Pac-12: Randall Carroll
Two were kicked off the team for a violation of team rules — redshirt sophomore defensive end Wesley Flowers and freshman tight end Raymond Nelson — while a third, junior DB Randall Carroll, was dismissed for falling short of academic requirements.
“At UCLA, we have a high set of standards that we expect every student-athlete to adhere to. Unfortunately, these three gentlemen chose not to do so,” Mora said in a statement.
Yes, it's fair to say Mora is sending a message.
None of the three were starters or key contributors, though Carroll, a speedster, was once a touted recruit. He caught 21 passes in three seasons before moving to the secondary.
Nelson played in eight games but didn't catch a pass. Flowers didn't record a tackle this season.
And that's the case for the 10 Arizona and UCLA players who opted to go nuts with 0:04 remaining before halftime Thursday, immediately after a streaker interrupted play.
The Pac-12 announced suspensions for all 10 Friday night, and neither team has the depth to make the personnel hits not matter.
In the immediate aftermath of the fight, UCLA senior receiver Taylor Embree and Arizona sophomore cornerback Shaquille Richardson were penalized by on-field officials for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected for fighting. The penalty, by NCAA rule, required the individuals to sit out the second half of the game.
In addition to the on-field penalties assessed to Embree and Richardson, and based on further review of available game footage, the Pac-12 extended an additional one-game suspension for both players.
The suspensions will occur during the next scheduled contest. Both teams play on Oct. 29: UCLA plays host to California, and Arizona is at Washington.
The Pac-12 also suspended eight other players who engaged in the on-field incident. Those penalties are as follows:
Sophomore guard Alberto Cid - Half-game suspension
Sophomore wide receiver Randall Carroll - One-game suspension
Sophomore wide receiver Shaq Evans - One-game suspension
Sophomore wide receiver Ricky Marvray - One-game suspension
Sophomore defensive tackle Cassius Marsh - Two-game suspension (consecutive games)
Senior cornerback Lyle Brown - Half-game suspension
Junior strong safety Mark Watley - Half-game suspension
Freshman nickelback Jourdon Grandon - One-game suspension
“The Conference is extremely disappointed in the actions of the student-athletes involved in this incident. It is unacceptable behavior and violated Conference rules, as well as NCAA fighting rules. I have taken these actions today because it is imperative that we hold our student-athletes and coaches to the highest standards of sportsmanship,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott
For UCLA, the suspensions will hit an already struggling passing game hard -- three receivers will be out next weekend. Arizona's secondary already has seen multiple starters lost to injury, so losing three defensive backs in advance of a visit to Washington, where it will face quarterback Keith Price and a deep crew of receivers, is especially troublesome.
In other words, these suspension hurt two teams that can't afford to be hurt.
LA Times on the suspension. The Orange County Register. And the Tucson Citizen.
- The Pac-12 has a lot of good safeties, but Arizona has a young one who might end up in the All-Conference mix. Running back Daniel Jenkins has elevated his game.
- Arizona State's battle at backup quarterback continues.
- California running back Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson has asserted himself. A practice report.
- Colorado's Will Pericak has found a home on the D-line, which looks solid. Some notes. The Buffs backup quarterback is expected to return to practice next week.
- Oregon offensive line coach Steve Greatwood has no qualms about shaking things up. Who will step in for Cliff Harris against LSU?
- Defensive tackle Kevin Frahm is the latest Oregon State player to get hurt, and that's not good. A couple of true freshmen may crack the starting lineup.
- Who will be Andrew Luck's successor at Stanford? Wide receiver Chris Owusu, the Cardinal's only true deep threat, is critical to the offense.
- UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince played better Wednesday. Wide receiver Randall Carroll is struggling to put it together on and off the field.
- Deep thoughts on USC's passing game. Some practice notes.
- Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has an eye for talent -- and where to use it. The defense is ahead of the offense, and it needs quarterback Jordan Wynn to see more action.
