality set in, particularly the reality of three senior starters out with injuries -- RB Kahlil Bell, who is listed as doubtful, WR Marcus Everett and TE Logan Paulsen?
And who is QB Kevin Craft? Is he the four-interception mess he was in the first half against Tennessee? Or the cucumber-cool hurler who led the comeback over the Vols in the second half?
Are the Bruins, who are coming off a bye week, a one-hit wonder with their heads still in the clouds or are they refocused on earning a victory that will establish them -- again, unexpectedly -- as a legitimate Pac-10 contender?
"I think we're back to business," Neuheisel said. "It was fortunate we had that [bye] week because there was some residual walking in the clouds that we had to knock out of ourselves during last week's practices."
The fundamental UCLA plan hasn't changed, and likely won't the entire season. Play with the cards close to the vest on offense and hope the defense and special teams keep things close.
"Hopefully, we'll take a page out of what we did against Tennessee and take the game to the fourth quarter," Neuheisel said.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
|Stephen Dunn/Getty Images|
|UCLA's tenacious defense kept the Bruins in the game, despite a weak performance from the offense in the first half.|
PASADENA, Calif. -- The final score sheet said Tennessee piled up 366 yards, but that doesn't tell the story of a UCLA defense that was the cornerstone of the Bruins' 27-24 overtime victory.
Despite four first-half interceptions tossed by Bruins quarterback Kevin Craft, including one returned for a touchdown, UCLA only trailed 14-7 at the break.
Defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker also was working with marching orders to play conservatively and not take high-risk, high-reward chances because the offense, it was thought, wouldn't be able to make up the difference.
"DeWayne's defense kept us in the game," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. "We came into the game with an idea of how to manage field position. I told him to be a little more conservative on their end of the field and if they get to the 50, now use your tricks."
The defense produced two takeaways, including one on a critical Arian Foster fumble on the Bruins' 6-yard line.
It only had one sack, but it consistently pressured and rattled Vols QB Jonathan Crompton, who completed only 18 of 40 passes for 184 yards with an interception. At one point in the fourth quarter, Crompton had missed on nine of 10 passes.
Up front, the Bruins more than handled what was reputed to be the SEC's best offensive line.
"They think the Pac-10 is soft," senior tackle Brigham Harwell said. "We let the people talk and talk and talk. But talk is cheap. We had to prove it."
The Bruins produced eight tackles for a loss. Cornerback Alterraun Verner, who Walker reserved special praise for, had six tackles to go with his interception. End Korey Bosworth had the lone sack.
Walker wasn't happy about giving up 177 yards rushing, but he was happy about how the group held together while repeatedly finding itself in binds created by the offense.
"What I like about these guys is how they all care about each other -- they care about the offensive guys, not only the defensive guys," Walker said. "They know our job is to keep them out of the end zone regardless of how many times we have to go out on the field."
And that end result made it all worthwhile.
"Besides the USC win my junior year, this is the biggest win of my career and for our program," Harwell said.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
PASADENA, Calif. -- Hopeless? Beaten down? Overmatched? Don't tell UCLA defensive tackle Brigham Harwell about lost causes. He doesn't believe in them. He'll probably know better than anyone else on the field Monday when Tennessee visits the Rose Bowl that there's always hope for those who refuse to surrender.
Harwell, as detailed in this 2004 LA Daily News story, spent time homeless and living in a car with his mother and two youngest brothers growing up. He also lived in foster homes, separated from his siblings, while his mother struggled with personal issues.
Yet he still found his way to UCLA, became a standout defensive lineman, a good student and an NFL prospect.
Then he blew out his knee two games into the 2007 season.
Did he shake his fist at the heavens and wonder why, after all he'd been through, his life had taken another downturn due to no fault of his own?
No way. If there's a UCLA player who can match new coach Rick Neuheisel's philosophy of relentless optimism, it's Harwell.
He busted his rear rehabilitating his leg and then applied for a medical hardship waiver. He arrived in camp in the best shape of his life, a chiseled 290 pounds.
Now, he will team with sophomore Brian Price to make one of the Pac-10's most formidable DT combos.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
|AP Photo/Nick Ut|
|Coach Rick Neuheisel says UCLA might not be as far away from catching USC as many people think.|
LOS ANGELES -- New UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel was a Rose Bowl MVP for the Bruins, but he's also stirred controversy just about everywhere he's coached.
Fair or unfair, his career and behavior have been relentlessly picked over and microanalyzed.
