We're looking around the Pac-12 these days and finding out how our scurrilous villains are doing! Hopefully, poorly. Hopefully. Avast ye villains!
Today, we are talking with Ryan Rosenblatt over at BruinsNation. This guy is really keyed into the comings and goings with the UCLA football program. He can bring us the information about the QB situation down there. And what's going on with Neu's seat? Is he gonna get fired soon? And how come Diddy-Reise is so delicious, but they don't come up here? I want cookie-themed deliciousness and I want it now! Well, Rosenblatt doesn't really have an answer for that last one. BUT HE SHOULD HAVE!
So, after the jump, check out his answers to our hard hitting questions. As hard hitting as generic questions that we copied and pasted to pretty much every other SBN Pac-12 site out there can be! We're happy to continue playing UCLA each year in the Pac-12 format. Especially if we can continue to defeat them in both California regions. My personal thought is that Cal and UCLA share a special relationship and it would have been disastrous for that to have been lost.
So, leave your thoughts in the comments. How do you see UCLA doing in 2011? Do you see Neu surviving another year? And where can I find a delicious cookie that rivals Diddy-Reise? GO BEARS!1. What were the core questions that you had hoped would be answered by Spring Practice? Were conclusions reached?
There were a couple major questions and neither was answered because injuries got in the way. It would have been nice to sort out the quarterback situation and to a degree it got simpler. Brett Hundley, as talented and hyped as he may be, looked very much the part of a not-even freshman who just enrolled in school for the spring ahead of his freshman season. It was clear that he has all the talent in the world and it was also clear that he's not near ready and will likely redshirt so we eliminated one potential QB candidate from the pool. Richard Brehaut remained a candidate with a solid spring in which he showed clear improvement, but didn't leave anyone slack jawed. The problem is that his competitor for the starting QB spot is Kevin Prince, who continues to recover from surgery and was limited to non-contact 7v7 drills so he couldn't really battle Brehaut. As a result, the competition continues to the fall.
The other core question was along the offensive line, but injuries got in the way there. At one point during the spring the offensive line had only one projected starter playing because the four others were out hurt. The line never had all five projected starters together so it was nearly impossible to sort out and build the offensive line that needs to be better in 2011 than it was in 2010.
2. Any major style changes coming our way in the fall? New offense or defense installed?
There will be major changes on both sides of the ball because the Bruins have two new coordinators. Mike Johnson has taken over on the offensive side of the ball and Jim Tresey on the defensive side. Offensively, there is still some pistol, but it's mixed in with a lot of more creative looks around it. More three and four receiver sets, tight ends in different spots and running backs motioning out into the slot. It's clear that more than complex scheme, Johnson's focus is to get the ball into the hands of the most talented playmakers in 1 on 1 situations like Anthony Barr, Randall Carroll and Jonathan Franklin. Defensively, there wasn't a ton of complex stuff going on and more of a move away from the previous ultra-conservative approach that was more about taking away the big play (which they couldn't even do) and about being aggressive in trying to make big plays.
3. What players emerged on offense? On defense?
Offensively the spotlight goes to Anthony Barr, both because Mike Johnson put a spotlight on him and because he played well. Johnson has him working as receiver, tight end and running back, motioning around everywhere and getting the ball in every way imaginable. He flashed his potential with some huge plays so the potential is there, but a lot of the plays where he gets the ball in space require other guys to create that space and with them being new plays, there was confusion at times.
Defensively all eyes were on Datone Jones. He was supposed to be the explosive end rusher for the Bruins a year ago, but a broken foot wiped out his whole year. This year he's back and healthy so naturally, the attention is back on him. He showed his athleticism and with the rest of the defensive line somewhat disappointing, it was abundantly clear how important he will be to the defense this year.
4. What are your biggest worries coming out of spring ball for the fall?
This goes back to the top and it's that UCLA is still unsure about the quarterback situation and the offensive line. I still believe that Kevin Prince can be a very, very good Pac-10 quarterback if he's healthy, but we're working on four years of him not being healthy now so how much longer can you keep saying "if" and just accept he'll never be healthy enough to be good? At the same time, Brehaut looks like he could be adequate, but nothing more. Putting those kind of quarterbacks behind an offensive line that is mediocre on a good day and can't stay healthy either is not going to ease the concerns of many UCLA fans.
5. Project your season. Contender? Pretender? Middle of the pack?
I wish I could tell you. There is a ton of talent on this team, but it's unproven or underachieving. We don't know if that talent will be tapped into this year with so many new coaches either because frankly, we don't know how good the new guys are. This team could very well win 10 games if all breaks right and the coaches get the kids playing to their talent, but that's asking a lot and at the same time, this team could look eerily similar to last year's team as well if nothing goes right.
6. How hot is Rick Neuheisel's seat this season?
Again, I don't have a clue. The fans are definitely turning the heat up on Neuheisel and anything less than eight wins with a win over USC will have many UCLA fans calling for a change. That said, the athletic department is cheap and it's not hard to argue that they're inept. Will they come to the same conclusion Bruin fans have come to if the team underachieves this year and more importantly, will they care enough to eat the money on Neuheisel's contract and his staff then pay a new coach and his staff?
7. New offensive coordinator = new scheme? Will there ever be another QB besides Kevin Prince?
There's definitely another QB out there. Richard Brehaut played in nine games and started seven last year so there's no doubt that there's another QB, but is either QB any good? That's the real question. Prince is good when healthy, but how often is he healthy? Brehaut looks like his ceiling is adequate so what's there to take from that? Not a lot. Mike Johnson kept some of the stuff from the previous scheme, but has simplified it in some areas and complicated it with a few different variations/formations. In all, it's not radically different from a year ago, but still clearly different.