- Washington's offensive line is taking shape. Staff continuity is a big deal for the Huskies.
- Washington State looks good at receiver. The Cougs offense controlled the scrimmage. The linebackers are improved.
Team of the week: Stanford rolled up 510 yards of offense against one of the nation's best defenses in a 42-17 win against Arizona. The Cardinal defense wasn't too shabby either while holding the Wildcats to 15.6 points less than their season scoring average. A Facebook page has been set up to promote the Cardinal's potential availability for an at-large BCS bowl berth.
Biggest play: Call this the biggest "replay." With four seconds left in the UCLA-Oregon State game, Bruins quarterback Richard Brehaut completed a 12-yard pass to Randall Carroll to put the Bruins in position for a 51-yard field goal. But it appeared the play clock had expired, as the field officials ruled. But the Bruins challenged the call and won, getting 1 more second to play, and kicker Kai Forbath connected for a 17-14 win.
Offensive standout: Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck dominated a good Arizona defense, completing 23 of 32 for 293 yards with two TDs in the Cardinal's 42-17 win. He also ran for 25 yards on three carries and avoided getting sacked even once by a defense that led the Pac-10 in taking down quarterbacks.
Defensive standout: USC linebacker Malcolm Smith, who's missed two games with a knee injury, recorded seven tackles and a sack against Arizona State and he also returned an interception 74 yards for a TD in the Trojans' victory.
Special teams standout: Arizona State's LeQuan Lewis had a 100-yard kickoff return against USC. The return cut the Sun Devils deficit at USC to 29-21 and seemed to ignite a comeback that ultimately fell short.
Smiley face: California, UCLA and USC each have had their heart questioned this year. All three showed heart this weekend while winning games many thought they'd lose.
Frowny face: Arizona State and Oregon State. The Sun Devils mounted a nice comeback but (again) let a game slip away. Lots of what ifs (again). And we are as baffled as coach Mike Riley about the Beavers' spiritless performance at UCLA.
Thought of the week: If Stanford and Oregon keep winning, it seems likely that both Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck and Ducks running back LaMichael James will get invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony. The Pac-10 sent two to New York in 2005 (USC's Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush), but the last time two different conference schools produced finalists was 1988 (USC's Rodney Peete finished second to Barry Sanders; UCLA's Troy Aikman was third).
Questions for the week: Is the Pac-1o going to end up top-heavy? It seems like there's a solid chance that Oregon and Stanford will win the rest of their games. But what about everyone else? Arizona is the only other ranked team, and it's got some tough games ahead (USC, at Oregon, Arizona State). It's possible the final rankings will feature two top-five Pac-10 teams and no one else. And could there really be five teams with losing records?
Maehl, a senior from Paradise, Calif., caught eight passes for a career-best 145 yards and three touchdowns in the Ducks' 53-32 win at USC. Each of his three touchdowns came at times Oregon was trailing and gave the Ducks the lead. Over the past three games, he’s collected 26 receptions for 371 yards. Maehl has 148 career receptions and needs 14 more to reach the top five on Oregon’s all-time list.
Onyeali, a freshman from Denver, Colo., made his third career start in the 42-0 shutout of Washington State. He collected four tackles for a loss, including a career-high three sacks. He also forced two fumbles. The Sun Devils limited Washington State to 264 yards of total offense.
Fischer, a sophomore from Oro Valley, Ariz., helped preserve a Wildcat lead with his special-teams play in the second half of Arizona’s 29-21 victory at UCLA. The Bruins, who had just cut a 12-point deficit down to five points, forced Arizona to punt from its own 27-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. The Wildcats called for a fake punt on fourth-and-3, which Fischer turned into a 29-yard gain to maintain possession and ultimately flip the field position on the Bruins. After that, UCLA started each of its final two drives from inside its own 30-yard line. The Bruins netted minus-6 yards of offense on those two possession. On the Wildcats kickoff coverage teams, he recorded two tackles in the second half. Each of Fischer’s kickoff coverage tackles kept the Bruins inside their own 30-yard line.
Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterback Matt Scott of Arizona, quarterback Steven Threet of Arizona State, running back Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State, quarterback Andrew Luck of Stanford and wide receiver Randall Carroll of UCLA. Also nominated on defense were defensive end Brooks Reed of Arizona, linebacker Spencer Paysinger of Oregon, linebacker Keith Pankey of Oregon State, linebacker Chase Thomas of Stanford and safety Tony Dye of UCLA. Also nominated on special teams were punter Trevor Hankins of Arizona State, linebacker Bosko Lokombo of Oregon, kicker Nate Whitaker of Stanford and punter Jeff Locke of UCLA.
Who's back: Seven starters on offense, five on defense and both specialists.
Big names: K Kai Forbath, FS Rahim Moore, LB Akeem Ayers, P Jeff Locke
What's new: Clark Lea was promoted from graduate assistant to LBs coach in February. Coach Rick Neuheisel and offensive coordinator Norm Chow adopted a "pistol" offense -- Nevada coach Chris Ault created it -- during spring practices. It features an option out of an abbreviated shotgun formation. Two transfers are eligible to play and likely will play a lot: receiver Josh Smith (Colorado) and tight end Joseph Fauria (Notre Dame).
Key competition: What's the pecking order at tailback? Will a veteran such as Derrick Coleman or Johnathan Franklin prevail, or will one of the touted incoming freshman take the lead spot? Two linebacker positions are uncertain: It's junior Steve Sloan versus sophomore Patrick Larimore in the middle and junior Sean Westgate against Glenn Love on the weak side. There are also "or"s on the depth chart between Aaron Hester and Andrew Abbott at right cornerback and Keenan Graham and Iuta Tepa at defensive end.
Breaking out: There are a lot of potential playmakers on offense. At the "F" position, there's Damien Thigpen and Morrell Presley. Smith and Randall Carroll could be legitimate deep threats. Defensive end Datone Jones looked like a force at times in the spring.
Quote: Neuheisel on expectations his team is due for a turnaround: "For the first time since I got to UCLA, we are an experienced football team. That doesn't mean we won't have an infusion of young guys that will still be key players. But we have guys like Rahim, Kevin Prince and Akeem Ayers. These guys have played and played at a high level. And our kicking game is quite possibly the best in the country."
Notes: The Bruins' top two tackles won't be around: Xavier Su'a-Filo is on a two-year Mormon mission, while Nik Abele was forced to retire because of neck problems. ... JC transfer Darius Bell might offer an athletic option at QB. ... Three incoming freshmen were kicked off the team for allegedly stealing a purse and are headed elsewhere: cornerback Shaquille Richardson (Arizona), LB Josh Shirley (Washington) and receiver Paul Richardson (perhaps Colorado).
FB Taimi Tutogi: The sophomore can play fullback, tailback or tight end. At 6-foot-2, 258 pounds, he packs a punch.
DT Sione Tuihalamaka: The redshirt freshman appears to be a potential starter inside, replacing Earl Mitchell.
OT Evan Finkenberg: The redshirt freshman is likely to start at one tackle spot for the Sun Devils.
DE Greg Smith: The true sophomore backed up Dexter Davis last fall. Word is he's a high-motor guy.
RB Isi Sofele: The sophomore isn't big but he's got the quickness to be a playmaker and counterpoint to starter Shane Vereen.
NT Kendrick Payne: The sophomore had a great spring and may unseat Derrick Hill as the starter.
WR Justin Hoffman: The sophomore not only caught everything thrown his way, he also is a tenacious blocker on the outside.
DE Dion Jordan: The sophomore switched sides of the ball from tight end and looks like a potential star.