He owns an impressive 66-30 record and won a Rose Bowl at Washington, but some folks view him as a rogue coach -- "Slick Rick" -- a guy who cuts corners and tries to talk his way out of every corner.
But figuring out who Rick Neuheisel really is won't be that difficult in coming years. His legacy surely will be tied to whether he leads UCLA back to the top of the Pac-10 and challenges USC for supremacy of Los Angeles.
I caught up with him this week; this is part I of a two-part interview.
Have things settled down and allowed you to just be UCLA's football coach after all the static about your past history?
Rick Neuheisel: Yeah, most of that is in the background, behind me. I'm sure every now and then it will resurface, especially with Washington being in the same conference. But things are enough in the rearview mirror that I don't have to worry about it on a daily basis. Now it's up to us as a staff and me personally to make sure nothing happens in the future that would drudge it all back up.
Do you feel like the important people at UCLA -- the administrators, boosters and fans -- don't care about the external static?
RN: I think that they're at that place. Don't care is probably too strong, but I think they are mindful there are two sides to everything and are comfortable that it is in the past.
Give me your impressions, after going through spring practices and now a few weeks into preseason camp, of the overall talent level here.
RN: There are some positions with terrific talent. It's just that we're not going to go out and win any games based on talent. It's just not the way it is. That doesn't mean someone isn't going to emerge here and become a 10-year NFL vet. I would never discount that opportunity for any of these kids. But we are who we are and now we have to play to that and make sure that we don't expose kids who are probably going to have matchup issues. That's the key. A lot has been said about our offensive line. We are who we are. We've got to do what we can to help them.
The offensive line: I was going to ask you about that. Everybody is talking badly about it. How do you handle that? Do these guys need to be built up after hearing over and over that they aren't good enough?
RN: Yeah. They need to be championed. There have been lots of offensive lines with average talent that have been on winning teams. It's up to us as coaches to find a way to get the most out of them because they are all high-effort guys. When you've got high-effort guys, you've got a chance.
How many years away are you guys from competing at the highest level?
RN: I hate to quantify it because it always makes it seem like you're saying you're not capable of doing it now. I don't ever want to sell these guys short. I told the seniors here that talking about rebuilding is just a coach-saver. That's what coaches say to give themselves time and keep expectations down, blah, blah, blah. We're at UCLA. We're going to play for first place. Our record is the same as everybody else's right now, so we're going to go out there. The good news about winning games is you don't have to win them 42-0. You get to win them 3-2 and 42-41. So we've just got to find ways to get one more point.
Who's stood out for you during camp -- play and leadership?
RN: I feel good about our defense and the leadership there. The Bosworth boys [LB Kyle and DE Korey] are tenacious guys. [DT] Brian Price is a bona fide big-time player. [CB] Alterraun Verner is a bona fide big-time player. If those guys do a great job of leading -- and [LB] Reggie Carter and [DT] Brigham Harwell, who's been voted captain -- do a great job of leading, then we're going to play good, solid defense. It doesn't mean we're going to play error-free, but we're going to play good defense.
Now we've got to get the same kind of moxie from the offense. [RB] Kahlil Bell can bring that, but he's coming off an ACL so he's not out there every practice. But when there's a QB competition and you've lost your first two senior guys [Patrick Cowan and Ben Olson], it's hard for the next guy to just go in and be a [expletive]-chewer because he's trying to win the job. [TE] Logan Paulsen, Kahlil Bell -- they have to lead. Now I need an offensive lineman who rises to that challenge. [C] Micah Reed and [OT] Micah Kia, those are the two guys who come to mind. But right now that is a challenge for them.
Recruiting. You go to USC's camp and it's like, 'Wow, these guys have got a lot of players.' How do you recruit against them; what do you say to a Southern California prep superstar to get him to choose you over the Trojans?
RN: There are three things you can do. First of all, you sell UCLA. Fortunately for me, I don't just sell it, I get to share it because I went here. I lived this. It has a lot just on its own merits to entice the very best. Second, you point out our depth compared to their depth in terms of opportunity. Third, you point out: Where did [USC] begin? With a bunch of guys who decided that this is where they were going to go. You try to get a group of guys to decide the same thing over here and be the ones who start the thing. There's some allure to that. I think there's enough kids out in the country who, once they get to see this campus, once they get to see these coaches -- the resumes of the coaches out here are at least impressive enough to bear mention -- and then they see what can be. They get to go to school here and start their own deal in California, knowing that while USC is certainly king of the mountain right now, in the last 29 years since I was a freshman, the record [between the teams] is 14-14-1 between UCLA and USC. So it isn't so far-fetched that it's too far away. We can get it done. But we have to be relentless in recruiting and our energy has to be at least equal if not beyond the very best in the country.
In part II, Neuheisel talks about USC and how he wants people to think about him.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
These links are fighting through camp legs and are ready to hit someone other than a teammate.
- What time is it? Well, if you're at Arizona it's Xavier Kelly time -- mostly because it's no longer Spencer Larsen time. Kelly and his defensive mates intercepted four passes in a scrimmage Wednesday.
- Arizona State owns a questionable offensive line, but a few years ago Norco (Calif.) High School didn't -- yes, there's a connection there. The Sun Devils tight ends are unknown but working hard.
- California is strong at LB, so it should tell you something that freshman Mychal Kendricks is pushing hard for playing time (can tell you first-hand he's a good-looking player). Also, the story notes that incumbent kicker Jordan Kay is in a tight competition with walk-on freshman David Seawright. Post-practice reflections... starting quarterback announcement here... KIDDING!
- Oregon is under a cone of silence but Rob Moseley has a pass key, though it doesn't get him to the high-security level where it's revealed if Justin Roper has indeed caught Nate Costa in the preseason QB competition.
- Oregon State's backup CB James Dockery hurt his knee lifting weights and backup QB Sean Canfield won't be available for the opener so redshirt freshman Justin Engstrom will backup Lyle Moevao. And how's the rebuilt defense looking -- and how fast can it start?
- Like many teams, Stanford is tired and suffering "camp legs." Freshman receiver Chris Owusu is suffering from "camp knee injury" and will be out a few weeks. Owusu would have been a key contributor for a rebuilding receiving corps. Bud Withers checks in with Stanford.
- It's Tennessee Time at UCLA, the good news tidbit from that report is tackle Micah Kia is going to try to play with a broken hand. Talented frosh TB Aundre Dean is learning a valuable lesson -- Thou shalt not run up-right or the wrath of the safety shall taketh your breath. Bruins fans feeling blue (not pastel blue) should look to the interior of the DL for an optimism jolt. More on contributing freshmen.
- USC QB Mark Sanchez continues to recover quickly and, according to the LA Times Gary Klein, "If the junior has no setbacks, he will participate in all drills next week and probably start the opener." It's also possible that RB C.J. Gable will be ready for the opener at Virginia. Gable's ankle and hip injuries appeared fairly bad on Tuesday, but Trojans apparently heal quickly. He's probably the best all-around player in the Trojans backfield.
- Molly Yanity writes about the amazing recovery of Washington's All-Pac-10 center Juan Garcia, who could play against Oregon in the opener. It's Day 17 at Washington. Bob Condotta writes about Tyrone Willingham's closed practice policy.
- A look at Washington State's special teams, which haven't been very special in recent years. Considering the Cougars DL.
- Jon Wilner projects the BCS bowl games.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
LOS ANGELES -- Some more thoughts from UCLA's Saturday evening scrimmage.
Know just about every reporter on hand beat up on the offense, and it was hard not to. But here are two critical things: 1. The defense is good. 2. Punter Aaron Perez owns a big foot (see the monstrous 58-yard boot he launched into the stratosphere on his first punt).
That's a great combination to have because it means a team can focus on the field position game and not take stupid chances on offense.
And if the defense can force a few extra turnovers while winning the field position battle of attrition that can mean short fields for the offense -- and probably a lot of 40-plus-yard field goal attempts from kicker Kai Forbath.
I remember watching Washington State punter Kyle Basler earn Holiday Bowl MVP honors in the Cougars 28-20 win over Texas. Basler killed five of his seven punts inside the Texas 15, including four inside the 5. The Cougs wouldn't have won without him.
The point: A good defense and good punter can keep a team with an anemic offense in a lot of games.
- Speaking of Forbath .... he had a forgettable day. His 53-yard field goal attempt fell short and left, and he had another attempt blocked. My guess is that was a blip, considering Forbath was lights out last season.
- If both stay healthy, I wouldn't be surprised if the first-team All-Pac-10 DTs are Brian Price and Brigham Harwell. Neither recorded any of the Bruins eight sacks, but Price was putting a world of hurt on whichever poor soul was trying to block him. And my best guess at the up the middle rushing yards with both in the scrimmage was ... zero.
- While he saw bonus action because of a banged up receiving corps, freshman receiver Nelson Rosario -- all 6-foot-4 of him -- looked like a guy who could help this season (three receptions, 40 yards).