RB Jordan Jenkins: The versatile sophomore could push Ryan McCants -- who also had a good spring -- for touches behind Jacquizz Rodgers this fall
DE Taylor Henry: The Beavers needed the sophomore to step up after Matt LaGrone quit the team. He did. Looks like a potentially dangerous pass rusher.
TE Levine Toilolo: The 6-foot-8, 244-pound redshirt freshman has an imposing frame as well as good speed. Made a lot of plays this spring.
LB Shayne Skov: The sophomore became a starter last year when Clinton Snyder blew out his knee. Don't be surprised if he earns All-Conference honors.
WR Randall Carroll: The true sophomore looked more like a receiver with great speed than a speed guy playing receiver this spring.
DT Nate Chandler: The junior moved from tight and immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup.
RB Dillon Baxter: The early-entry true freshman made more spectacular plays this spring than any other USC player.
SS Jawanza Starling: The sophomore was a standout in the rebuilding secondary, though he'll face a challenge from Drew McAllister in the fall.
RB Deontae Cooper: Cooper and fellow true freshman Jesse Callier made the most of their early entries, playing well enough to look like contributors next fall
FS Will Shamburger: The redshirt freshman was a standout from start to finish, and finished spring practices as the starter ahead of sophomore Nate Felner.
OT Wade Jacobson: The 6-foot-6, 307-pound JC transfer was a standout this spring and figures to start at one of the tackle spots.
DT Brandon Rankin: The touted JC transfer needs to gain a few pound in order to play inside but he looked like a dynamic presence much of spring.
- UCLA's season will be determined by both lines. There's plenty of speed and skill and quarterback Kevin Prince looks ready to take a significant step forward, but the lines -- particularly the offensive line -- continue to be works in progress.
- That said: The Bruins running game -- dormant the past few seasons -- showed signs of life. For example, on a third and 7 play, Milton Knox converted with a tough run on a draw play. Offensive coordinator Norm Chow said the tailback job is down to three candidates: Johnathan Franklin (nine carries, 37 yards in the scrimmage), Derrick Coleman (9-25) and Knox (7-24). In the fall, a strong recruiting haul of freshmen arrives who immediately will jump into the mix.
- The Bruins new "pistol" offense, which features some spread-option elements, has inspired some skepticism, but Prince ran a version of it in high school and he's got good speed -- he ran a 4.53 40-yard dash during testing. There were some intriguing moments, but a couple of bad shotgun snaps surely will concern the coaches. Coach Rick Neuheisel said: "There's a lot of moving parts in this stuff. If we're going to be in this stuff and we're going to say that this is who we are and try to get to that point, we've got to be a heck of a lot better at it than this. If we can't get that done in 15 practices, then we have to ask ourselves if it's prudent to stay in it and that's where we are.''
- Backup QB Richard Brehaut went 3 of 11 in the Bruins first scrimmage, but he was much better Friday, completing 11 of 17 passes for 106 yards with touchdowns of 16 and26 yards. Prince was 7 of 11 for 87 yards with a 37 yard TD.
- The Bruins are looking for receivers to step up behind Taylor Embree, Nelson Rosario and Josh Smith, who's out with a knee injury. Randall Carroll and Ricky Marvray both had good scrimmages and perhaps made statements. Carroll's grab of a 37-yard TD pass from Prince despite tight coverage from Sheldon Price was the play of the day. Runnerup: Morrell Presley got behind coverage for a 44-yard reception. And Jerry Johnson had a fancy leaping reception on the scrimmage's first drive.
- Kicker Kai Forbath will be one of the best weapons in the Pac-10 -- he's darn near automatic. The first-team All-Pac-10 kicker and likely preseason All-American was good on four field goals attempts from outside 40 yards, with a long of 46.
- Defensive end Datone Jones had a sack and a tackle for a loss on a reverse. He looks like a potential All-Conference player, along with linebacker Akeem Ayers and safety Rahim Moore. Defensive tackle Nate Chandler, a converted tight end, had two sacks.
- There was a scare when center Kai Maiava, who's battling Ryan Taylor for the starting job, went down with a knee injury. He walked off, though, and Neuheisel described the injury has a "sprain."
As if UCLA didn't have enough problems with an 0-4 start in Pac-10 play, a freshman receiver used Twitter to insult and criticize offensive coordinator Norm Chow.
This is what Randall Carroll wrote in a message to a friend about Chow, according to the Orange County Register and LA Times:
“…oregon, stanford, and cal should have been easy wins ,, but (expletive) thys (expletive) norm chow dnt be trustin us ,, so it is what it is,” was the message that Carroll sent to Dietrich Riley, who plays at St. Francis High and is being recruited by UCLA.
Carroll was one of the marquee freshmen in the Bruins highly rated 2009 recruiting class. He's caught just two passes for 16 yards this season and was among a group of four Bruins who were suspended for the Bruins game against Kansas State on Sept. 19 for a team rules violation.
UCLA is making things hard on itself for Kansas State's visit.
Starting cornerback Courtney Viney is among four UCLA players who have been suspended from the Bruins game Saturday against the Wildcats.
Also suspended by coach Rick Neuheisel for violating undisclosed team rules were freshman running back Milton Knox and freshmen wide receivers Morrell Presley and Randall Carroll.
The players will participate in practices during the one-game suspension.
“When you are a member of a team, you have a special commitment to the entities that make up that unit and to those that you represent,” Neuheisel said in a statement. “When someone falls short in that regard, there have to be consequences, and then, we move on.”
UCLA already is scrambling to figure out who will start at quarterback Saturday after starter Kevin Prince broke his jaw late in the Bruins victory at Tennessee. That will fall to either true freshman Richard Brehaut or senior Kevin Craft.
Viney's absence could be a challenge to fill. He ascended to the starting job only after Aaron Hester suffered a cracked fibula in the opener against San Diego State. Hester is still a few weeks away from returning.
Viney's backup is true freshman Sheldon Price.
Knox, No. 3 at tailback, has 57 yards on 11 carries this season. Carroll and Presley both have one reception.
This is the first of our position rankings. On Tuesday, which is Pac-10 day on ESPN.com -- hey, take the day off; it should be a national holiday! -- we will continue with quarterbacks, which is one of our monumental stories for tomorrow's package. Feel free to disagree. This took quiet a while to put together, with lots of shuffling and re-thinking, etc.
USC: Damian Williams and Ronald Johnson are one of the best pairs in the nation. They combined for 17 touchdowns in 2008. There's outstanding depth and athleticism behind them, led by David Ausberry.
Arizona: This is a shaky No. 2 because Delashaun Dean has been hurt almost all of camp, but he and Terrell Turner combined for 86 receptions last year. William "Bug" Wright and Juron Criner ar
UCLA: Terrence Austin and Taylor Embree combined for 93 receptions last year but only one touchdown. Nelson Rosario should be more a factor this fall, while freshman speedster Randall Carroll and Ricky Marvray look ready to contribute.
Arizona State: Chris McGaha, Kerry Taylor and Kyle Williams combined for 81 receptions and eight touchdowns last year, while Gerell Robinson looks a lot better after struggling as a true freshman.
Oregon: This might be a little high, considering the Ducks' top two receivers from 2008, Terence Scott and Jaison Williams, are gone. Jeff Maehl -- 39 receptions, five touchdowns -- is the only returning receiver with double-digit receptions. But speedy Jamere Holland and newcomers Lavasier Tuinei, Tyrece Gaines, and Diante Jackson have opened eyes during practices (though Gaines and Jackson have battled injuries).
California: Everybody from 2008 is back as is talented sophomore Marvin Jones, who missed most of last year with a knee injury. The crew had potential last year, but it wasn't realized. There's more experience now, so it's likely things will trend up at the position for the Bears.
Oregon State: James Rodgers is a great start, but Sammie Stroughter and Shane Morales will be the toughest combination to replace in the conference. And this ranking doesn't include the injured Darrell Catchings, which means this is a young and unproven unit. Damola Adeniji, Jordan Bishop, Casey Kjos, Geno Munoz and Markus Wheaton have had their moments this preseason.
Washington: D'Andre Goodwin, Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar combined for 100 receptions last year. The bad news is they scored only three touchdowns. Toss in freshman James Johnson, and this is one of the Huskies strongest positions. They may well be better than eighth, but they've got to prove themselves.
Stanford: The Cardinal is expecting dramatic gains for its passing offense with quarterback Andrew Luck. And the receiving corps might be ready to jump aboard. Ryan Whalen and Doug Baldwin combined for 64 receptions last year, and Chris Owusu and some intriguing young players, such as Jamal-Rashad Patterson, will help. But after averaging 152 yards passing last year, the receivers, like the Huskies crew, need to prove themselves.
Washington State: The Cougars had the worst passing offense in the conference last year -- six touchdowns, 21 interceptions -- and the departed Brandon Gibson represented a third of that production. Speedy Jeshua Anderson could be a more refined receiver this fall, and there's some youngsters who might make an impact. Injuries have hurt during the preseason.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Call me irresponsible -- call me unreliable
Throw in undependable, too
Do my foolish alibis bore you?
Well I'm not too clever -- I just adore you!!!!
- Shhhh! Arizona is going to pick a quarterback this week but might not tell you who it is.
- A number of freshman will play for Arizona State, and that might include one at quarterback.
- Enjoy this practice report because it appears that California coach Jeff Tedford is closing down practices. Both quarterbacks are playing well. Injury news in both stories on Jahvid Best, center Chris Guarnero, tight end Tad Smith and receiver Michael Calvin.
- Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount missed practice for personal reasons. Backup QB Nate Costa continues to shine, but there is no quarterback controversy.
- It appears that Virginia transfer Peter Lalich is growing up and growing into Oregon State's program and looks like he'll be a factor at quarterback in the future. Tim Clark will lead the Beavers' secondary. The injury list. Yikes.
- Stanford has an interesting slogan: "EUTM: Enthusiasm unknown to mankind."
- Randall Carroll will address UCLA's need for speed.
- Is Mitch Mustain USC's forgotten man?
- Washington tailback Chris Polk almost quit. Notes from Tuesday's scrimmage.
- Washington State's two sessions were different.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
The most dangerous guys in space for each Pac-10 team.
Arizona -- TE Rob Gronkowski: Hey, a home-run hitter doesn't have to be a track guy -- just ask a defensive coordinator watching The Gronk carry his 265 pounds into a secondary. Gronkowski has a 1:5 touchdown-to-reception ratio while hauling in 16 scoring passes over the past two seasons.
Arizona State -- WR Kyle Williams: Williams, one of the fastest Sun Devils, led the Pac-10 with 17 yards per punt return in 2008. He only caught 19 passes a year ago, but four went for touchdowns and he averaged 19.2 yards per catch.
California -- RB Jahvid Best: Best is the nation's most dangerous player -- see seven runs of 60 or more yards last year. When he gets past the first level of defense, the entire stadium gasps.
Oregon -- WR Jamere Holland: This is a pure projection because Holland only flashed potential last fall after transferring from USC -- where he was touted as the Trojans fastest receiver. But an outstanding spring makes these numbers notable: Holland ran a 10.36 100 meters in high school.
Oregon State -- WR James Rodgers: He was first-team All-Pac-10 in kickoff returns and ranked 18th in the nation in all-purpose yards with 152.75 per game in 2008. His 10 TDs included an 86-yard kickoff return. His improvement as a receiver suggests more touches in 2009 -- and more home runs.
Stanford -- RB Toby Gerhart: Know what you're thinking: He's a 232-pound power back. True. But did you also know that Gerhart produced runs of 20 or more yards in nine of 12 games last year? One of his 15 TDs was a 46-yard dash when he made a fast Beavers defense seem slow.
UCLA -- WR Randall Carroll: Much like Holland, this is a pure projection based on speed because Carroll is an incoming freshman. But the USA Today Prep All-American who ranked as ESPNU's No. 46 overall prospect and No. 5 receiver, won a second consecutive California state title in both the 100 (10.38) and 200 (21.08) in June. On a Bruins offense starving for playmakers, Carroll will not redshirt.
USC -- RB Joe McKnight: McKnight has only scored seven touchdowns over the past two seasons. And every time he seems on the cusp of breaking out -- recall how everyone began hyperventilating after he had 206 all-purpose yards in the 2008 Rose Bowl blowout vs. Illinois -- he gets hurt. But McKnight is as fast and elusive as any back in the conference, other than Best. If he stays healthy, he will put up big numbers.
Washington -- RB Chris Polk: The easy answer would be to tap quarterback Jake Locker or maybe receiver D'Andre Goodwin, or to crack wise about how bad the offense was in 2008. And Polk's 20 carries for 33 yards before getting hurt and redshirting in 2008 won't blow anyone away. But Polk put up huge numbers in high school -- USC offered him a scholarship -- and a year of maturing should help him break through this fall.
Washington State -- WR Jeshua Anderson: We keep talking about speed and Anderson isn't just football fast -- he's world class. He's a two-time Pac-10 and NCAA 400-meter hurdles champion and holds the WSU record with a time of 48.47. He only had 33 receptions for 305 yards and two touchdowns in 2008, but he's a little bit bigger -- now carrying just over 200 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame -- and probably will look more like a football player with the ball in his hands this year.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Things are always interesting with Rick Neuheisel, and his first season coaching UCLA was no exception.
The Bruins opened with an overtime win over Tennessee. Then went splat, 59-zip, at BYU. And so started a decidedly inconsistent season.
With poor play at quarterback, no running game and a porous offensive line -- and that's sugarcoating things for the woeful offense -- UCLA finished 4-8 and in eighth place in the Pac-10.
|Joe Nicholson/US Presswire|
|Rick Neuheisel was 4-8 in his first season at UCLA.|
But Bruins fans felt a lot better after Neuheisel fetched a highly rated recruiting class, which reignited whispers that -- just maybe -- USC should start looking over its shoulder and worrying about its football, er, monopoly in Los Angeles.
Spring practices don't crank up until April 2, but it seems like a good time to check in.
Let's look back on 2008: What were you happy with and unhappy with?
Rick Neuheisel: I thought our team played hard, but we lacked the proficiency to be a good team. We never got any consistency as an offense. Defensively, we hung in there most games, but we weren't stout enough to be a three-and-out type team. Our kickoff situation put us in a field position deficit because we weren't able to kick the ball off very far. We'd end up having to go long distances with respect to field position. We've got a lot of things to get better at if we're going to be a better football team. But the influx of new, young talent, the great effort in weight room and so forth, I think is going to lead to that.
How exited are you that the whole 'Neuheisel is back' won't be the big story this year?
RN: I'm excited the focus will be on our football team. Obviously, this was a program that needed a kick start with respect to the recruiting and excitement and that stuff. We were fortunate to have a big win at the start of the season that reminded folks how fun football can be. Now it's up to us to deliver that on a more regular basis. Obviously, if we could get to a bowl game this year, that would be a step in the right direction. I think a year from now, we're going to be a team that can compete for the top prizes.
You guys got a lot of publicity about your recruiting success on signing day.
RN: Recruiting went well. Recruiting went really well. It was kind of a validation of what I thought all along: That you can recruit at UCLA. That if you do it the right way and go after the right guys you can deliver. I was pleased to see that was possible.