- Washington fans might be interesting to know that former Huskies LB Derrell Daniels is working operations for UCLA with Neuheisel and wants to get into college coaching. Daniels, the Huskies starting inside LB during the 2000 season (Rose Bowl), said that a crew of Southern California Huskies went out to dinner with Neuheisel (the legendary El Cholo in Santa Monica), including Hakim Akbar, Matt Rogers, Pat Reddick, Chris Massey, Ken Walker and others.
- Finally, UCLA fans on the brink of an emotional breakdown over the Bruins offense should keep in mind that preseason scrimmages aren't terribly revealing. Walking through downtown Westwood last night looking for a late dinner, I tried to remember the last time I saw a team look great in a scrimmage. Couldn't remember one. The play-selection is watered down and the vanilla schemes typically favor a defense. Moreover, offensive coordinator Norm Chow seemed most bothered afterwards by logistical issues with his offense -- coordination with the coaching staff and players, etc. -- than the actual performance.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
LOS ANGELES -- To quantify how far ahead UCLA's defense is of its offense, halfway through Saturday's scrimmage the score was 9-0.
In favor of the Bruins D, which got a safety and interception return for a TD from linebacker Kyle Bosworth (the bad news being that his brother Korey Bosworth hurt his ankle blocking on the play).
The offense couldn't run a lick. The mix-and-match offensive line couldn't pass block, surrendering eight sacks.
The likely starting quarterback Kevin Craft was 8 of 18 for 93 yards with three interceptions.
So the Bruins optimist walks out Westwood going: Golly, our defense rocks.
The Bruins pessimists? They'll probably go to church Sunday and ask for some divine intervention.
At one point, tailback Kahlil Bell, who played sparingly to rest his formerly injured knee, colorfully berated the offense on the sidelines about playing like pooh in front perhaps 4,000 fans gathered at on-campus Drake Stadium.
Count coach Rick Neuheisel among the optimists, though.
"They're on my team, too," Neuheisel said of the defense, which was dominant inside with tackles Brigham Harwell and Brian Price in complete control of the line of scrimmage, both Bosworth brothers playing well and the secondary grabbing three picks.
The offense scored two touchdowns in the second half of the scrimmage, but the first was kind of a gimme -- a 24-yard drive that included a pass interference penalty and a 14-yard quarterback draw from Craft, who probably benefited from the universal rule that thou shall not blow up your own QB.
Also, Price and Harwell were sipping Gatorade on the sideline at the time.
Craft was outplayed much of the day by redshirt freshman Chris Forcier, who completed 7 of 13 for 71 yards with an interception and fumbled snap.
At one point, Craft had produced just one first down compared to six from Foricer.
But Craft did provide the offense's lone highlight, an eight-play, 68-yard drive in which he went 4-for-4 and tossed a short TD pass to Marcus Everett.
"I thought [Craft] passed the test of not going into the tank because it's not going well," Neuheisel said.
Said offensive coordinator Norm Chow, "All in all, I thought he handled himself well."
So the glass is half-full, darn it.
Neuheisel added that Craft is still ahead in the QB competition and he'd like to pick a starter for the Sept. 1 opener against Tennessee "sometime this week."
"The first couple of series were a little rough," Craft said. "But everybody on offense knows what we have to do and we know how to do it. It's just a matter of going out and executing. I don't think there's any big secret."
As for what Neuheisel saw out of the running game, which produced 48 yards on 18 carries: "Not much -- it was not where it needs to be."
The "official stats"
Kevin Craft -- 8-18 for 93 yards
14-yard rushing touchdown
3-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Everett
Chris Forcier -- 7-13 for 71 yards
Ryan Graves -- 2 for 13 yards
Nelson Rosario -- 4 for 40 yards
Terrence Austin -- 3 for 40 yards
Antwon Moutra -- 2 for 26 yards
Aundre Dean -- 5 for 15 yards
Raymond Carter -- 6 for 1 yard
Johnathan Franklin -- 7 for 32 yards
Sacks -- John Hale, Nathaniel Skaggs, Korey Bosworth (2), Justin Mann, David Carter, Chinonso Anyanwu, Datone Jones
Interception -- Rahim Moore, Kyle Bosworth (touchdown), Tony Dye, Alterraun Verner
Safety -- team (1)
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
This is the eighth in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-10 teams, starting from the top of our preseason power rankings and working down.
Up next: UCLA
When Tennessee's 44-yard interception return of a Kevin Craft pass gives the Volunteers a 10-0 first-quarter lead, most UCLA fans sigh and start thinking about what will surely be a long slog of a season.
But things settle down, and a defensive struggle begins that looks a little bit like a typical high-level SEC game -- incompetent offenses making good defenses look great.
When Brigham Harwell forces a Tennessee fumble on a sack halfway through the second quarter, the Bruins can only advance 17 yards to the Vols' 30. But that is enough for kicker Kai Forbath to get UCLA on the board.
The 10-3 score holds through nearly the entire third quarter. Then Craft finds Marcus Everett behind the coverage for 42 yards to the Vols 18. On third-and-8, Kahlil Bell slashes through a small gap in the defense for a 16-yard touchdown on the last play of the third to knot the score at 10-10.
The teams play field position with a series of punt exchanges, and the Bruins' Aaron Perez pins Tennessee back on its 12 with five minutes left.
But Vols running back Arian Foster breaks a tackle and scampers 42 yards into UCLA territory. That seems to energize the Vols offensive front. Five Foster carries later, and they're inside the Bruins 20 with the clock ticking away. The defense stiffens, but the 34-yard field goal gives Tennessee a 13-10 lead.
Craft and the Bruins start off well in their 2-minute offense, but stall at mid-field. Tennessee escapes.
Still, the game showed the Bruins a recipe for success: Play good defense and special teams; don't make mistakes on offense.
That was on display as they won four in a row, including sound beatings of ranked BYU and Fresno State teams. Through five games, the defense is yielding just 9.8 points per contest -- a point less than a certain cross-town rival.
A trip to Oregon doesn't go so well, though. A year after shutting out the Ducks, the Bruins get sliced and diced in a 31-17 defeat.
A solid win over Stanford is followed by a lackluster performance at California. After the game, a triangle of tirade is formed in the minute visiting locker room at Cal, with Rick Neuheisel, DeWayne Walker and even mild-mannered Norm Chow lighting into the Bruins.
Mediocrity will not be accepted. On Sunday, Ben Olson, back from his preseason foot injury, is announced as the new starting quarterback.
And a pair of stellar performances follows in wins over Oregon State and Washington that make the Bruins bowl-eligible.
After an overtime loss to Arizona State, the hated Trojans come to town.
For three quarters UCLA fans envision another 2006 -- see an identical 13-9 lead. But two fourth-quarter TD passes from Mark Sanchez cut short the upset bid.
That means a return trip to the Las Vegas Bowl. The opponent: Utah.
Without speaking, Neuheisel fires up the giant screen on Sunday and plays a repeating spool of highlights from the 2007 game between the teams: a 44-6 humiliation at Utah.
UCLA comes out frothing at the mouth. Olson throws four TD passes and the Bruins celebrate redemption, 37-10.
On Feb. 4, the recruiting rankings come out. USC again ranks No. 1.
But UCLA ranks fifth.
Sometimes preseason worries prove unfounded. Other times not.
With UCLA, concerns proved valid: The offensive line just didn't have the horses to help the Bruins score. And scoring is necessary, no matter how good a defense is.
Tennessee pitches a shutout, winning 17-zip and sacking Kevin Craft six times. Things are no better at BYU, which is hungry to make a statement for a BCS bowl berth. This time the Bruins go down, 24-3.
Arizona yields a touchdown, but rolls, 28-10.
No breaks on the schedule to regroup: Fresno State 24, UCLA 13.
Things are bleak, and there are frustrated, if isolated, rumblings that maybe Rick Neuheisel and his so-called all-star staff aren't up to snuff.
But the Bruins manage to win two of their next three, sandwiching victories over Washington State and Stanford around a competitive loss at Oregon.
Quarterback Ben Olson, cleared to play after his preseason foot injury, takes over in the third quarter against California when Kevin Craft throws his third interception. Olson nearly leads the Bruins to a comeback, but Cal survives, 24-20.
Olson is sharp the following week against Oregon State, throwing two first-half touchdown passes, but he re-injures his foot in the third quarter and the Bruins lose, falling to 2-7.
The visit to Washington is a tough one for Neuheisel. His team is languishing, while the Huskies appear to be righting themselves for the first time since the program unceremoniously fired him.
Nothing goes right for the Bruins in a 33-10 defeat. Huskies fans spend much of the game taunting Neuheisel with a variety of chants.
Lackluster losses to Arizona State and rival USC follow. The season, as bad as any for the program since World War II, mercifully ends.
The Trojans then beat Georgia for the national title and sign the nation's No. 1 recruiting class. Neuheisel's class ranks 32nd.
Norm Chow is lured away by an SEC team, which gives him a three-year, $6 million contract.
DeWayne Walker is hired as the Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator.